Horace Mann

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Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.
If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.

Horace Mann (4 May 17962 August 1859) was an American education reformer and abolitionist

Quotes[edit]

Knowledge can be acquired, diffused, perpetuated. An invisible, inaudible, intangible thought in the silent chambers of the mind, breaks away from its confinement, becomes imbodied in a sign, is multiplied by myriads, traverses the earth, and goes resounding down to the latest posterity.
Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.
A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron.
Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge.
Genius may conceive but patient labor must consummate.
I have never heard anything about the resolutions of the apostles, but a good deal about their acts.
We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.
A human being is not attaining his full heights until he is educated.
  • If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.
    • Journal entry (29 October 1838)
  • Forts, arsenals, garrisons, armies, navies, are means of security and defence, which were invented in half-civilized times and in feudal or despotic countries; but schoolhouses are the republican line of fortifications, and if they are dismantled and dilapidated, ignorance and vice will pour in their legions through every breach.
    • The Common School Journal, Vol. III, No. 17 (1 September 1841)
  • Every school boy and school girl who has arrived at the age of reflection ought to know something about the history of the art of printing, papermaking, and so forth. … All children will work better if pleased with their tools; and there are no tools more ingeniously wrought, or more potent than those which belong to the art of the printer. Dynasties and governments used to be attacked and defended by arms; now the attack and the defence are mainly carried on by types. To sustain any scheme of state policy, to uphold one administration or to demolish another, types, not soldiers, are brought into line. Hostile parties, and sometimes hostile nations, instead of fitting out martial or naval expeditions, establish printing presses, and discharge pamphlets or octavoes at each other, instead of cannon balls. The poniard and the stiletto were once the resource of a murderous spirit; now the vengeance, which formerly would assassinate in the dark, libels character, in the light of day, through the medium of the press.
    But through this instrumentality good can be wrought as well as evil.
    Knowledge can be acquired, diffused, perpetuated. An invisible, inaudible, intangible thought in the silent chambers of the mind, breaks away from its confinement, becomes imbodied in a sign, is multiplied by myriads, traverses the earth, and goes resounding down to the latest posterity.
    • "Printing and Paper Making" in The Common School Journal Vol. V, No. 3 (1 February 1843)
  • God draweth straight lines but we call them crooked.
    • The Common School Journal, Vol. V, No. 18 (15 September 1843)
  • Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
    • The Common School Journal, Vol. V, No. 19 (2 October 1843)
  • Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.
    • Published as "A Beautiful Thought … we clip from an exchange paper" in Universalist Union (16 March 1844) this is often quoted as an advertisement originally written by Mann, attributed to him in Getting on in the World (1874) by William Mathews, p. 268; and most publications since that date, and sometimes titled "Lost, Two Golden Hours".
    • Variants:
    • Lost,
      Two golden hours:
      Each with a set of
      Sixty diamond minutes!
      No reward
      Is offered, for they are .
      Lost for ever!
      • Published as "Loss of Time" in The Church of England Magazine (28 June 1856) without any crediting of authorship.
    • Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset...
      • The most commonly quoted variant simply begins with a comma rather than a dash.
  • Manners easily and rapidly mature into morals. As childhood advances to manhood, the transition from bad manners to bad morals is almost imperceptible. Vulgar and obscene forms of speech keep vulgar and obscene objects before the mind, engender impure images in the imagination, and make unlawful desires prurient. From the prevalent state of the mind, actions proceed, as water rises from a fountain.
    • The Common School Journal Vol. IX, No. 12 (15 June 1847), p. 181
  • Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, — the balance-wheel of the social machinery. I do not here mean that it so elevates the moral nature as to make men disdain and abhor the oppression of their fellow-men. This idea pertains to another of its attributes. But I mean that it gives each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men. It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility towards the rich: it prevents being poor.
  • Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.
    • Address at Antioch College (1859)
  • Let us labor for that larger and larger comprehension of truth, that more and more thorough repudiation of error, which shall make the history of mankind a series of ascending developments.
    • Thoughts (1867), p. 240
  • A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron.
    • As quoted in The Eclectic Magazine Vol. VII, (January - June 1868)
    • Variants:
    • The teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.
      • As quoted in School Arts (1935) by Art Study and Teaching Periodicals, p. 91
    • A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on a cold iron.
      • As quoted in Making Minds Less Well Educated Than Our Own (2004) by Roger C. Schank, p. 151
  • Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge.
    • As quoted in The New Era, Vol. III, No.. 10 (October 1873), p. 368
  • Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.
    • As quoted in Graded Selections for Memorizing : Adapted for Use at Home and in School (1880) by John Bradley Peaslee, p. 104
  • Jails and prisons are the complement of schools; so many less as you have of the latter, so many more must you have of the former.
    • As quoted in Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1881)
  • Generosity during life is a very different thing from generosity in the hour of death; one proceeds from genuine liberality and benevolence, the other from pride or fear.
    • As quoted in Gems of Thought : Being a Collection of More Than a Thousand Choice Selections, Or Aphorisms, from Nearly Four Hundred and Fifty Different Authors, and on One Hundred and Forty Different Subjects (1888) edited by Charles Northend
  • Ten men have failed from defect in morals, where one has failed from defect in intellect.
    • As quoted in Excellent Quotations for Home and School (1890) by Julia B. Hoitt, p. 73
  • Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person's money as his time.
    • As quoted in Excellent Quotations for Home and School (1890) by Julia B. Hoitt, p. 74
  • Let but the public mind become once thoroughly corrupt, and all attempts to secure property, liberty or life, by mere force of laws written on parchment, will be as vain as to put up printed notices in an orchard to keep off the canker-worms.
    • As quoted in The Albany Law Journal Vol. XLIX (January - June 1894), p. 47; also paraphrased as: "Let the public mind become corrupt, and all efforts to secure property, liberty, or life by the force of laws written on paper will be as vain as putting up a sign in an apple orchard to exclude canker worms."
  • Genius may conceive but patient labor must consummate.
    • As quoted in Many Thoughts of Many Minds : A Treasury Of Quotations From The Literature Of Every Land And Every Age (1896) edited by Louis Klopsch
  • Observation — activity of both eyes and ears.
    • As quoted in Every Other Sunday Vol. 23 (1907) by The Unitarian Sunday-School Society, p. 19
  • I have never heard anything about the resolutions of the apostles, but a good deal about their acts.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts : Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern (1908) edited by Tryon Edwards
  • We put things in order — God does the rest. Lay an iron bar east and west, it is not magnetized. Lay it north and south and it is.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts : Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern (1908) edited by Tryon Edwards
  • Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves. We must purposely be kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart which goes out of itself gets large and full. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.
    • Quoted in Thoughts (1901) by Jessie K. Freeman and Sarah S. B. Yule, p. 83, and in Collect Writings of Russell H. Conwell (1925), Vol. 1, p. 396
  • A human being is not attaining his full heights until he is educated.
    • As quoted in Words for Teachers to Live By (2002) by Mary Engelbreit
  • Teachers teach because they care. Teaching young people is what they do best. It requires long hours, patience, and care.
    • As quoted in The Quotable Teacher (2006) by Randy Howe, p. 67

Congressional speech (1849)[edit]

His spiritual offspring in all the grand circuit of the worlds he has formed become a multiplying glass, reflecting back the Original in the profusion and countlessness of infinity.
Speech in the US House of Representatives (23 February 1849), published in Slavery : Letters and Speeches (1851)
  • God is more to me than a grand and solitary Being, though refulgent with infinite perfections. Contemplated as enthroned in the midst of his works, his spiritual offspring in all the grand circuit of the worlds he has formed become a multiplying glass, reflecting back the Original in the profusion and countlessness of infinity. But when the wickedness of man cuts off entire generations and whole races from the capacity of reflecting back this radiant image of the Creator, then all that part of the universe where they dwell becomes black and revolting, and all that portion of the Mirror of Souls which was designed to reproduce and rekindle the glories of the Eternal absorbs and quenches the rays which it should have caught and flamed with anew, and multiplied and returned.
  • I affirm, in words as true and literal as any that belong to geometry, that the man who withholds knowledge from a child not only works diabolical miracles for the destruction of good, but for the creation of evil also. He who shuts out truth, by the same act opens the door to all the error that supplies its place. Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up all the vacuities of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge. He who dethrones the idea of law, bids chaos welcome in its stead. Superstition is the mathematical complement of religious truth; and just so much less as the life of a human being is reclaimed to good, just so much more is it delivered over to evil. The man or the institution, therefore, that withholds knowledge from a child, or from a race of children, exercises the awful power of changing the world in which they are to live, just as much as though he should annihilate all that is most lovely and grand in this planet of ours, or transport the victim of his cruelty to some dark and frigid zone of the universe, where the sweets of knowledge are unknown, and the terrors of ignorance hold their undisputed and remorseless reign.

A Few Thoughts for a Young Man (1850)[edit]

The laws of nature are sublime, but there is a moral sublimity before which the highest intelligences must kneel and adore.
Scientific truth is marvellous, but moral truth is divine; and whoever breathes its air and walks by its light, has found the lost paradise. For him, a new heaven and a new earth have already been created.
Enrich and embellish the universe as you will, it is only a fit temple for the heart that loves truth with a supreme love. Inanimate vastness excites wonder; knowledge kindles admiration, but love enraptures the soul.
  • Whether a young man shall reap pleasure or pain from winning the objects of his choice, depends, not only upon his wisdom or folly in selecting those objects, but upon the right or wrong methods by which he pursues them. Hence, a knowledge what to select and how to pursue, is as necessary to the highest happiness as virtue herself. Virtue is an angel, but she is a blind one, and must ask of Knowledge to show her the pathway that leads to her goal.
  • The laws of nature are sublime, but there is a moral sublimity before which the highest intelligences must kneel and adore. The laws by which the winds blow, and the tides of the ocean, like a vast clepsydra, measure, with inimitable exactness, the hours of ever-flowing time; the laws by which the planets roll, and the sun vivifies and paints; the laws which preside over the subtle combinations of chemistry, and the amazing velocities of electricity; the laws of germination and production in the vegetable and animal worlds, — all these, radiant with eternal beauty as they are, and exalted above all the objects of sense, still wane and pale before the Moral Glories that apparel the universe in their celestial light. The heart can put on charms which no beauty of known things, nor imagination of the unknown, can aspire to emulate. Virtue shines in native colors, purer and brighter than pearl, or diamond, or prism, can reflect. Arabian gardens in their bloom can exhale no such sweetness as charity diffuses. Beneficence is godlike, and he who does most good to his fellow-man is the Master of Masters, and has learned the Art of Arts. Enrich and embellish the universe as you will, it is only a fit temple for the heart that loves truth with a supreme love. Inanimate vastness excites wonder; knowledge kindles admiration, but love enraptures the soul. Scientific truth is marvellous, but moral truth is divine; and whoever breathes its air and walks by its light, has found the lost paradise. For him, a new heaven and a new earth have already been created. His home is the sanctuary of God, the Holy of Holies.
  • He who cannot resist temptation is not a man. He is wanting in the highest attributes of humanity.

Lectures on Education (1855)[edit]

To know how much there is that we do not know, is one of the most valuable parts of our attainments; for such knowledge becomes both a lesson of humility and a stimulus to exertion.
  • Education alone can conduct us to that enjoyment which is, at once, best in quality and infinite in quantity.
    • Lecture 1
  • Every addition to true knowledge is an addition to human power.
    • Lecture 1
  • The most ignorant are the most conceited. Unless a man knows that there is something more to be known, his inference is, of course, that he knows every thing. Such a man always usurps the throne of universal knowledge, and assumes the right of deciding all possible questions. We all know that a conceited dunce will decide questions extemporaneous which would puzzle a college of philosophers, or a bench of judges. Ignorant and shallow-minded men do not see far enough to see the difficulty. But let a man know that there are things to be known, of which he is ignorant, and it is so much carved out of his domain of universal knowledge. And for all purposes of individual character, as well as of social usefulness, it is quite as important for a man to know the extent of his own ignorance as it is to know any thing else. To know how much there is that we do not know, is one of the most valuable parts of our attainments; for such knowledge becomes both a lesson of humility and a stimulus to exertion.
    • Lecture 6
  • Every hand and every hour should be devoted to rescue the world from its insanity of guilt, and to assuage the pangs of human hearts with balm and anodyne. To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is Godlike.
    • Lecture 6
  • The object of punishment is, prevention from evil; it never can be made impulsive to good.
    • Lecture 7

The Duty of Owning Books (1859)[edit]

  • Men are not accustomed to buy books unless they want them. If, on visiting the dwelling of a man of slender means, I find the reason why he has cheap carpets and very plain furniture to be that he may purchase books, he rises at once in my esteem. Books are not made for furniture but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.
  • Give me a house furnished with books rather than furniture! Both, if you can, but books at any rate! To spend several days in a friend’s house and hunger for something to read, while you are treading on costly carpets, sitting upon luxurious chairs and sleeping upon down, is as if one were bribing your body for the sake of cheating your mind.
  • Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them. It is a wrong to his family. He cheats them! Children learn to read by being in the presence of books. The love of knowledge comes with reading and grows upon it.

Thoughts Selected from the Writings of Horace Mann (1872)[edit]

Edited by Mary Mann
No matter how seemingly unconnected with human affairs or remote from human interests a newly-discovered truth may appear to be, time and genius will some day make it minister to human welfare.
Physics is the Science of Matter; Metaphysics the Science of Mind — the Science of Being, apart from accidents and properties — Ontology
  • If ever there was a cause, if ever there can be a cause, worthy to be upheld by all of toil or sacrifice that the human heart can endure, it is the cause of Education.
    • p. 7
  • When a child can be brought to tears, not from fear of punishment, but from repentance for his offence, he needs no chastisement. When the tears begin to flow from grief at one's own conduct, be sure there is an angel nestling in the bosom.
    • p. 116, also paraphrased as: "When a child can be brought to tears, and not from fear of punishment, but from repentance he needs no chastisement. When the tears begin to flow from the grief of their conduct you can be sure there is an angel nestling in their heart.
  • The intellectual and moral nature of man is the one thing precious in the sight of God; and therefore, until this nature is cultivated, and enlightened, and purified, neither opulence, nor power, nor learning, nor genius, nor domestic sanctity, nor the holiness of God's altars, can ever be safe. Until the immortal and god-like capacities of every being that comes iuto the world are deemed more worthy, are watched more tenderly than any other thing, no dynasty of men, or form of government, can stand, or shall stand, upon the face of the earth; and the force or the fraud which would seek to uphold them, shall be but "as fetters of flax to bind the flame."
    • p. 183
  • We go by the major vote, and if the majority are insane, the sane must go to the hospital. As Satan said, "Evil, be thou my good," so they say, "Darkness, bo thou my light."
    • p. 184
  • No matter how seemingly unconnected with human affairs or remote from human interests a newly-discovered truth may appear to be, time and genius will some day make it minister to human welfare. When Dr. Franklin was once sceptically asked what was the use of some recondite and far-off truth which had just been brought to light, "What," said he, "is the use of babies?"
    • p. 185
  • Just in proportion as a man becomes good, divine, Christ-like, he passes out of the region of theorizing, of system-building, and hireling service, into the region of beneficent activities. It is well to think well. It is divine to act well.
    • p. 199
  • It is more difficult, and it calls for higher energies of soul, to live a martyr than to die one.
    • p. 213
  • Affectation hides three times as many virtues as charity does sins.
    • p. 214
  • If evil is inevitable, how are the wicked accountable? Nay, why do we call men wicked at all? Evil is inevitable, but is also remediable.
    • p. 215
  • Physics is the Science of Matter; Metaphysics the Science of Mind — the Science of Being, apart from accidents and properties — Ontology.
    • p. 215


Misattributed[edit]

  • Evil and good are God's right hand and left.
    • Philip James Bailey, in Festus (1839), misattribution of this to Mann seems to have only started in recent years, on the internet.
  • Much that we call evil is really good in disguises; and we should not quarrel rashly with adversities not yet understood, nor overlook the mercies often bound up in them.
  • Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
    • James Burgh, in The Dignity of Human Nature, Or, A Brief Account of the Certain and Established Means for Attaining the True End of Our Existence (1754); this is very widely misattributed to Mann, appearing at least as early as the publication of Thoughts Selected from the Writings of Horace Mann (1867) edited by Mary Mann.
  • You need not tell all the truth, unless to those who have a right to know it all, but let all you tell be truth.
  • Be sure of the fact before you lose time in searching for a cause.
  • If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a year, you would end by believing it.
    • Edmund Burke, as quoted in Lacon in Council (1865) by John Frederick Boyes, p. 124
  • Character is what God and the angels know of us; reputation is what men and women think of us.
    • Anonymous author; this is attributed to Mann, in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998) edited by Connie Robertson, and similar statements are often attributed to Thomas Paine, but the earliest published variant of such a declaration seem to be in an anecdote about an anonymous Boston woman in 1889:
    • I have the reputation of being of good moral character. But you know reputation is what people think of us, while character is what God and the angels know of us, and that I don't want to tell.
      • Anonymous Boston woman, as quoted in Current Opinion (1889)
    • There is a very great difference — is there not? — between the temporal and the eternal judgments, a very great difference between a man's reputation and a man's character, for reputation is what men think and say of us, while character is what God and the angels know of us.
      • Price Collier, in Sermons (1892)
    • Reputation is what men and women think of us, character is what God and the angels know of us.
      • Attributed to Thomas Paine in A Dictionary of Terms, Phrases,and Quotations (1895) edited by Henry Percy Smith, and Helen Kendrick Johnson
  • Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.

Quotes about Mann[edit]

  • He is a delightful companion and friend, and among all the excellent men whom we met in Boston, none entwined themselves more deeply and closely with our affections than Horace Mann.
    • George Combe, quoted in B. A. Hinsdale, Horace Mann and the Common School Revival in the United States (1898), p. 95
  • The process did not begin with Horace Mann, although he probably did more to humanize American education in the nineteenth century than any other educator, and thus we tend to trace humanistic roots back to him. Mann was vigorously opposed by ministers of his day, who foresaw the shift from a biblical to a humanistic base for education, but their resistance was gradually overcome.
    • Tim LaHaye, quoted in Eugene F. Provenzo, Religious Fundamentalism and American Education: The Battle For The Public Schools (1990)
  • Control of children and their education is control of the future. Humanists have always understood this. Horace Mann, James G. Carter, and their many associates (including Senator Charles G. Sumner) were all Unitarians; they hated the Puritan faith of their forefathers with a passion. Their purpose in promoting state control of education was twofold. First, they rightfully understood that the only way to destroy Biblical faith was to control the schools and, little by little, remove Christianity and introduce Humanism. Second, they were Centralists or statist, men who believed that salvation comes by work of statist legislation or law.
    • R. J. Rushdoony, quoted in Eugene F. Provenzo, Religious Fundamentalism and American Education: The Battle For The Public Schools (1990)
  • The 1830s, in fact, gave rise to an educational awakening, led by such reformers as Horace Mann, James G. Carter, Henry Barnard, and William Russell, all of whom used Massachusetts and other New England states as their laboratory. Their crusading helped to generate public support for common schools. Mann, acknowledged as the father of the common school movement, argued that these institutions should be publicly controlled, publicly supported, and open to all.
    • Roger Lea Williams, The Origins of Federal Support for Higher Education: George W. Atherton and the Land-Grant College Movement, Penn State Press, 1991.

External links[edit]

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