Edmund Burke did not say "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"

Edmund Burke (12 January 1729 – 9 July 1797) was an Irish political philosopher, Whig politician and statesman who is often regarded as the father of modern conservatism. 

He is often quoted as saying: 

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

But my interest in the history of this quote showed me tonight that it looks as though he has been misquoted.  And there is no direct link between this quote and him, although there is a link to someone else.

This purported quote bears a resemblance to the narrated theme of Sergei Bondarchuk's Soviet film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, produced in 1966. In it the narrator declares "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing", although since the original is in Russian various translations to English are possible.

Nevertheless, reading about Edmund Burke this evening as I sipped my coffee (well, admittedly it was 4 oz. of espresso over a cup of homemade vanilla ice cream; but it was coffee!) got me interested in a few of his quotes that are verified to be from his writings and/or speeches. 

Here are three you can ponder over coffee.  The first one had a specific line that rings true to our media, celebrities and the Democratic party.  Their hatred and bullying is to sacrifice their enemies (those who are more conservative in politics as well as our current President) however they forget their own future safety in their desire to sacrifice those who believe differently than they do.


Liberty, if I understand it at all, is a general principle, and the clear right of all the subjects within the realm, or of none. Partial freedom seems to me a most invidious mode of slavery. But, unfortunately, it is the kind of slavery the most easily admitted in times of civil discord; for parties are but too apt to forget their own future safety in their desire of sacrificing their enemies. People without much difficulty admit the entrance of that injustice of which they are not to be the immediate victims. In times of high proceeding it is never the faction of the predominant power that is in danger: for no tyranny chastises its own instruments.

Young man, there is America — which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world.

It is the love of the people; it is their attachment to their government, from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, which gives you both your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience, without which your army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing but rotten timber.