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Edmund Burke Quotes on Liberty, Power, and Virtue

Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish philosopher, politician, and writer who is well-known for his opposition to the French Revolution and would later become known as the founder of modern conservatism. These quotes by Edmund Burke may have been stated two-hundred years ago, but the meaning behind his words still resonate today.

Edmund Burke was born in Dublin in 1729. He moved to London to study law but would later abandon that profession to become a member of the British parliament.

Burke had a successful political career and was popular with both liberals and conservatives. He believed in a government that balanced collaboration between the country’s civilians and rulers.

Modern conservatism attributes its roots to Burke and his political philosophy.

Here is our list of Edmund Burke quotes.

Don’t forget to also check out these John Locke quotes on character, wealth, and more.

Edmund Burke quotes about the pursuit of liberty

1. “Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.” — Edmund Burke

2. “The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts” — Edmund Burke

3. “Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.” — Edmund Burke

4. “Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.” — Edmund Burke

5. “If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.” — Edmund Burke

6. “Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found.” — Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke quotes about the dangers of power

7. “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” — Edmund Burke

8. “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” — Edmund Burke

9. “I know of nothing sublime which is not some modification of power.” — Edmund Burke

10. “Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power, but they will never look to anything but power for their relief.” — Edmund Burke

11. “All human laws are, properly speaking, only declaratory; they have no power over the substance of original justice.” — Edmund Burke

12. “The great must submit to the dominion of prudence and of virtue, or none will long submit to the dominion of the great.” — Edmund Burke

13. “Law and arbitrary power are at eternal enmity.” — Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke quotes about politics

14. “In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority.” — Edmund Burke

15. “If any ask me what a free government is, I answer, that, for any practical purpose, it is what the people think so, – and that they, and not I, are the natural, lawful, and competent judges of this matter.” — Edmund Burke

16. “Free trade is not based on utility but on justice.” — Edmund Burke

17. “Taxing is an easy business. Any projector can contrive new compositions, any bungler can add to the old.” — Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke quotes about virtue

18. “There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.” — Edmund Burke

19. “Restraint and discipline and examples of virtue and justice. These are the things that form the education of the world.” — Edmund Burke

20. “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 ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes 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.” — Edmund Burke

21. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

22. “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” — Edmund Burke

23. “It is not, what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice, tell me I ought to do.” — Edmund Burke

Have you seen these Francis Bacon quotes from the iconic English philosopher?

Insightful Edmund Burke quotes

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. “The yielding of the weak is the concession to fear.” — Edmund Burke

26. “Next to love, sympathy is the divinest passion of the human heart.” — Edmund Burke

27. “Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.” — Edmund Burke

28. “The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” — Edmund Burke

29. “Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than be ruined by too confident a security.” — Edmund Burke

30. “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” — Edmund Burke

31. “The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.” — Edmund Burke

32. “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.” — Edmund Burke

33. “Adversity is a severe instructor, set over us by one who knows us better than we do ourselves, as he loves us better too.” — Edmund Burke

34. “Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair.” — Edmund Burke

35. “Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” — Edmund Burke

36. “Our patience will achieve more than our force.” — Edmund Burke

37. “Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.” — Edmund Burke

38. “Beauty is the promise of happiness.” — Edmund Burke

More Edmund Burke quotes

39. “Some decent, regulated preeminence, some preference given to birth, is neither unnatural nor unjust nor impolite.” — Edmund Burke

40. “It is hard to say whether the doctors of law or divinity have made the greater advances in the lucrative business of mystery.” — Edmund Burke

41. “People must be taken as they are, and we should never try to make them or ourselves better by quarreling with them.” — Edmund Burke

42. “Great men are the guideposts and landmarks in the state.” — Edmund Burke

43. “Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.” — Edmund Burke

44. “Applaud us when we run, console us when we fall, cheer us when we recover.” — Edmund Burke

45. “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

46. “Young man, there is America, which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners.” — Edmund Burke

47. “There is a courageous wisdom; there is also a false, reptile prudence, the result not of caution but of fear.” — Edmund Burke

48. “Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little.” — Edmund Burke

49. “When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment, we have no compass to govern us, nor can we know distinctly to what port to steer.” — Edmund Burke

50. “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” — Edmund Burke

You might also like these Homer quotes that reveal much about the elusive bard.

Do you agree with these Edmund Burke quotes?

It is interesting to look at the great thinkers from our past and reflect on how they helped influence the world we live in today. However, it is just as important to understand the context of their words and realize the progress civilization has made since their time.

Is the philosophy of Edmund Burke still valid today? Perhaps. Many of these quotes still resonate with modern society, however, some of his thoughts may be outdated and in alignment with an older train of political thought.

What matters most is to understand what you think is right and to live your life in that way.

Did you enjoy these Edmund Burke quotes and sayings? Which quote was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. James

    February 18, 2021 at 6:31 PM

    To answer the question, it depends on how closely his statements are to God’s word. God’s word when spoken to the nature of man are always relevant and never become outdated. But some of his words were made to people about practices at that time of a specific culture and yet still understood fairly well by most living today. So Burke quotes probably carry enough of God’s word to be relevant to this day.

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