To Whom It May Concern,
They pursue even such as me into the obscurest retreats and haul them before their revolutionary tribunals. Neither sex nor age — not the sanctuary of the tomb is sacred to them. They have so determined a hatred to all privileged orders that they deny even to the departed the sad immunities of the grave. They are not wholly without an object. Their turpitude purveys to their malice, and they unplumb the dead for bullets to assassinate the living…
I have lived long and variously in the world. Without any considerable pretensions to literature in myself, I have aspired to the love of letters.
I have lived for a great many years in habitudes with those who professed the same love… Men so formed and finished are the first gifts of Providence to the world. But when many of these sorts have once thrown off the fear of God, and the fear of man, which is now the case, and in that state come to understand one another, and to act in concert, a more dreadful calamity cannot arise out of hell to scourge mankind.
Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil. It is no easy operation to eradicate humanity from the human breast.
What Shakspeare calls “the compunctious visitings of nature” will sometimes knock at their hearts, and protest against their murderous speculations. But they have a means of compounding with their nature. Their humanity is not dissolved. They only give it a long prorogation. They are ready to declare, that they do not think two thousand years too long a period for the good that they pursue.
It is remarkable, that they never see any way to their projected good but by the road of some evil. Their imagination is not fatigued with the contemplation of human suffering through the wild waste of centuries added to centuries of misery and desolation. Their humanity is at their horizon—and, like the horizon, it always flies before them.
The geometricians, and the chemists, bring, the one from the dry bones of their diagrams, and the other from the soot of their furnaces, dispositions that make them worse than indifferent about those feelings and habitudes, which are the support of the moral world.
Ambition is come upon them suddenly; they are intoxicated with it, and it has rendered them fearless of the danger, which may from thence arise to others or to themselves. These philosophers consider men in their experiments, no more than they do mice in an air pump, or in a recipient of mephitic gas.
Whatever his Grace may think of himself, they look upon him, and everything that belongs to him, with no more regard than they do upon the whiskers of that little long-tailed animal that has been long the game of the grave, demure, insidious, spring-nailed, velvet-pawed, green-eyed philosophers, whether going upon two legs, or upon four.
Paras. 60-83. Burke, Edmund. A Letter to a Noble Lord.