“To speak of atrocious crime in mild language is treason to virtue.”

That’s Edmund Burke speaking, or at least we think it is — the statement was attributed to him by John Stevens Cabot Abbott in 1876.  It seems relevant with an eye towards Donald Trump’s apparent equivocation about the neo-nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are two other Burke quotes that might spring to mind, too, after this past weekend’s alt-right rally and the murder of a 32-year-old counter-protestor, Heather Heyer.

The first is one I grew up hearing from my father, although today I discovered that it, too, may be apocryphal: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  (I’ve read that there is no primary source citing Burke as the speaker here; he may have been paraphrasing John Stuart Mill.)

But Burke definitely penned a similar sentiment: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”


NPG 655; Edmund Burke studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds

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