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48 of Edmund Burke’s Greatest Quotes

48 of Edmund Burke’s Greatest Quotes

Edmund Burke was born in Dublin, Ireland in the year 1729. Originally, Burke set out to study law in London but instead he pursued a political and literary career. He was a parliamentary orator, British statesman, and a political thinker in the eyes of the public starting in 1765 and ending in 1795, just two short years prior to his death.

Being praised by both the liberals and conservatives, Burke has quite an importance in political theory history. In fact, in the 20th century, Burke became known as the founder of modern conservatism because he was a great philosopher. He opposed the French Revolutionary war and had a very strong support for the American Revolutionary War.


Edmund Burke Quotes

  1. “If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.” – Edmund Burke
  2. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
  3. “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” – Edmund Burke
  4. “Never apologise for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologise for the truth.” – Edmund Burke
  5. “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” – Edmund Burke
  6. “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” – Edmund Burke
  7. “But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.” – Edmund Burke
  8. “People crushed by laws, have no hope but to evade power. If the laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to the law; and those who have most to hope and nothing to lose will always be dangerous.” – Edmund Burke
  9. “It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” – Edmund Burke
  10. “Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” – Edmund Burke
  11. “Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.” – Edmund Burke
  12. “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” – Edmund Burke
  13. “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmund Burke
  14. “It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.” – Edmund Burke
  15. “Woman is not made to be the admiration of all, but the happiness of one.” – Edmund Burke
  16. “I have not yet lost a feeling of wonder, and of delight, that the delicate motion should reside in all the things around us, revealing itself only to him who looks for it.” – Edmund Burke
  17. “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” – Edmund Burke
  18. “The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity.” – Edmund Burke
  19. “People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” – Edmund Burke
  20. “Ambition can creep as well as soar.” – Edmund Burke
  21. “Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.” – Edmund Burke
  22. “It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact.” – Edmund Burke
  23. “As the rose-tree is composed of the sweetest flowers and the sharpest thorns, as the heavens are sometimes overcast alternately tempestuous and serene so is the life of man intermingled with hopes and fears, with joys and sorrows, with pleasure and pain.” – Edmund Burke
  24. “But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.” – Edmund Burke
  25. “There is a boundary to men’s passions when they act from feelings; but none when they are under the influence of imagination.” -Edmund Burke
  26. “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” – Edmund Burke
  27. “A kind Providence has placed in our breasts a hatred of the unjust and cruel, in order that we may preserve ourselves from cruelty and injustice. They who bear cruelty, are accomplices in it. The pretended gentleness which excludes that charitable rancour, produces an indifference which is half an approbation. They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.” – Edmund Burke
  28. “Superstition is the religion of feeble minds.” -Edmund Burke
  29. “For there is in mankind an unfortunate propensity to make themselves, their views and their works, the measure of excellence in every thing whatsoever” – Edmund Burke
  30. “Good order is the foundation of all things.” – Edmund Burke
  31. “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” – Edmund Burke
  32. “You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time they pretend to make them the depositories of all power.” – Edmund Burke in ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’
  33. “When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.” – Edmund Burke
  34. “The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.” – Edmund Burke
  35. “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” – Edmund Burke
  36. “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling …. When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and yet with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience.” – Edmund Burke
  37. “Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations – wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.” – Edmund Burke
  38. “Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to names; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not to occasional organs by which they act, and the transitory modes in which they appear.” – Edmund Burke
  39. “There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men.” – Edmund Burke
  40. “Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.” – Edmund Burke
  41. “In effect, to follow, not to force the public inclination; to give a direction, a form, a technical dress, and a specific sanction, to the general sense of the community, is the true end of legislature.” – Edmund Burke
  42. “Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.” – Edmund Burke
  43. ““Your literary men, and your politicians, and so do the whole clan of the enlightened among us, essentially differ in these points. They have no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it off by a very full measure of confidence in their own. With them it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things, because it is an old one. As to the new, they are in no sort of fear with regard to the duration of a building run up in haste; because duration is no object to those who think little or nothing has been done before their time, and who place all their hopes in discovery.” – Edmund Burke in ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’
  44. “Laws, like houses, lean on one another.” – Edmund Burke
  45. “Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.” – Edmund Burke
  46. “There is a sort of gloss upon ingenious falsehoods that dazzles the imagination, but which neither belongs to, nor becomes the sober aspect of truth.” – Edmund Burke
  47. “Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver, and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings.” – Edmund Burke
  48. “Custom reconciles us to everything.” – Edmund Burke


Edmund Burke believed that under new circumstances, traditional values can be reestablished if you have a willingness to accept the change. He believed that there should be a strong relationship between a ruler and his subjects. We do not need to embrace Edmund Burke’s views as we read and admire his work. Instead we should learn from a man that stood up for what he believed and wasn’t afraid to let the world know it. Edmund Burke is an important person to history and his messages can inspire us to stand up for what we believe in as well.

Edmund Burke Video

One philosopher who analysed our pleasure was Edmund Burke, who pinned a word to this sensation and theorised about why it was so nice. Burke gave us the concept of The Sublime and this video is a fascinating, short discussion of this topic. If you’ve read this far, be sure to check it out.


Image Credit: Studio of Joshua Reynolds, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons