An Awful Trust … and Final Accounting – Edmund Burke

Edmund-Burke-portrait-006THEY WERE BELIEVERS, EDMUND BURKE

All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust: and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of Society . . . .

When the people have emptied themselves of all the lust of selfish will, which without religion it is utterly impossible they ever should, when they are conscious that they exercise, and exercise perhaps in an higher link of the order of delegation, the power, which to be legitimate must be according to that eternal immutable law, in which will and reason are the same, they will be more careful how they place power in base and incapable hands. In their nomination to office, they will not appoint to the exercise of authority, as to a pitiful job, but as to an holy function; not according to their sordid selfish interest, nor to their wanton caprice, nor to their arbitrary will; but they will confer that power (which any man may well tremble to give or to receive) on those only, in whom they may discern that predominant proportion of active virtue and wisdom, taken together and fitted to the charge, such, as in the great and inevitable mixed mass of human imperfections and infirmities, is to be found. When they are habitually convinced that no evil can be acceptable, either in the act or the permission, to him whose essence is good, they will be better able to extirpate out of the minds of all magistrates, civil, ecclesiastical, or military, any thing that bears the least resemblance to a proud and lawless domination.


Source: Edmund Burke (1729-1797). Excerpt from his “Reflections of the Revolution in France.” Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, who, after moving to England, long served in the British House of Commons. Mr. Burke is perhaps remembered most for his zealous and principled support of the cause of the American Revolution and his equally zealous opposition to its godless and unprincipled opposite, the French Revolution.


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