December 20, 2012
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Attributed to Edmund Burke, (1729-1797)
Known as the Father of Conservatism, Burke, a native of Dublin and longtime Member of Parliament, was supportive of the American Revolution but condemned the French Revolution for its excesses. He wrote extensively on the role of government and was widely praised for his ability to clarify philosophical issues.
This quote, made popular by John Kennedy and attributed by him to Burke, is a good example of how difficult it can be to pin down exactly who said what several hundred years ago. According to The Quote Investigator, who often refers to The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, it is likely that it may have been first pronounced in similar form by the Reverend Charles Aked, but is also attributed to Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill and others. As with many of the quotable sentiments of the famous it has its roots in scripture, and expresses an ancient recognition that it is the duty of persons of good will to act, not merely to hope.