Reflections on the Revolution in France "Vice Itself Lost Half Its Evil By Losing All Its Grossness"
by Edmund Burke

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"Vice Itself Lost Half Its Evil By Losing All Its Grossness"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: The characteristic passion of Burke's life was his love of order and noblesse oblige. In spite of the varying attitudes he held toward the different parties in England during his political career, one may easily find the key to his consistency in this central principle. When the King's party sought to increase the royal prerogative, he resisted; when the sympathizers with the Revolution sought, as Burke thought, to abolish government, he resisted. In both instances he believed he discerned an attack on either liberty or order. He had a profound respect for the accumulated wisdom and traditions of centuries of experience, and held that the bounds of liberty should be enlarged with great caution and circumspection. That a political system had lasted a long time argued that it must to a large extent fulfill its purpose and that, therefore, it should not be rashly changed. To him the sudden destruction of the political structure signaled a heinous alteration in the nature of man and his ethical code:

. . . It is gone, that sensibility of principle, . . . which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness.