Reflections on the Revolution in France "Our Patience Will Achieve More Than Our Force"

Edmund Burke

"Our Patience Will Achieve More Than Our Force"

Context: Throughout his long tenure in Parliament, Edmund Burke, one of the greatest political philosophers England has ever produced, steadfastly defended traditional and established rights and the gradual evolution of political process. He regarded the Revolution in France as a vicious and dangerous perversion of the processes of political development, and he objected to the insistence on rapid and radical change just as much as the violence with which these changes were being brought about during the Revolution:

. . . Political arrangement, as it is a work for social ends, is to be wrought by social means. There mind must conspire with mind. Time is required to produce that union of minds which alone can produce all the good we aim at. Our patience will achieve more than our force. If I might venture to appeal to what is so much out of fashion in Paris, I mean to experience, I should tell you that in my course I have known, and, according to my measure, have co-operated with great men; and I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business. By a slow but well-sustained progress, the effect of each step is watched; the good or ill success of the first, gives light to us in the second; and so, from light to light, we are conducted with safety through the whole series. We see that the parts of the system do not clash.