"The Grand Instructor, Time"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Burke was born in Ireland, and although his entire adult life was spent in England he took an active interest in Irish affairs throughout his life. As a member of Parliament he frequently defended the Irish, and he always felt the Anglican domination of the millions of Irish Catholics constituted a sort of tyranny. In 1792 he had published an open letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe which had helped persuade Parliament to extend some degree of legislative franchise to the Catholics. Three years later Langrishe again spoke in defense of the Irish Catholics, and again Burke responded with a sympathetic open letter:

Your speech on the Catholic question I read with much satisfaction. It is solid; . . . and it ought, on the spot, to have produced that effect which its reason, and that contained in the other excellent speeches on the same side of the question, cannot possibly fail (though with less pleasant consequences) to produce hereafter. What a sad thing it is, that the grand instructor, Time, has not yet been able to teach the grand lesson of his own value, and that, in every question of moral and political prudence, it is the choice of the moment which renders the measure serviceable or useless, noxious or salutary!