Edmund Burke: Quotations - Index


Index File 3

General Index of Extracts and Quotations

File 1
Sublime & Beautiful (1756)
Laws against Popery (1763)
Present Discontents (1770)
Electors of Bristol (1774)
American Taxation (1774)
Conciliate America (1775)
Bristol Guildhall (1780)
To Sir H. Langrishe (1792)
Letter to Richard Burke (1793)
To a Noble Lord (1795)
On a Regicide Peace (1796)
Letter to Dr. Hussey (1796)
Affairs of Ireland (1797)

File 2
The State of Ireland
Rebellion of 1641
Penal Laws
Protestant Ascendancy
Ireland’s opportunity
Imperial tiger
First Principles
Leading Principles
Morality & Reason
Act of Union
On the loss of his son
A Grave Man

File 3
Theory & Reality
Crowds & Crime
Power of the Crown
America & Justice
Censorship & Evil
Party Defined
Ireland farmed out
Religious Liberty
Community & Society
Not made a minion …
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Warren Hastings

File 4

Was Burke a Catholic? - remarks to Mrs. Crewe
‘Mr. Burke’s Enemies often endeavoured to convince the World that he had been bred up in the Catholic Faith, & that his Family were of it, & that he himself had been educated at St. Omer - but this was false, as his father was a regular practitioner of the Law at Dublin, which he could not be unless of the Established Church: & it so happened that though Mr. B— was twice at Paris, he never happened to go through the Town of St. Omer.’

‘Extracts from Mr. Burke’s Table-talk, at Crewe Hall: Written down by Mrs. Crewe’, in Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society, Vol. VII (London: Whittingham & Wilkins 1862-63), pp.52-53.

Definition of Jacobinism
‘[...] in taking the people as equal individuals, without any corporate name or description, without attention to property, without division of powers, and forming the government of delegates from a number of men, so constituted; in destroying or confiscating property, and bribing the public creditors, or the poor, with the spoils, now of one part of the community, now of another, without regard to prescription or profession.’ (Burke, Remarks on the Policy of the Allies; quoted in T. S. Eliot, Notes Towards a Definition of Culture, London: Faber& Faber 1948, p.100, n.)

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Works by Burke held in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics” ...
  Tracts Relative to the Laws Against Popery (1763)
  “Address to the British Colonists in North America” (1777)
  “Mr. Burke’s Speech at the Guildhall, in Bristol” (1780)
  Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  “Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe on [...] Catholics of Ireland” (1792)
also ...  
  Letters, Speeches, and Tracts on Irish Affairs, ed. M. Arnold (1881)
  Preface by Matthew Arnold & Table of Contents
—Go to Library, “Irish Classics”, index ...infra.

Or go online ...
[ The attached listing with links to each site opens in separate window ]

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On Irish independence
‘The language of the day went plainly to a separation of the two kingdoms. God forbid that anything like it should ever happen! They would both be ruined by it; but Ireland would suffer most and first. It is a foolish language, adopted from the United Irishmen, that their grievances originate from England. [...; 403] in the name of God, what grievance has Ireland, as Ireland, to complain of with regard to Great Britain; unless the protection of the most powerful country upon earth - giving all her privileges, without exception, in common to Ireland, and reserving to herself only the painful pre-eminence of tenfold burdens, be a matter of complaint. [...] Ireland, therefore, as Ireland, whether it be taken civilly, constitutionally, or commercially, suffers no grievance. The Catholics, as Catholics, do; and what can be got by joining their real complaint to a complaint which is fictitious, but to make the whole pass for fiction and groundless pretence?’ (Letter to Dr. Hussey, 18 May 1795, in Irish Affairs, ed. Matthew Arnold [1881], facs. rep., introduced by Conor Cruise O’Brien, London: Cresset Press 1988, pp.403-05; see longer extract, infra.)

Some general ideas ...

Enemies of religion: ‘The two greatest Enemies of Religion are […] Infidelity and Blind Zeal, the former attacks it like an open Enemy, and the latter, like an indiscreet Friend, does it more Harm than Good; the first gives rise to Free-thinkers, the latter to our Sectaries, a truly religious Life has the same Efficacy to the prevention of both.’ (The Reformer, No. 11; 7 April 1748.)

Reason & enthusiasm: ‘[I]t is true indeed that enthusiasm often misleads us. So does reason too. Such is the Condition of our Nature; and we can’t help it. But I believe that we act most when we act with all the Powers of our Soul; when we use our Enthusiasm to elevate and expand our Reasoning; and our Reasoning to check the Roving of our Enthusiasm.’ (‘Religion of No Efficacy Considered as a State Engine’, in H. V. Somerset, ed., A Notebook of Edmund Burke and William Burke, OUP 1996, pp.68-69.)
What is taste? ‘Taste [is] no more than the faculty or those faculties of the mind, which are affected with, or which form a judgement of, the works of imagination and the elegant arts.’ (“The Sublime and Beautiful”, in Edmund Burke, ed. Charles Eliot, NY: P. F. Collier 1968, p.9.)

Some Commonplace Quotations
1] ‘Nothing universal can be rationally affirmed on any moral or on any political subject. Pure metaphysical abstraction does not belong to these matters. The lines of morality are not like the ideal lines of mathematics. They are broad and deep as well as long. They admit of exceptions. These exceptions and modifications are not made by the process of logic, but by the rules of prudence. Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all. Metaphysics cannot live without definition; but prudence is cautious how she defines.’ (Bohn Works, III, p.15).
2] ‘… I believe, after all, that systems must arise out of events, rather than pre-exist and guide them as they happen; though the latter would be infinitely more desirable.’ (To Hussey, in Correspondence., Works, V, p.342.)
3] [On the dangers of crowds in revolutionary crime:] ‘The share of infamy that is likely to fall to the lot of each individual in public acts is small indeed […] Their own approbation of their own acts has to them the appearance of a public judgement in their favour. A perfect democracy is therefore the most shameless thing in the world’ (Works, II, p.368).
4] ‘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 splendour, and joy. Oh! What a revolution! And what an heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions which made power gentle, and obedience liberal, which harmonised the different shades of life, and which, by a bland assimilation, incorporated into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the super-added ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defect of our naked, shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our estimation, are to be exploded as ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.’ (French Revolution, ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien, Harmonsworth: Penguin 1968, p.171; quoted in Robert Welch, Changing States: Transformations in Irish Modern Irish Writing, London: Routledge 1993, p.16.]
5] ‘I thought ten thousand swords must have leapt 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 forever.’ (Reflections, &c, ed. T. H. D. Mahoney & O. Piest, Indianopolis & NY: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1955, p.86; see also C. C. O’Brien edn., Reflections, Penguin Edn., p.167-69.)
5] ‘The power of the Crown, almost dead and rotten as Prerogative, has grown up anew, and with much more strength, and far less odium, under the name of Influence. […] [T]o secure to the court the unlimited and uncontrolled use of its own private favour, has for some years past been the great object of policy […] By this operation, two systems of administration were formed; one which should be in the real secret and confidence; the other merely ostensible to perform the official and executory duties of government […] Thus parliament was to look on […] while a cabal of the closet and the back-stair was substituted in place of a national administration.’ (Corr., II, p.78-79.)
6] ‘It is no inconsiderable part of wisdom, to know how much of an evil ought to be tolerated [note: this phrase cited in Sean O’Faolain, The Irish, 1947, p.119; …] the difficulties that attend all capital changes in the constitution.’ (Works, I, pp.365, 367-8).
7] [Definition of a party:] ‘[A] body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.’ (Present Discontents, Works, I, p.375.)
8] ‘All true friends of the Colonies, the only true friend they have had or can ever have in England, have laid and will lay down the proper subordination of America as a fundamental, incontrovertible maxim in the government of this empire.’ (Corr., II, pp.528-9.)
9] ‘The fierce spirit of independence is stronger in the English colonies probably than in any other people of the earth […] the colonies draw from you, as with their life-blood, these ideas and principles’
10] ‘Nothing is defensible which render millions of miserable men coexistent with oneself.’ (Q. source.) ‘Nobody will be argued into slavery.’ (On Taxation [ending], in Works, I, 382-437; Parl. Hist., XVII, pp.1215-69.)
11] ‘I would give a full civil protection, in which I include an immunity from all disturbance in their public and religious worship, and a power of teaching in schools as well as temples, to Jews, Mahometans, and even pagans; especially if they are already possessed of those advantages by long and prescriptive usage […]’ (Corr., III, p.112.)
12] [On the Penal Laws:] ‘You punish them for acting on a principle which of all other is perhaps the most necessary for preserving society, an implicit admiration and adherence to the establishment of their forefathers.’ (Q.source.)
13] ‘There was one grand domestic evil, from which all our other evils, foreign and domestic, had sprung. The influence of the Crown […] it was the influence of the Crown in the two Houses of Parliament that enabled his Majesty’s ministers to persevere against the voice of reason, the voice of truth, the voice of the people.’ (Parl. Hist., XII, p.705.)
14] ‘Surely the state of Ireland ought for ever to teach parties moderation in their victories. People crushed by law have no hopes but for 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 more or less […].’ (Letter to Fox, Corr., II, 387).
15] ‘It is neither more nor less than the resolution of one set of people in Ireland to consider themselves the sole citizens of the commonwealth; and to keep a domination over the rest by reducing them to absolute slavery under a military power; and, thus fortified in their power, to divide the public estate, which is the result of general contribution, as a military body solely among themselves.’ (‘On ascendancy’, in Letter to Richard Burke.).
16] ‘But there is an interior history of Ireland, the genuine voice of its records and monuments, which speaks a very different language from those histories, from Temple and from Clarendon; these restore nature to its just rights and policy to its proper order [. […] and it says] that these rebellions were not produced by toleration but by persecution.’ (Corr. 1, p.202; cited in McCormack, op. cit.; also, more extensively in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, Cape, 1995, p.19); ‘[Society is] a partnership not only between those who are living but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.’
17] ‘One of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are concentrated, is lest the temporary possessors and life renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as if they were the entire masters, that they should think it amongst their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste of the inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole fabric of their society; hazarding to leave to those who come after a ruin instead of a habitation.’
18] ‘It is possible that many estates about you were originally acquired by arms - that is, by violence; a thing almost as bad as superstition, and not much [better] short of ignorance; but [it] is the old violence; and that which might be wrong in the beginning is consecrated by time and becomes lawful.’ (quoted in McCormack, 1994.)
19] ‘If it can be shown that the great rebellions of Ireland have arisen from attempts to reduce the natives to the state to which they are now reduced, it will show that an attempt to continue them in that state will rather be disadvantageous to the public peace than any kind of security to it.’
20] ‘All the penal laws of that unparalleled code of oppression which were made after the last event [viz 1691] were manifestly the effects of national hatred and scorn towards a conquered people, whom the victors delighted to trample upon, and were not at all afraid to provoke. They were not the effect of their fears but of their security.’ (Q.sources.)
21] ‘[…] it so happens that Popish Canada was the only place that preserved its fidelity [i.e., loyalty to the Crown]’. (Q. source; noted by Conor Cruise O’Brien in The Great Melody, q.p.).
22] ‘[The English government has] farmed out Ireland, without the reservation of a pepper-corn rent in power of influence.’ (Letter to T. Hussey, 9 Dec. 1796; Burke’s Corr., IV, p.165.)
23] ‘Men do not live upon blotted paper. The favourable or the hostile mind of the ruling power is of far more importance to mankind, for good or evil, than the black letter of any statue.’ (‘A Letter on the Affairs of Ireland, written in the year 1797’; Matthew Arnold, ed., Irish Affairs, 1881, p.381.)
—The above chiefly cited in Stanley Ayling, Edmund Burke (1988).

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