Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Edmund Burke

English Statesman, Orator, Writer and Political Theorist

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

"True humility... is the low but deep and firm foundation of all virtues."

"Virtue is never tried but by some difficulty and some struggle."

"Too much idleness, I have observed, fills up a man's time much more completely, and leaves him less his own master, than any sort of employment whatsoever."

"Toleration is good for all or it is good for none."

"Unsociable humors are contracted in solitude, which will, in the end, not fail of corrupting the understanding as well as the manners, and of utterly disqualifying a man for the satisfactions and duties of life. Men must be taken as they are, and we neither make them or ourselves better by flying from or quarreling with them."

"There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue."

"Titles, indeed, may be purchased; but virtue is the only coin that makes the bargain valid."

"The passions and desires, like the two twists of a rope, mutually mix one with the other, and twine inextricably round the heart; producing good if moderately indulged; but certain destruction if suffered to become inordinate."

"Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant of both the character they leave and of the character they assume."

"The march of the human mind is slow."

"The great chain of causes, which, linking one to another, even to the throne of God Himself, can never be unraveled by any industry of ours."

"There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue."

"The only infallible criterion of wisdom to vulgar judgments - success."

"The esteem of wise and good men is the greatest of all temporal encouragements to virtue; and it is a mark of an abandoned spirit to have no regard to it."

"That great chain of causes, which, linking one to another, even to the throne of God Himself, can never be unraveled by any industry of ours."

"The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear."

"Terrible consequences there will always be when the mean vices attempt to mimic the grand passions. Great men will never do great mischief but for some great end."

"Society is indeed a contract... It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are dead, and those who are to be born."

"Thank God, men that are greatly guilty are never wise."

"Taste and elegance, though they are reckoned only among the small and secondary morals, yet are of no mean importance in the regulation of life. A moral taste is not of force to turn vice into virtue; but it recommends virtue with something like the blandishments of pleasure."

"Restraint of discipline, emulation, examples of virtue and of justice, form the education of the world."

"Sickness is the mother of modesty, as it puts us in mind of our mortality, and while we drive on heedlessly in the full career of worldly pomp and jollity, kindly pulls us by the ear, and brings us to a sense of our duty."

"Power, in whatever hands, is rarely guilty of too strict limitations on itself."

"Responsibility prevents crimes."

"Of all vanities of fopperies, the vanity of high birth is the greatest. True nobility is derived from virtue, not from birth. Titles, indeed, may be purchased, but virtue is the only coin that makes the bargain valid."

"Nothing, indeed, but the possession of some power can with any certainty discover what at the bottom is the true character of any man."

"Our patience will achieve more than our force."

"Nothing tends so much to the corruption of science as to suffer it to stagnate; these waters must be troubled before they can exert their virtues."

"Obstinacy, sir, is certainly a great vice; and in the changeful state of political affairs it is frequently the cause of great mischief. It happens, however, very unfortunately, that almost the whole line of the great and masculine virtues - constancy, gravity, magnanimity, fortitude, fidelity, and firmness - are closely allied to this disagreeable quality, of which you have so jut an abhorrence; and in their excess all these virtues very easily fall into it."

"No rule is so general, which admits not some exception."

"Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair."

"Never expect to find perfection in men, in my commerce with my contemporaries I have found much human virtue. I have seen not a little public spirit; a real subordination of interest to duty; and a decent and regulated sensibility to honest fame and reputation. The age unquestionably produces daring profligates and insidious hypocrites. What then? Am I not to avail myself of whatever good is to be found in the world because of the mixture of evil that will always be in it? The smallness of the quantity in currency only heightens the value. They who raise suspicions on the good, on account of the behavior of ill men, are of the party of the latter."

"No man can mortgage his injustice as a pawn for his fidelity."

"Next to love sympathy is the divinest passion of the human heart."

"It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters."

"It is the nature of tyranny and rapacity never to learn moderation from the ill-success of first oppressions; on the contrary, all oppressors, all men thinking highly of the methods dictated by their nature, attribute the frustration of their desires to the want of sufficient rigor."

"Men love to hear of their power, but have an extreme disrelish to be told their duty."

"It is by sympathy we enter into the concerns of others, that we are moved as they are moved, and are never suffered to be indifferent spectators of almost anything which men can do or suffer."

"Idleness is the badge of the gentry, the bane of body and mind, the nurse of naughtiness, the stepmother of discipline, the chief author of all mischief, one of the seven deadly sins, the cushion upon which the devil chiefly reposes, and a great cause not only of melancholy, but of many other diseases; for the mind is naturally active, and, if it is not occupied about some honest business, it rushes into mischief or sinks into melancholy."

"I know of nothing sublime which is not some modification of power."

"Instead of casting away our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree, and, more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted the more we cherish them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages."

"He who calls in the aid of an equal understanding doubles his own; and he who profits by a superior understanding raises his powers to a level with the height of the superior understanding he unites with it."

"If you can be well without health, you can be happy without virtue."

"Guilt is never a rational thing; it distorts all the faculties of the human mind, it perverts them, it leaves a man no longer in the free use of his reason, it puts him in to confusion."

"Greater mischief happens often from folly, meanness, and vanity than from the greater sins of avarice and ambition."

"General rebellions and revolts of a whole people never were encouraged, now or at any time. They are always provoked."

"Gluttony is the source of all our infirmities, and the fountain of all our diseases. As a lamp is choked by a superabundance of oil, a fire extinguished by excess of fuel, so is the natural health of the body destroyed by intemperate diet."

"Frugality is founded on the principle that all riches have limits."

"Genuine simplicity of heart is a healing and cementing process."