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A government is a body that has the authority to make and the power to enforce laws within a civil, corporate, religious, academic, or other organization or group.


The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man. ~ William Beveridge
To prevent government from becoming corrupt and tyrannous, its organization and methods should be as simple as possible, its functions be restricted to those necessary to the common welfare, and in all its parts it should be kept as close to the people and as directly within their control as may be. ~ Henry George
A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise. ~ Friedrich Hayek
The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion makes sense only if that opinion is independent of government. ~ Friedrich Hayek
It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem. ~ Friedrich Hayek
  • In some parts of the world, states have collapsed as a result of internal and communal conflicts, depriving their citizens of any effective protection. Elsewhere, human security has been jeopardized by governments which refuse to act in the common interest, which persecute their opponents and punish innocent members of minority groups.
  • Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.
    • Barnhill, John Basil (1914). "Indictment of Socialism No. 3" (PDF). Barnhill-Tichenor Debate on Socialism. Saint Louis, Missouri: National Rip-Saw Publishing. pp. p. 34. Retrieved on 2008-10-16. 
  • The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man.
  • The danger is becoming greater. As the arsenals of the superpowers grow in size and sophistication and as other governments—perhaps even, in the future, dozens of governments—acquire these weapons, it may be only a matter of time before madness, desperation, greed or miscalculation lets loose the terrible force.
    • Jimmy Carter, as quoted in The Watchtower magazine, (15 August 1981).
  • Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been found that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.
  • Resolv'd to ruin or to rule the state.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part I, line 174.
  • Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.
    • Albert Einstein, The World As I See It, "Some Notes on my American Impressions" (first published as "My First Impression of the U.S.A." (1921)).
  • No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.
    • Richard Feynman, in "The Uncertainty of Values", in The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist (1999).
  • A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
  • The state is not a universal nor in itself an autonomous source of power. The state is nothing else but the effect, the profile, the mobile shape of a perpetual statification or statifications, in the sense of incessant transactions which modify, or move, or drastically change, or insidiously shift sources of finance, modes of investment, decision-making centers, forms and types of control, relationships between local powers, the central authority, and so on. In short, the state has no heart, as we well know, but not just in the sense that it has no feelings, either good or bad, but it has no heart in the sense that it has no interior. The state is nothing else but the mobile effect of a regime of multiple governmentalities.
  • All free governments are managed by the combined wisdom and folly of the people.
    • James A. Garfield, letter to B. A. Hinsdale, 1880-04-21 (Jonas Mills Bundy, The Nation's Hero – In Memoriam: The life of James Abram Garfield, 1881, New York: A. S. Barnes).
  • To prevent government from becoming corrupt and tyrannous, its organization and methods should be as simple as possible, its functions be restricted to those necessary to the common welfare, and in all its parts it should be kept as close to the people and as directly within their control as may be.
    • Henry George, Social Problems (1883), Ch. 17 : The Functions of Government.
  • For just experience tells, in every soil,
    That those who think must govern those that toil.
  • Well, I would say that, as long-term institutions, I am totally against dictatorships. But a dictatorship may be a necessary system for a transitional period. At times it is necessary for a country to have, for a time, some form or other of dictatorial power. As you will understand, it is possible for a dictator to govern in a liberal way. And it is also possible for a democracy to govern with a total lack of liberalism. Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism. My personal impression — and this is valid for South America — is that in Chile, for example, we will witness a transition from a dictatorial government to a liberal government. And during this transition it may be necessary to maintain certain dictatorial powers, not as something permanent, but as a temporary arrangement.
  • A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise. If Mrs. Thatcher said that free choice is to be exercised more in the market place than in the ballot box, she has merely uttered the truism that the first is indispensable for individual freedom, while the second is not: free choice can at least exist under a dictatorship that can limit itself but not under the government of an unlimited democracy which cannot.
  • The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion makes sense only if that opinion is independent of government. The ideal of democracy rests on the belief that the view which will direct government emerges from an independent and spontaneous process. It requires, therefore, the existence of a large sphere independent of majority control in which the opinions of the individuals are formed.
  • Once wide coercive powers are given to governmental agencies for particular purposes, such powers cannot be effectively controlled by democratic assemblies.

The chief evil is unlimited government, and nobody is qualified to wield unlimited power. The powers which modern democracy possesses would be even more intolerable in the hands of some small elite.'

  • It is not democracy but unlimited government that is objectionable, and I do not see why the people should not learn to limit the scope of majority rule as well as that of any other form of government. At any rate, the advantages of democracy as a method of peaceful change and of political education seem to be so great compared with those of any other system that I can have no sympathy with the antidemocratic strain of conservatism. It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem.
  • Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.
  • A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned -- this is the sum of good government
  • If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.
  • Government, in the last analysis, is organized opinion. Where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government, which sooner or later becomes autocratic government.
  • Governments are nothing more or less than gigantic criminal conspiracies, overgrown street gangs with no claims whatsoever to legitimacy. They are funded by theft and the basis of all their operations is aggression. They're no more entitled to keep their activities secret than any other gaggle of murderers, rapists and thieves is.
  • If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
  • A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.
  • What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
    • Mayer, Milton (1966) [1955]. They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (2nd edition ed.). University of Chicago Press. pp. p. 166. ISBN 0-226-51192-8. 
  • The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself... Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.
  • On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
  • The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.
  • The way people in democracies think of the government as something different from themselves is a real handicap. And, of course, sometimes the government confirms their opinion.
    • Lewis Mumford, as quoted in Philosophers of the Earth : Conversations with Ecologists (1972) by Anne Chisholm.
  • Staat heisst das kälteste aller kalten Ungeheuer. Kalt lügt es auch; und diese Lüge kriecht aus seinem Munde: „Ich, der Staat, bin das Volk.“ Lüge ist’s! Schaffende waren es, die schufen die Völker und hängten einen Glauben und eine Liebe über sie hin: also dienten sie dem Leben. Vernichter sind es, die stellen Fallen auf für Viele und heissen sie Staat: sie hängen ein Schwert und hundert Begierden über sie hin.
    • A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life. Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus spake Zarathustra, XI. The New Idol (German Text).
  • Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadows about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
  • Giving money and power to Government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
  • For forms of government let fools contest;
    Whate'er is best administer'd is best.
  • Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.
  • Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.
    • Will Rogers, attributed in Connie Robertson, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998).
  • For government, through high and low and lower,
    Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,
    Congreeing in a full and natural close,
    Like music.
  • How, in one house,
    Should many people, under two commands,
    Hold amity? 'Tis hard; almost impossible.
  • Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
    • Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter I, Part II, 775.
  • With the exception of the writ of habeas corpus, a privilege not required under the Jewish government, simply because it did not allow of imprisonment, there is not a single feature of free government that is not distinctly developed in the Bible.
    • Gardiner Spring, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 425.
  • The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual, crime.
    • Max Stirner, attributed in The Great Quotations (1960) by George Seldes, p. 664.
  • ... bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.
    • Tacitus, Annals, Book III, 27
    • Common paraphrase: The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government.
  • I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
  • [Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.
  • Government is violence, Christianity is meekness, non-resistance, love. And, therefore, government cannot be Christian, and a man who wishes to be a Christian must not serve government.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Letter to Eugen Heinrich Schmitt (1896).
  • Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportional to each other.
  • Government is either organized benevolence or organized madness; its peculiar magnitude permits no shading.

Fictional, author unidentified[edit]

  • A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.
    • Shepherd Book, Firefly, episode "War Stories". (Shepherd is quoting Capt. Malcolm Reynolds).
  • People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 329-35.
  • The declaration that our People are hostile to a government made by themselves, for themselves, and conducted by themselves, is an insult.
    • John Adams, address to the citizens of Westmoreland Co., Virginia. Answered July 11, 1798. See also Thomas Cooper, Some information respecting America (1794). In Report of a Meeting of the Mass. Historical Society by Samuel A. Green (May 9, 1901).
  • * * The manners of women are the surest criterion by which to determine whether a republican government is practicable in a nation or not.
    • John Adams, Diary. June 2, 1778. Charles Francis Adams' Life of Adams, Volume III, p. 171.
  • Yesterday the greatest question was decided which was ever debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, that those United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.
  • Not stones, nor wood, nor the art of artisans make a state; but where men are who know how to take care of themselves, these are cities and walls.
    • Attributed to Alcæus by Aristides, Orations, Volume II. (Jebb's edition. Austin's translation).
  • States are great engines moving slowly.
  • Adeo ut omnes imperii virga sive bacillum vere superius inflexum sit.
    • So that every wand or staff of empire is forsooth curved at top.
    • Francis Bacon, De Sapientia Veterum (1609). 6. Pan, sive Natura. Sometimes translated, "All sceptres are crooked atop." Referring to the shepherd's crook of Pan, and implying that government needs to be roundabout in method.
  • It [Calvinism] established a religion without a prelate, a government without a king.
  • Oh, we are weary pilgrims; to this wilderness we bring
    A Church without a bishop, a State without a King.
    • Anonymous, Puritan's Mistake (1844).
  • Yet if thou didst but know how little wit governs this mighty universe.
  • "Whatever is, is not," is the maxim of the anarchist, as often as anything comes across him in the shape of a law which he happens not to like.
  • England is the mother of parliaments.
    • John Bright, speech at Birmingham, Jan. 18, 1865. See Thorold Rogers' ed. of Bright's Speeches, Volume II, p. 112. Appeared in London Times, Jan. 19, 1865.
  • I am for Peace, for Retrenchment, and for Reform,—thirty years ago the great watchwords of the great Liberal Party.
    • John Bright. Speech at Birmingham Town Hall, April 28, 1859. Attributed to Joseph Hume by Sir Charles Dilke in the Morning Herald, Aug. 2, 1899. Probably said by William IV to Earl Gray, in an interview, Nov. 17, 1830. Found in H. B.'s Cartoons, No. 93, pub. Nov. 26, 1830. Also in a letter of Princess Lieven, Nov., 1830. See Warren's Ten Thousand a Year. (Inscribed on the banner of Tittlebat Titmouse.) Referred to in Molesworth's Hist. of the Reform Bill of 1832, p. 98.
  • Well, will anybody deny now that the Government at Washington, as regards its own people, is the strongest government in the world at this hour? And for this simple reason, that it is based on the will, and the good will, of an instructed people.
  • So then because some towns in England are not represented, America is to have no representative at all. They are "our children"; put when children ask for bread we are not to give a stone.
    • Edmund Burke, speech on American Taxation, Volume II, p. 74.
  • And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.
    • Edmund Burke, Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, Volume V, p. 156.
  • When bad men combine, the good must associate.
    • Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent.
  • Support a compatriot against a native, however the former may blunder or plunder.
    • R. F. Burton, Explorations of the Highroads of Brazil (c. 1869), I, p. 11.
  • Nothing's more dull and negligent
    Than an old, lazy government,
    That knows no interest of state,
    But such as serves a present strait.
  • A power has arisen up in the Government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks.
    • John C. Calhoun, in the U.S. Senate (May 28, 1836). "Cohesive power of public plunder." As quoted by Grover Cleveland.
  • Consider in fact, a body of six hundred and fifty-eight miscellaneous persons, set to consult about "business," with twenty-seven millions, mostly fools, assiduously listening to them, and checking and criticising them. Was there ever, since the world began, will there ever be till the world end, any "business" accomplished in these circumstances?
    • Thomas Carlyle, Latter Day Pamphlets, Parliaments (referring to the relation of the Parliament to the British people, June 1, 1850).
  • There are but two ways of paying debt—increase of industry in raising income, increase of thrift in laying out.
  • And the first thing I would do in my government, I would have nobody to control me, I would be absolute; and who but I: now, he that is absolute, can do what he likes; he that can do what he likes, can take his pleasure; he that can take his pleasure, can be content; and he that can be content, has no more to desire; so the matter's over.
  • There was a State without kings or nobles; there was a church without a bishop; there was a people governed by grave magistrates which it had elected, and equal laws which it had framed.
    • Rufus Choate, speech before the New England Society (December 22, 1843).
  • Who's in or out, who moves this grand machine,
    Nor stirs my curiosity nor spleen:
    Secrets of state no more I wish to know
    Than secret movements of a puppet show:
    Let but the puppets move, I've my desire,
    Unseen the hand which guides the master wire.
  • They have proved themselves offensive partisans and unscrupulous manipulators of local party management.
  • Though the people support the government the government should not support the people.
  • I have considered the pension list of the republic a roll of honor.
  • The communism of combined wealth and capital, the outgrowth of overweening cupidity and selfishness which assiduously undermines the justice and integrity of free institutions, is not less dangerous than the communism of oppressed poverty and toil which, exasperated by injustice and discontent, attacks with wild disorder the citadel of misrule.
  • Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving how not to do it.
  • The country has, I think, made up its mind to close this career of plundering and blundering.
  • The divine right of kings may have been a plea for feeble tyrants, but the divine right of government is the keystone of human progress, and without it governments sink into police, and a nation is degraded into a mob.
  • A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.
  • Individualities may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation.
  • For where's the State beneath the Firmament,
    That doth excell the Bees for Government?
  • Shall we judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely.
  • Fellow-citizens: Clouds and darkness are around Him; His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds; justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne; mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens! God reigns and the Government at Washington lives.
    • James A. Garfield, address (April, 1865). From the balcony of the New York Custom House to a crowd, excited by the news of President Lincoln's assassination.
  • When constabulary duty's to be done
    A policeman's lot is not a happy one.
  • Welche Regierung die beste sei? Diejenige die uns lehrt uns selbst zu regieren.
  • Perish commerce. Let the constitution live!
    • George Hardinge, debate on the Traitorous Correspondence Bill (March 22, 1793). Quoted by William Windham.
  • Unnecessary taxation is unjust taxation.
  • No sooner does he hear any of his brothers mention reform or retrenchment, than up he jumps.
  • There was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was petticoat government.
  • Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfill. The knowledge of character possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven. July 12, 1801. Paraphrased by John B. McMaster in his History of the People of the United States, II. 586. One sentence will undoubtedly be remembered till our republic ceases to exist. 'No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying,' he observed, 'as to put the right man in the right place.'.
  • The trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth.
  • Excise, a hateful tax levied upon commodities.
  • What constitutes a state?
    . . . . . .
    Men who their duties know,
    But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.
    . . . . . .
    And sovereign law, that state's collected will,
    O'er thrones and globes elate,
    Sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill.
  • The Americans equally detest the pageantry of a king and the supercilious hypocrisy of a bishop.
    • Junius, Letter XXXV (Dec. 19, 1769).
  • Salus populi suprema lex.
    • The safety of the State is the highest law.
    • Justinian, Twelve Tables.
  • This end (Robespierre's theories) was the representative sovereignty of all the citizens concentrated in an election as extensive as the people themselves, and acting by the people, and for the people in an elective council, which should be all the government.
  • Misera contribuens plebs.
    • The poor taxpaying people.
    • Law of the Hungarian Diet of 1751, Article 37.
  • I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms, by no means excluding females.
  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech, June 17, 1858. See W. O. Stoddard's Life of Lincoln.
  • If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view, justify revolution—certainly would if such a right were a vital one.
  • That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Gettysburg. 1863. The phrase "of the people, for the people and by the people" is not original with Lincoln. There is a tradition that the phrase, "The Bible shall be for the government of the people, for the people and by the people," appears in the preface of the Wyclif Bible of 1384, or in the Hereford Bible, or in a pamphlet of the period treating of that version. See Notes and Queries, Feb. 12, 1916, p. 127. Albert Mathews, of Boston, examined the reprint of 1850 of the Wyclif Bible, and finds no reference to it. There is a preface to the Old and the New Testament, and a prologue to each book, probably written by John Purvey.
  • All your strength is in your union,
    All your danger is in discord.
  • L'état!—c'est moi!
    • The state!—it is I!
    • Attributed to Louis XIV of France. Dulaure, History of Paris, p. 387. See Chéruel, Histoire de l'Administration Monarchique en France, II. 32.
  • The Commons, faithful to their system, remained in a wise and masterly inactivity.
  • The government of the Union, then, is emphatically and truly a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them and for their benefit.
    • Chief Justice John Marshall, McCulloch vs. Maryland, 4 Wheaton 316 (1819).
  • The all-men power; government over all, by all, and for the sake of all.
    • Chief Justice John Marshall. Pamphlet. The Relation of Slavery to a Republican Form of Government. Speech delivered at the New England Anti-Slavery Convention (May 26, 1858). Pamphlet used by Lincoln when preparing speeches. This phrase was underlined by him.
  • To make a bank, was a great plot of state;
    Invent a shovel, and be a magistrate.
  • States are not made, nor patched; they grow:
    Grow slow through centuries of pain,
    And grow correctly in the main;
    But only grow by certain laws,
    Of certain bits in certain jaws.
  • Hope nothing from foreign governments. They will never be really willing to aid you until you have shown that you are strong enough to conquer without them.
  • If the prince of a State love benevolence, he will have no opponent in all the empire.
    • Mencius, Works, Book IV, Part I, Chapter 7.
  • Unearned increment.
    • John Stuart Mill, Political Economy, Book V, Chapter II, Section 5. Phrase used in the land agitation of 1870–71. Undoubtedly original with Mill.
  • La corruption de chaque gouvernement commence presque toujours par celle des principes.
    • The deterioration of a government begins almost always by the decay of its principles.
    • Charles de Montesquieu, De l'Esprit, VIII, Chapter I.
  • Les républiques finissent par le luxe; les monarchies, par la pauvreté.
    • Republics end through luxury; monarchies through poverty.
    • Charles de Montesquieu, De l'Esprit, VII, Chapter IV.
  • Nescis, mi fili, quantilla sapientia regitur mundus.
    • Learn, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.
    • Attributed to Axel von Oxenstierna. Buchmann, Geflügelte Wörte, attributes it as likely to Pope Julius III, also to Orselaer, tutor to the sons of a Markgraf of Baden. Lord Chatham claims it for Pope Alexander VI, Jules or Leo, in Letter to Lord Shelburne, Jan. 25, 1775. Conrad von Bennington, Dutch Statesman, also given credit. Quoted by Dr. Arbuthnot, letter to Swift, 1732–3.
  • There is what I call the American idea. * * * This idea demands, as the proximate organization thereof, a democracy,—that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government of the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness' sake I will call it the idea of Freedom.
    • Theodore Parker, speech at the N.E. Anti-Slavery Convention, Boston (May 29, 1850).
  • First there is the democratic idea: that all men are endowed by their creator with certain natural rights; that these rights are alienable only by the possessor thereof; that they are equal in men; that government is to organize these natural, unalienable and equal rights into institutions designed for the good of the governed, and therefore government is to be of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people. Here government is development, not exploitation.
  • Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.
    • Theodore Parker, sermon delivered at Music Hall, Boston (July 4, 1858). On the Effect of Slavery on the American People, p. 5. (Read and underlined by Lincoln).
  • Slavery is in flagrant violation of the institutions of America—direct government—over all the people, by all the people, for all the people.
    • Theodore Parker, sermon delivered at Music Hall, Boston (July 4, 1858), p. 14. (Read and underlined by Lincoln).
  • In principatu commutando civium
    Nil præter domini nomen mutant pauperes.
    • In a change of government the poor change nothing but the name of their masters.
    • Phaedrus, Fables, I. 15. 1.
  • Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.
  • Themistocles said, "The Athenians govern the Greeks; I govern the Athenians; you, my wife, govern me; your son governs you."
  • The government will take the fairest of names, but the worst of realities—mob rule.
  • The right divine of kings to govern wrong.
    • Alexander Pope, Dunciad, Book IV, line 188. (In quotation marks, but probably his own).
  • He shall rule them with a rod of iron.
    • Revelations, II. 27.
  • The labor unions shall have a square deal, and the corporations shall have a square deal, and in addition, all private citizens shall have a square deal.
  • Le despotisme tempéré par l'assassinat, c'est notre magna charta.
    • Despotism tempered by assassination, that is our Magna Charta.
    • A Russian Noble to Count Münster on the assassination of Paul I., Emperor of Russia. (1800).
  • Say to the seceded States—Wayward sisters, depart in peace!
  • The Pope sends for him … and (says he) "We will be merry as we were before, for thou little thinkest what a little foolery governs the whole world."
  • Invisa numquam imperia retinentur diu.
    • A hated government does not last long.
    • Seneca, Phœnissæ, VI, 60.
  • What a man that would be had he a particle of gall or the least knowledge of the value of red tape. As Curran said of Grattan, "he would have governed the world."
    • Sydney Smith; of Sir John Mackintosh. Lady Holland's Memoir, p. 245. (Ed. 4).
  • Men who prefer any load of infamy, however great, to any pressure of taxation, however light.
  • The schoolboy whips his taxed top, the beardless youth manages his taxed horse, with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying Englishman, pouring his medicine, which has paid seven per cent., flings himself back on his chintz bed, which has paid twenty-two per cent., and expires in the arms of an apothecary who has paid a license of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death.
  • Ill can he rule the great that cannot reach the small.
    • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book V, Canto II, Stanza 51.
  • Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset.
    • In the opinion of all men he would have been regarded as capable of governing, if he had never governed.
    • Tacitus, Annales, I. 49.
  • Et errat longe mea quidem sententia
    Qui imperium credit gravius esse aut stabilius,
    Vi quod fit, quam illud quod amicitia adjungitur.
    • It is a great error, in my opinion, to believe that a government is more firm or assured when it is supported by force, than when founded on affection.
    • Terence, Adelphi, I. 1. 40.
  • We preach Democracy in vain while Tory and Conservative can point to the opposite side of the Atlantic and say: "There are Nineteen millions of the human race free absolutely, every man heir to the throne, governing themselves—the government of all, by all, for all; but instead of being a consistent republic it is one widespread confederacy of free men for the enslavement of a nation of another complexion."
  • Hæ tibi erunt artes, pacisque imponere morem
    Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.
    • This shall be thy work: to impose conditions of peace, to spare the lowly, and to overthrow the proud.
    • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), VI. 852.
  • Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.
  • A National debt is a National blessing.
    • Attributed to Daniel Webster, repudiated by him. See speech (Jan. 26, 1830).
  • The people's government made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.
  • When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood!
  • He touched the dead corpse of Public Credit, and it sprung upon its feet.
  • We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel on the watch-tower of liberty.
  • [He would do his duty as he saw it] without regard to scraps of paper called constitutions.
    • King William to the Prussian Diet disregarding the refusal of the Representatives to grant appropriations. Harper's Weekly, March 26, 1887. Article on Emperor William I, of Germany.
  • No man ever saw the people of whom he forms a part. No man ever saw a government. I live in the midst of the Government of the United States, but I never saw the Government of the United States. Its personnel extends through all the nations, and across the seas, and into every corner of the world in the persons of the representatives of the United States in foreign capitals and in foreign centres of commerce.
  • Wherever magistrates were appointed from among those who complied with the injunctions of the laws, he (Socrates) considered the government to be an aristocracy.
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia of Socrates, Book IV, Chapter VI.

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