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Burke on virtue, vice, and liberty

Born in 1729 (or 1730) in Ireland, and keenly feeling the injustices of the Penal Laws, Edmund Burke graduated from Trinity College Dublin, moved to London to study law and enter parliament, and began to shape the course of history with his ideas.

He believed that liberty without wisdom or virtue was "the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. . .Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption. . ."

But just as Burke believed that real freedom could not exist without virtue, he also believed that virtue could not exist without freedom, a point lost on society's social engineers -

"It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, by leaving much to free will, even with some loss of the object, than to attempt to make men mere machines and instruments of political benevolence. The world on the whole will gain by a liberty, without which virtue cannot exist."

Contemporaries of Burke, such as George Washington and John Adams, agreed that freedom was impossible without virtue. What was their definition of virtue?

The word virtue comes from the Latin word that means strength or power. For two thousand years people recognized seven essential virtues or powers - they saw that the men and women with these virtues had remarkable strength.

The first four powers were called cardinal, which means they were considered pivotal. (The Latin word cardinal means the hinge of a door.) Ancient Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Celts, among others, knew and spoke of these powers.

The 5th, 6th, and 7th powers were called theological. They were considered the gifts of Christianity. Socrates described one of them at his trial.

The 7 Powers

Justice (fairness, honesty, equity, keeping promises)

Prudence (wisdom, foresight, reason, and common sense)

Temperance (balance, flexibility, self-discipline, the enjoyment of pleasure, but not in excess)

Fortitude (endurance, bravery, valour, perseverance, gallantry, guts, and a sense of humour)

Faith (Following and trusting in God. At his trial Socrates said that he would never willingly abandon his mission and that he believed in a just God who cared for him.)

Hope (the belief that your life is part of a transcendent story created by God and that all things are possible)