The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that which tends the most to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our weakness subservient to our virtue; it grafts benevolence even upon avarice. The possessors of family wealth, and of the distinction which attends hereditary possession (as most concerned in it), are the natural securities for this transmission.
Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.
For though hereditary wealth, and the rank which goes with it, are too much idolized by creeping sycophants, and the blind, abject admirers of power, they are too rashly slighted in shallow speculations of the petulant, assuming, short-sighted coxcombs of philosophy. Some decent, regulated pre-eminence, some preference (not exclusive appropriation) given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolitic.
If the virtues of strangers be so attractive to us, how infinitely more so should be those of our own kindred; and with what additional energy should the precepts of our parents influence us, when we trace the transmission of those precepts from father to son through successive generations, each bearing the testimony of a virtuous, useful, and honourable life to their truth and influence; and all uniting in a kind and earnest exhortation to their descendants so to live on earth that (followers of Him through whose grace alone we have power to obey Him) we may at last be reunited with those who have gone before, and those who shall come after us:
The origin of all mankind was the same: it is only a clear and a good conscience that makes a man noble, for that is derived from heaven itself. It was the saying of a great man that, if we could trace our descents, we should find all slaves to come from princes, and all princes from slaves; and fortune has turned all things topsy-turvy in a long series of revolutions: beside, for a man to spend his life in pursuit of a trifle that serves only when he dies to furnish out an epitaph, is below a wise mans business.
Human and mortal though we are, we are, nevertheless, not mere insulated beings, without relation to the past or future. Neither the point of time nor the spot of earth in which we physically live bounds our rational and intellectual enjoyments. We live in the past by a knowledge of its history, and in the future by hope and anticipation. By ascending to an association with our ancestors; by contemplating their example, and studying their character; by partaking their sentiments, and imbibing their spirit; by accompanying them in their toils; by sympathizing in their sufferings and rejoicing in their successes and their triumphs,we mingle our own existence with theirs, and seem to belong to their age. We become their contemporaries, live the lives which they lived, endure what they endured, and partake in the rewards which they enjoyed.
In reference to nobility in individuals, nothing was ever better said than by Bishop Warburtonas is reportedin the House of Lords, on the occasion of some angry dispute which had arisen between a peer of noble family and one of a new creation. He said that high birth was a thing which he never knew any one disparage, except those who had it not; and he never knew any one make a boast of it who had anything else to be proud of. And it is curious that a person of so exceptionable a character that no one would like to have him for a father, may confer a kind of dignity on his great-great-great-grandchildren . If he were to discover that he could trace up his descent distinctly to a man who had deserved hanging for robberynot a traveller of his purse, but a king of his empire, or a neighbouring state of a provincehe would be likely to make no secret of it, and even to be better pleased, inwardly, than if he had made out a long line of ancestors who had been very honest farmers.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Nobility.