Speech On Moving His Resolutions For Reconciliation With The Colonies Quotes

Edmund Burke

"A Great Empire And Little Minds Go Ill Together"

Context: As a member of the English Parliament Burke defended the American Colonies with great vigor and vehemence when that body considered harsh taxation and military suppression in response to unrest. England, he argued, was a great country and could well afford to be magnanimous in this instance as she had with such beneficial results in the cases of Ireland, Wales, and Chester. Conciliation, he insisted, would produce more loyal colonists; but he recognized that the narrow politicians would not understand his arguments:

All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and mechanical politicians, who have no place among us; a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is gross and material; and who therefore, far from being qualified to be directors of the great movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth everything, and all in all. Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together. If we are conscious of our situation and glow with zeal to fill our place as becomes our station and ourselves, we ought to auspicate all our public proceedings on America with the old warning of the church, Sursum corda (Lift up your hearts)!