Reference > Quotations > John Bartlett, comp. > Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. > Edmund Burke
John Bartlett (1820–1905).  Familiar Quotations, 10th ed.  1919.
Edmund Burke. (1729–1797)
    The writers against religion, whilst they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own.
          A Vindication of Natural Society. 1 Preface, vol. i, p. 7.
    “War,” says Machiavel, “ought to be the only study of a prince;” and by a prince he means every sort of state, however constituted. “He ought,” says this great political doctor, “to consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes ability to execute military plans.” A meditation on the conduct of political societies made old Hobbes imagine that war was the state of nature.
          A Vindication of Natural Society. Vol. i. p. 15.
    I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others. 2
          On the Sublime and Beautiful. Sect. xiv. vol. i. p. 118.
    Custom reconciles us to everything.
          On the Sublime and Beautiful. Sect. xviii. vol. i. p. 231.
    There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
          Observations on Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation. Vol. i. p. 273.
    The wisdom of our ancestors. 3
          Ibid. p. 516. Also in the Discussion on the Traitorous Correspondence Bill, 1793.
    Illustrious predecessor. 4
          Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent. Vol. i. p. 456.
    In such a strait the wisest may well be perplexed and the boldest staggered.
          Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent. Vol. i. p. 516.
    When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
          Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent. Vol. i. p. 526.
    Of this stamp is the cant of, Not men, but measures. 5
          Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent. Vol. i. p. 531.
    The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 108.
    There is America, which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners, yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 115.
    Fiction lags after truth, invention is unfruitful, and imagination cold and barren.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 116.
    A people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 117.
    A wise and salutary neglect.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 117.
    My vigour relents,—I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 118.
    The religion most prevalent in our northern colonies is a refinement on the principles of resistance: it is the dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism of the Protestant religion.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 123.
    I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 136.
    The march of the human mind is slow. 6
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 149.
    All government,—indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act,—is founded on compromise and barter.
          Speech on the Conciliation of America. Vol. ii. p. 169.
    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.
          Speech at Bristol on Declining the Poll. Vol. ii. p. 420.
    They made and recorded a sort of institute and digest of anarchy, called the Rights of Man.
          On the Army Estimates. Vol iii. p. 221.
    People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 274.
    You had that action and counteraction which, in the natural and in the political world, from the reciprocal struggle of discordant powers draws out the harmony of the universe. 7
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 277.
    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…. Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men,—in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped 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.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 331.
    The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 331.
    That chastity of honour which felt a stain like a wound.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 332.
    Vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 332.
    Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 334.
    Learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude. 8
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 335.
    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 do 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 shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 344.
    In their nomination to office they will not appoint to the exercise of authority as to a pitiful job, but as to a holy function.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 356.
    The men of England,—the men, I mean, of light and leading in England.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 365.
    He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 453.
    To execute laws is a royal office; to execute orders is not to be a king. However, a political executive magistracy, though merely such, is a great trust. 9
          Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. p. 497.
    You can never plan the future by the past. 10
          Letter to a Member of the National Assembly. Vol. iv. p. 55.
    The cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
          Preface to Brissot’s Address. Vol. v. p. 67.
    And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them. 11
          Thoughts and Details on Scarcity. Vol. v. p. 156.
    All men that are ruined, are ruined on the side of their natural propensities.
          Letter i. On a Regicide Peace. Vol. v. p. 286.
    All those instances to be found in history, whether real or fabulous, of a doubtful public spirit, at which morality is perplexed, reason is staggered, and from which affrighted Nature recoils, are their chosen and almost sole examples for the instruction of their youth.
          Letter i. On a Regicide Peace. Vol. v. p. 286.
    Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.
          Letter i. On a Regicide Peace. Vol. v. p. 331.
    Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.
          Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians. Vol. vii. p. 50.
    There never was a bad man that had ability for good service.
          Speech in opening the Impeachment of Warren Hastings, Third Day. Vol. x. p. 54.
    The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
          Speech at County Meeting of Bucks, 1784.
    I would rather sleep in the southern corner of a little country churchyard than in the tomb of the Capulets. 12
          Letter to Matthew Smith.
    It has all the contortions of the sibyl without the inspiration. 13
          Prior’s Life of Burke. 14
    He was not merely a chip of the old block, but the old block itself. 15
          On Pitt’s First Speech, Feb. 26, 1781. From Wraxall’s Memoirs, First Series, vol. i. p. 342.
Note 1.
Boston edition. 1865–1867. [back]
Note 2.
In the adversity of our best friends we always find something which is not wholly displeasing to us.—Francis, Duc de La Rochefoucauld: Reflections, xv. [back]
Note 3.
Lord Brougham says of Bacon, “He it was who first employed the well-known phrase of ‘the wisdom of our ancestor.’”

Sydney Smith: Plymley’s Letters, letter v. Lord Eldon: On Sir Samuel Romilly’s Bill, 1815. Cicero: De Legibus, ii. 2, 3. [back]
Note 4.
See Fielding, Quotation 19. [back]
Note 5.
See Goldsmith, Quotation 78. [back]
Note 6.
The march of intellect.—Robert Southey: Progress and Prospects of Society, vol. ii. p. 360. [back]
Note 7.
Quid velit et possit rerum concordia discors (What the discordant harmony of circumstances would and could effect).—Horace: Epistle i. 12, 19.

Mr. Breen, in his “Modern English Literature,” says: “This remarkable thought Alison the historian has turned to good account; it occurs so often in his disquisitions that he seems to have made it the staple of all wisdom and the basis of every truth.” [back]
Note 8.
This expression was tortured to mean that he actually thought the people no better than swine; and the phrase “the swinish multitude” was bruited about in every form of speech and writing, in order to excite popular indignation. [back]
Note 9.
See Appendix, Quotation 45. [back]
Note 10.
I know no way of judging of the future but by the past.—Patrick Henry: Speech in the Virginia Convention, March, 1775. [back]
Note 11.
We set ourselves to bite the hand that feeds us.—Cause of the Present Discontents, vol. i. p. 439. [back]
Note 12.
Family vault of “all the Capulets.”—Reflections on the Revolution in France, vol. iii. p. 349. [back]
Note 13.
When Croft’s “Life of Dr. Young” was spoken of as a good imitation of Dr. Johnson’s style, “No, no,” said he, “it is not a good imitation of Johnson; it has all his pomp without his force; it has all the nodosities of the oak, without its strength; it has all the contortions of the sibyl, without the inspiration.”—Prior: Life of Burke.

The gloomy comparisons of a disturbed imagination, the melancholy madness of poetry without the inspiration.—Junius: Letter No. viii. To Sir W. Draper. [back]
Note 14.
At the conclusion of one of Mr. Burke’s eloquent harangues, Mr. Cruger, finding nothing to add, or perhaps as he thought to add with effect, exclaimed earnestly, in the language of the counting-house, “I say ditto to Mr. Burke! I say ditto to Mr. Burke!”—Prior: Life of Burke, p. 152. [back]
Note 15.
See Sir Thomas Browne, Quotation 12. [back]


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