Wikiquote:Respectfully Quoted

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Following are quotes from Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), a public domain compilation of quotes in the book produced by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, and containing quotes for which research was requested by members of Congress. These quotes generally need to be formatted and integrated into the appropriate articles. The headers were selected by the Library of Congress, and editors may well feel that some quotes do not fit neatly into the topic provided.


  • Ye call me chief, and ye do well to call him chief who, for twelve long years, has met upon the arena every shape of man or beast that the broad Empire of Rome could furnish, and has never yet lowered his arm. And if there be one among you who can say that, ever, in public fight or private brawl, my actions did belie my tongue, let him step forth and say it. If there be three in all your throng dare face me on the bloody sand, let them come on! Yet I was not always thus, a hired butcher, a savage chief of still more savage men.
    • Elijah Kellogg, "Spartacus to the Gladiators".—Wilmot B. Mitchell, Elijah Kellogg: The Man and His Work, p. 206 (1903). This declamation was written by Kellogg when he was a student at Andover Theological Seminary in 1840–1843, and has been published elsewhere in books on public speaking and oratory.
  • Of the best rulers
    The people (only) know that they exist;
    The next best they love and praise;
    The next they fear;
    And the next they revile.

    When they do not command the people's faith,
    Some will lose faith in them,
    And then they resort to oaths!
    But (of the best) when their task is accomplished, their work done,
    The people all remark, "We have done it ourselves".
    • Lao Tzu, The Wisdom of Laotse, trans. and ed. Lin Yutang, chapter 17, p. 114 (1948).
  • There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.
    • Attributed to Alexandre Ledru-Rollin, one of the leaders of the February Revolution of 1848 in France. James Michael Curley uses this quotation as an epigraph at the beginning of chapter 4 of his autobiography, I'd Do It Again, p. 44 (1957), and attributes it to a French Revolutionist. Attribution to Gandhi of "I must follow the people for I am their leader" is made by Leon Howell, "The Delta Ministry", Christianity and Crisis, August 8, 1966, p. 192. Alvin R. Calman, Ledru-Rollin and the Second French Republic (Studies in History, Economics and Public Law, vol. 103, no. 2), p. 374 (1922), says Ledru-Rollin's use of "I am their chief; I must follow them" is probably apocryphal.
  • He made the city [Athens], great as it was when he took it, the greatest and richest of all cities, and grew to be superior in power to kings and tyrants. Some of these actually appointed him guardian of their sons, but he did not make his estate a single drachma greater than it was when his father left it to him.
    • Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin, life of Pericles, vol. 3, p. 51 (1915).
  • Some citizens are so good that nothing a leader can do will make them better. Others are so incorrigible that nothing can be done to improve them. But the great bulk of the people go with the moral tide of the moment. The leader must help create that tide.
    • Author unknown. Attributed to a nineteenth century Japanese philosopher by John W. Gardner, as quoted by Edward P. Morgan in his syndicated column.—The Washington Post, September 29, 1970, p. A18.


  • What is life but the angle of vision? A man is measured by the angle at which he looks at objects. What is life but what a man is thinking of all day? This is his fate and his employer. Knowing is the measure of the man. By how much we know, so much we are.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Natural History of Intellect", part 1, Natural History of Intellect and Other Papers (vol. 12 of The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson), p. 10 (1921).
  • … the giver of life, who gave it for happiness and not for wretchedness.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Monroe (May 20, 1782); in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1952), vol. 6, p. 186.
  • There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It's very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.
    • John F. Kennedy, news conference, March 21, 1962. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 259.
  • Life involves suffering and transitoriness. No person can choose his age or the condition of his time. The past may rob the present of much joy and much mystery. The generation of Buchenwald and the Siberian labor camps cannot talk with the same optimism as its fathers. The bliss of Dante has been lost in our civilization.
    • Henry Kissinger, "The Meaning of History: Reflections on Spengler, Toynbee and Kant", senior thesis at Harvard College, as quoted in The New York Times, April 5, 1976, p. 20.
  • Unrest of spirit is a mark of life; one problem after another presents itself and in the solving of them we can find our greatest pleasure.
  • This is a world in which each of us, knowing his limitations, knowing the evils of superficiality and the terrors of fatigue, will have to cling to what is close to him, to what he knows, to what he can do, to his friends and his tradition and his love, lest he be dissolved in a universal confusion and know nothing and love nothing.
  • Life is not so important as the duties of life.
    • John Randolph of Roanoke. "Randolph's best epigram".—William Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke, 1773–1833, vol. 2, chapter 7, p. 205 (1922, reprinted 1970).
  • A baby is God's opinion that life should go on.
  • The great fault of all ethics hitherto has been that they believed themselves to have to deal only with the relations of man to man. In reality, however, the question is what is his attitude to the world and all life that comes within his reach. A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, and that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help. Only the universal ethic of the feeling of responsibility in an ever-widening sphere for all that lives—only that ethic can be founded in thought…. The ethic of Reverence for Life, therefore, comprehends within itself everything that can be described as love, devotion, and sympathy whether in suffering, joy, or effort.
    • Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought, An Autobiography, trans. C. T. Campion, chapter 13, p. 188 (1933).
  • Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me. It is an uncomfortable doctrine which the true ethics whisper into my ear. You are happy, they say; therefore you are called upon to give much.
    • Albert Schweitzer, Civilization and Ethics, chapter 26.—The Philosophy of Civilization, trans. C. T. Campion, part 2, p. 321 (1949, reissued 1981).
  • Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all that life really means.
    • Attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson by Senator Sam Ervin in his last newsletter, Senator Sam Ervin Says, January 2, 1975, p. 2. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • If a man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is dead-and-alive to begin with. A man sits as many risks as he runs.
    • Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter 6, conclusion (vol. 2 of The Writings of Henry David Thoreau), p. 170 (1906, reprinted 1968). Originally published in 1854.
  • Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn!
    Look to this Day!
    For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
    its brief course lie all the
    Verities and Realities of your Existence;
    The Bliss of Growth,
    The Glory of Action,
    The Splendor of Beauty;
    For Yesterday is but a Dream,
    And To-morrow is only a Vision:
    To-day well lived makes
    Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
    And every To-morrow a Vision of Hope.
    Look well therefore to this Day!
    Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!
    • Author unknown. From the Sanskrit, "The Salutation of the Dawn". Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed. James Dalton Morrison, p. 301 (1948). Attributed in some sources to Klidsa, Hindu dramatist and lyric poet of the fifth century, A.D.


  • Who is wise? He that learns from every One. Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.
    • Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanack", July 1755, The Complete Poor Richard Almanacks, facsimile ed., vol. 2, p. 270 (1970).
  • Men are men before they are lawyers, or physicians, or merchants, or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men, they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers or physicians.
    • John Stuart Mill, inaugural address to the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, February 1, 1867.—Dissertations and Discussions, vol. 4, p. 335 (1868).
  • Man, created to God's image and likeness (Gen. 1:26–27), is not just flesh and blood. The sexual instinct is not all that he has. Man is also, and pre-eminently, intelligent and free; and thanks to these powers he is, and must remain, superior to the rest of creation; they give him mastery over his physical, psychological and affective appetites.
    • Pope Paul VI, encyclical on priestly celibacy (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus), paragraph 53, June 24, 1967.—Catholic Mind, October 1967, p. 56–57.
  • A great man left a watchword that we can well repeat: "There is no indispensable man".
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York, campaign address before the Republican-for-Roosevelt League, New York City, November 3, 1932.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1928–1932, p. 860 (1938). The man whom Roosevelt quotes is probably Macaulay.
  • It is said that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo because he forgot his infantry—he staked too much upon the more spectacular but less substantial cavalry. The present administration in Washington provides a close parallel. It has either forgotten or it does not want to remember the infantry of our economic army. These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York, radio address, Albany, New York, April 7, 1932.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1928–1932, p. 624–25 (1938).
  • When I die, my epitaph or whatever you call those signs on gravestones is going to read: "I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident like". I am so proud of that I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved. And when you come to my grave you will find me sitting there, proudly reading it.
    • Will Rogers, reported in Paula McSpadden Love, The Will Rogers Book (1972), p. 166–67. "One of his most famous and most quoted remarks. First printed in the Boston Globe, June 16, 1930, after he had attended Tremont Temple Baptist Church, where Dr. James W. Brougher was minister. He asked Will to say a few words after the sermon. The papers were quick to pick up the remark, and it stayed with him the rest of his life. He also said it on various other occasions" (p. 167). The author was a niece of Will Rogers's and curator of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma.
  • The awareness that we are all human beings together has become lost in war and through politics.
    • Albert Schweitzer, radio appeal for peace, Oslo, Norway, April 30, 1958.—Schweitzer, Peace or Atomic War?, p. 44 (1972). This was the third of three appeals broadcast April 28, 29, and 30, 1958.
  • Every man will be a poet if he can; otherwise a philosopher or man of science. This proves the superiority of the poet.
    • Henry David Thoreau, journal entry, April 11, 1852.—The Heart of Thoreau's Journals, ed. Odell Shepard, p. 126 (1927).


Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634)

  • It is therefore necessary that memorable things should be committed to writing, (the witness of times, the light and the life of truth,) and not wholly betaken [i.e., committed] to slippery memory which seldom yields a certain reckoning.
    • SIR EDWARD COKE, Les Reports de Edward Coke, vol. 1, p. 3 (1660). Spelling modernized.

Eric Hoffer (1902–83)

  • We can remember minutely and precisely only the things which never really happened to us.
    • ERIC HOFFER, "Thoughts of Eric Hoffer", Including: 'Absolute Faith Corrupts Absolutely,'" The New York Times Magazine, April 25, 1971, p. 55, 57.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)

  • The Right Honourable Gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests, and to his imagination for his facts.
    • RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, reply in the House of Commons.—Thomas Moore, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 3d ed., vol. 2, chapter 21, p. 471 (1825). "A curious instance of the care with which he treasured up the felicities of his wit appears in the use he made of one of those epigrammatic passages … which, in its first form, ran thus:—'He certainly has a great deal of fancy, and a very good memory; but, with a perverse ingenuity, he employs these qualities as no other person does—for he employs his fancy in his narratives, and keeps his recollection for his wit:—when he makes jokes, you applaud the accuracy of his memory, and 'tis only when he states his facts that you admire the flights of his imagination.' "After many efforts to express this thought more concisely, and to reduce the language of it to that condensed and elastic state, in which alone it gives force to the projectiles of wit, he kept the passage by him patiently some years,—till he at length found an opportunity of turning it to account, in a reply, I believe, to Mr. Dundas, in the House of Commons, when, with the most extemporaneous air, he brought it forth, in the … compact and pointed form [above] (p. 471).


  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance", Essays: First Series (vol. 2 of The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson), p. 57 (1903).

Samuel Johnson (1709–84)

  • The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity…. The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.
    • SAMUEL JOHNSON, The Rambler, no. 2, March 24, 1750.—The Rambler; A Periodical Paper, Published in 1750, 1751, 1752, p. 3 (1825).

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (1798–1859)

  • Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of Democracy, and while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge, and the only security which freemen desire.
    • MIRABEAU BUONAPARTE LAMAR, president of the Republic of Texas, first message to both houses of Congress of the Republic of Texas, Houston, Texas, December 21, 1838.—The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, ed. Charles A. Gulick, Jr., vol. 2, p. 348 (1922). "When a public school was a novelty and the Republic's treasury and credit were at their lowest, only a daring mind and a champion of enlightened liberty could have conceived the idea for insuring the education of the future Texas generations".—Philip Graham, The Life and Poems of Mirabeau B. Lamar, p. 53 (1938).

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860)

  • If there is anything in the world that can really be called a man's property, it is surely that which is the result of his mental activity.
    • Attributed to ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work on brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. But if we work on men's immortal minds, if we impress on them high principles, the just fear of God, and love for their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.
    • DANIEL WEBSTER, secretary of state, speech to the City Council, Boston, Massachusetts, May 22, 1852.—The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 13, p. 518–19 (1903).


Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–61)

  • Happy are all free peoples, too strong to be dispossessed.But blessed are those among nations who dare to be strong for the rest!
    • ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, "A Court Lady", stanza 20, The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, p. 418 (1974).
  • Not gold but only men can make
    A people great and strong;
    Men who for truth and honor's sake
    Stand fast and suffer long.

    Brave men who work while others sleep,
    Who dare while others fly—
    They build a nation's pillars deep
    And lift them to the sky.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson (?), "A Nation's Strength", stanzas 5 and 6.—Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed. James Dalton Morrison, p. 459 (1948). Granger's Index to Poetry, 6th ed., p. 898 (1973) says the author is unknown and that this is wrongly attributed to Emerson; the poem is not found in Emerson's Complete Works (1903).

Henry Scott Holland (1847–1918)

  • Cleanse the body of this nation
    Through the glory of the Lord.
    • HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, "Judge Eternal, Throned in Splendor".—Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America, music ed., no. 343 (1958).
  • Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.
    • John Ruskin, St. Mark's Rest: The History of Venice, Preface p. 1 (1885).

Morris Sheppard (1875–1941)

  • A nation that can not preserve itself ought to die, and it will die—die in the grasp of the evils it is too feeble to overthrow.
    • Senator MORRIS SHEPPARD, remarks in the Senate, December 18, 1914, Congressional Record, vol. 52, p. 338.
  • Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.
    • Author unknown. Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • I know three things must always be
    To keep a nation strong and free.
    One is a hearthstone bright and dear,
    With busy, happy loved ones near.
    One is a ready heart and hand
    To love, and serve, and keep the land.
    is a worn and beaten way
    where the people go to pray.
    long as these are kept alive,
    Nation and people will survive.
    God keep them always, everywhere—
    The home, the heart, the place of prayer.
    • Author unknown, "Three Things".—Sourcebook of Poetry, comp. Al Bryant, p. 514 (1968). A variation of this poem appeared in the Congressional Record, January 14, 1959, vol. 105, Appendix, p. A144.

Past and Future[edit]

  • There must be what Mr. Gladstone many years ago called "a blessed act of oblivion". We must all turn our backs upon the horrors of the past. We must look to the future. We cannot afford to drag forward across the years that are to come the hatreds and revenges which have sprung from the injuries of the past.
    • Winston Churchill, speech at Zurich University, Zurich, Switzerland, September 19, 1946.—The Sinews of Peace: Post-War Speeches by Winston S. Churchill, p. 200 (1949).
  • Our duty is to preserve what the past has had to say for itself, and to say for ourselves what shall be true for the future.
    • Attributed to JOHN RUSKIN. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come
    In yours and my discharge.
    • William Shakespeare, The Tempest, act II, scene i, lines 253–54. Antonio is speaking. "What's past is prologue" is carved on the National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.
  • More and more Emerson recedes grandly into history, as the future he predicted becomes a past.
    • Robert Penn Warren, speech upon receipt of the 1970 National Medal for Literature, New York City, December 2, 1970.—Transcript, p. 2.

Past and Present[edit]

  • The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water…. I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self evident, "that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living:" that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison (September 6, 1789); in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1958), vol. 15, p. 392. In an editorial note, Boyd states that "This concept of political relativism was the one great addition to Jefferson's thought that emerged from his years of residence at the center of European intellectual ferment" (p. 384).
  • Like my three brothers before me, I pick up a fallen standard. Sustained by their memory of our priceless years together I shall try to carry forward that special commitment to justice, to excellence, to courage that distinguished their lives.
    • Ted Kennedy, speech, Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, August 21, 1968, as reported by The New York Times, August 22, 1968, p. 22.
  • The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
    • President Abraham Lincoln, annual message to Congress, December 1, 1862; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 5, p. 537. This passage was quoted in the preamble to the 1968 Republican party platform.

Various authors

  • There is nothing new under the sun.
    • Various authors. Some sources give as a first source the Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:9, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun". However, Marcus Aurelius said in his Meditations, "Consider for example, and thou wilt find that almost all of the transactions in the time of Vespasian differed little from those of the present day. Thou there findest marrying and giving in marriage, educating children, sickness, death, war, joyous holidays, traffic, agriculture, flatterers, insolent pride, suspicions, laying of plots, longing for the death of others, newsmongers, lovers, misers, men canvassing for the consulship and for the kingdom;—yet all these passed away, and are nowhere".—Craufurd Tait Ramage, Familiar Quotations from Greek Authors, p. 47 (1895, reprinted 1968). For a range of variations of the above quotation, see The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, p. 164–65 (1982).


  • We would rather starve than sell our national honor.
    • Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India, remark at election meeting in Nagpur, India, as reported by The New York Times, January 23, 1967, p. 1. India had accepted trade restrictions with North Vietnam and Cuba to get grain from the United States. Prime Minister Gandhi said this did not compromise the country's honor because India had not been trading with North Vietnam, and her trade with Cuba was limited to the selling of jute products, which was not objected to by the United States.
  • With earnest prayers to all my friends to cherish mutual good will, to promote harmony and conciliation, and above all things to let the love of our country soar above all minor passions, I tender you the assurance of my affectionate esteem and respect.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Hollins (May 5, 1811); in Andrew A. Lipscomb, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 13 (1903), p. 58–59.
  • Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
    • Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Life of Johnson, entry for Friday, April 7, 1775, p. 615 (1970). "In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first".—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, at entry for patriotism, The Collected Writings of Ambrose Bierce, p. 323 (1946, reprinted 1973). H. L. Mencken added this to Johnson's dictum: "But there is something even worse: it is the first, last, and middle range of fools".—The World, New York City, November 7, 1926, p. 3E.
  • True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them—the desire to do right—is precisely the same.
    • Robert E. Lee, letter to General P. G. T. Beauregard, October 3, 1865.—John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee, Soldier and Man, p. 390 (1906).

Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951)

  • Intellectually I know America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every other country.
    • SINCLAIR LEWIS, radio interview in Berlin, Germany, December 29, 1930, as reported by The New York Times, December 30, 1930, p. 5.
  • Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.
    • H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 30, p. 616 (1949).
  • Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
    Who never to himself hath said,
    This is my own, my native land!

Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd,
From wandering on a foreign strand!

    • Sir Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, ed. Margaret A. Allen, canto sixth, 1, lines 1–6, p. 123 (1915).
  • I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power—to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. These are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.
    • Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois, speech to the American Legion convention, New York City, August 27, 1952.—Speeches of Adlai Stevenson, p. 81 (1952).
  • Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.
    • George Washington, farewell address, September 19, 1796.—The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 35, p. 219–20 (1940).


  • There are people in our society who should be separated and discarded. I think it's one of the tendencies of the liberal community to feel that every person in a nation of over 200 million people can be made into a productive citizen.
    I'm realist enough to believe this can't be. We're always going to have our prisons, we're always going to have our places of preventive detention for psychopaths, and we're always going to have a certain number of people in our community who have no desire to achieve or who have no desire to even fit in an amicable way with the rest of society.
    And these people should be separated from the community, not in a callous way but they should be separated as far as any idea that their opinions shall have any effect on the course we follow.
    • Spiro T. Agnew, comments during interview for European audiences which was recorded in Washington, D.C., then broadcast over British Independent Television on June 30, 1970, as reported by The Washington Post, July 2, 1970, p. A3.
  • Where there is no vision, the people perish.
    • The Bible, Proverbs 29:18.
  • I can not wish you success in your effort to reject the treaty because while it may win the fight it may destroy our cause. My plan cannot fail if the people are with us and we ought not to succeed unless we do have the people with us.
    • William Jennings Bryan, letter to Andrew Carnegie, January 13, 1899.—Bryan papers, Library of Congress. Andrew Carnegie, working to defeat the treaty of peace with Spain, unsuccessfully sought Bryan's help.
  • I am a child of the House of Commons. I was brought up in my father's house to believe in democracy. "Trust the people"—that was his message.
    • Winston Churchill, speech to a joint session of Congress, Washington, D.C., December 26, 1941.—Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James, vol. 6, p. 6536 (1974).
  • Your people, sir, is nothing but a great beast!
    • Attributed to Alexander Hamilton, in a political argument with Thomas Jefferson.—David S. Muzzey, An American History, p. 192 (1911). For similar expressions of this idea going back to Horace, see Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th ed., p. 108, no. 19 and footnotes (1982), and The Home Book of Quotations, ed. Burton Stevenson, 9th ed., p. 1483–84, section 7 (1964).
  • Would yee both eat your cake, and have your cake?
    • John Heywood, The Proverbs of John Heywood, part 2, chapter 9, p. 162 (1598, reprinted 1874, 1978). The idea that if you spend a thing you cannot have it goes back much further than Heywood's original 1546 work. Plautus wrote c. 194 B.C. in Trinummus (act II, scene iv, line 414), "Non tibi illud apparere si sumas potest" (if you spend a thing you cannot have it), translated as "You cannot eat your cake and have it too" by one Englishman.—Comedies of Plautus, trans. Bonnell Thornton, 2d ed., rev., vol. 2, p. 29 (1769).
  • People don't eat in the long run—they eat every day.
    • Attributed to Harry L. Hopkins, who headed the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in 1933.—Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History, p. 52 (1948).
  • The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.
    • Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, query 19, reprinted in Andrew A. Lipscomb, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2 (1903), p. 230.
  • A sense of this necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever 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.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price (January 8, 1789); in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1958), vol. 14, p. 420.
  • The President to-night has a dream:—He was in a party of plain people, and, as it became known who he was, they began to comment on his appearance. One of them said:—"He is a very common-looking man". The President replied:—"The Lord prefers common-looking people. That is the reason he makes so many of them".
    • Attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, December 23, 1863.—John Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, vol. 1, p. 142–43 (1908, reprinted 1969).
  • No democracy has ever long survived the failure of its adherents to be ready to die for it…. My own conviction is this, the people must either go on or go under.
    • David Lloyd George, address, conference of trade union delegates, London, January 18, 1918, as reported by The Times (London), January 19, 1918, p. 8.
  • I do not want the voice of the people shut out.
    • Huey Long, remarks in the Senate, May 16, 1932, Congressional Record, vol. 75, p. 10297.
  • Your country is calling you. Our people are calling us. The people of America are calling us to relieve them from the distress that has infested this entire Nation as the result of following the Cabinet officers of the present administration. Your people are asking you to deliver them from this condition that now exists. They are asking relief.
    • [Huey Long]], remarks in the Senate, May 16, 1932, Congressional Record, vol. 75, p. 10307.
  • If I were to attempt to put my political philosophy tonight into a single phrase, it would be this: Trust the people. Trust their good sense, their decency, their fortitude, their faith. Trust them with the facts. Trust them with the great decisions. And fix as our guiding star the passion to create a society where people can fulfill their own best selves—where no American is held down by race or color, by worldly condition or social status, from gaining what his character earns him as an American citizen, as a human being and as a child of God.
    • Adlai Stevenson, speech at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, September 13, 1956.—Stevenson, The New America, ed. Seymour E. Harris, Jr., p. 13–14 (1971).
  • No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.
    • George Washington, first inaugural address, April 30, 1789.—The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 30, p. 293 (1939).

Walter E. Washington (1915– )

  • People are not an interruption of our business. People are our business.
    • WALTER E. WASHINGTON, mayor of Washington, D.C., c. 1971.
  • In the last analysis, my fellow countrymen, as we in America would be the first to claim, a people are responsible for the acts of their government.
    • President Woodrow Wilson, address, Columbus, Ohio, September 4, 1919.—The Messages and Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Albert Shaw, vol. 2, p. 728 (1924).


  • In a scheme of policy which is devised for a nation, we should not limit our views to its operation during a single year, or even for a short term of years. We should look at its operation for a considerable time, and in war as well as in peace.
    • Henry Clay.—The Clay Code, or Text-Book of Eloquence, a Collection of Axioms, Apothegms, Sentiments … Gathered from the Public Speeches of Henry Clay, ed. G. Vandenhoff, p. 95 (1844).
  • You have despoiled churches. You have threatened every corporation and endowment in the country. You have examined into everybody's affairs. You have criticised every profession and vexed every trade. No one is certain of his property, and nobody knows what duties he may have to perform to-morrow. This is the policy of confiscation as compared with that of concurrent endowment.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, speech on the University Education Bill (Ireland), House of Commons, March 11, 1873.—Selected Speeches of the Late Right Honourable the Earl of Beaconsfield, ed. T. E. Kebbel, vol. 2, p. 390 (1882).
  • There is no such thing as a fixed policy, because policy like all organic entities is always in the making.
  • There is an eternal dispute between those who imagine the world to suit their policy, and those who correct their policy to suit the realities of the world.
    • Attributed to Albert Sorel. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • In the tragic days of Mussolini, the trains in Italy ran on time as never before and I am told in their way, their horrible way, that the Nazi concentration-camp system in Germany was a model of horrible efficiency. The really basic thing in government is policy. Bad administration, to be sure, can destroy good policy, but good administration can never save bad policy.
    • Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois, speech before the Los Angeles Town Club, Los Angeles, California, September 11, 1952.—Speeches of Adlai Stevenson, p. 36 (1952).


  • Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.
    • Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, ed. Ernest Samuels, chapter 24, p. 373 (1973). Originally published in 1906.
  • People who think the mighty in Washington can be persuaded, or corrupted, if you will, by anything less than votes just don't understand what it's all about and never will. They don't know what Washington juice is made of.
    • George E. Allen, Presidents Who Have Known Me, chapter 16, p. 219 (1950). Allen was a longtime personal aide to President Harry Truman and was director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation 1946–1947.
  • The only way you can do that [decrease taxes, balance the budget, and increase military spending] is with mirrors, and that's what it would take.
    • John B. Anderson, remarks at GOP Presidential Forum, Des Moines, Iowa, January 5, 1980, as reported by the Des Moines Sunday Register, January 6, 1980, p. 4A.
  • PUSH, n. One of the two things mainly conducive to success, especially in politics. The other is Pull.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, p. 270 (1948). Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book.
  • Politics is not an exact science.

(Die Politik ist keine exakte Wissenschaft.)

    • Otto von Bismarck, Prussian Chamber, December 18, 1863.—The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3d ed., p. 84 (1979).
  • Politics is the art of the possible.

(Die Politik ist die Lehre von Moglichen.)

    • Otto von Bismarck, conversation with Meyer von Waldeck, August 11, 1867.—The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3d ed., p. 84 (1979).
  • All political power is primarily an illusion…. Illusion. Mirrors and blue smoke, beautiful blue smoke rolling over the surface of highly polished mirrors, first a thin veil of blue smoke, then a thick cloud that suddenly dissolves into wisps of blue smoke, the mirrors catching it all, bouncing it back and forth.
    • Jimmy Breslin, How the Good Guys Finally Won, Notes from an Impeachment Summer, p. 33–34 (1975). The phrase is usually quoted as "blue smoke and mirrors".

James Bryce (1838–1922)

  • A political career brings out the basest qualities in human nature.
    • LORD BRYCE.—Owen Wister, Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship, p. 66 (1930). This remark was made during a conversation with Wister in London in 1921.
  • Politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume.
    • Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790", The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 3, p. 246 (1899).
  • The pendulum will swing back.
    • Joseph Gurney Cannon, maxim indicating that in life and politics the things detested today may be praised tomorrow. Quoted in a tribute to Cannon on his retirement, The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, March 4, 1923.—Congressional Record, March 4, 1923, vol. 64, p. 5714. "Uncle Joe" Cannon, who was Speaker of the House 1903–1911, served in the House for 46 years.
  • Thus, then, on the night of the tenth of May, at the outset of this mighty battle, I acquired the chief power in the State, which henceforth I wielded in ever-growing measure for five years and three months of world war, at the end of which time, all our enemies having surrendered unconditionally or being about to do so, I was immediately dismissed by the British electorate from all further conduct of their affairs.
    • Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (vol. 1 of The Second World War), p. 666–67 (1948). However, he was prime minister again, 1951–1955.
  • Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, address recorded for the Republican Lincoln Day dinners, January 28, 1954. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954, p. 219.
  • The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
    • H. L. Mencken, "Women as Outlaws", A Mencken Chrestomathy, p. 29 (1949). This essay was first published in The Smart Set, December 1921.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)

  • The whole art of politics consists in directing rationally the irrationalities of men.
    • REINHOLD NIEBUHR.—This statement is attributed to him in his obituary in The New York Times, June 2, 1971, p. 45. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).

Plutarch (46?–c. 120)

  • They are wrong who think that politics is like an ocean voyage or a military campaign, something to be done with some particular end in view, something which leaves off as soon as that end is reached. It is not a public chore, to be got over with. It is a way of life. It is the life of a domesticated political and social creature who is born with a love for public life, with a desire for honor, with a feeling for his fellows; and it lasts as long as need be.
    • Attributed to PLUTARCH.—The Great Quotations, ed. George Seldes, p. 570 (1966). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency.
    • Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, remarks to Harvard and Yale undergraduates invited to Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island, June 1901.—Hermann Hagedorn, The Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill, p. 112 (1954).

Elihu Root (1845–1937)

  • Politics is the practical exercise of the art of self-government, and somebody must attend to it if we are to have self-government; somebody must study it, and learn the art, and exercise patience and sympathy and skill to bring the multitude of opinions and wishes of self-governing people into such order that some prevailing opinion may be expressed and peaceably accepted. Otherwise, confusion will result either in dictatorship or anarchy. The principal ground of reproach against any American citizen should be that he is not a politician. Everyone ought to be, as Lincoln was.
    • ELIHU ROOT, "Lincoln as a Leader of Men", Men and Policies, Addresses by Elihu Root, ed. Robert Bacon and James B. Scott, p. 75 (1924).
  • Who put up that cage?
    Who hung it up with bars, doors?
    Why do those on the inside want to get out?
    Why do those outside want to get in?
    What is this crying inside and out all the time?
    What is this endless, useless beating of baffled wings at these bars, doors, this cage?
    • Carl Sandburg, "Money, Politics, Love and Glory", The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, rev. and expanded ed., p. 394 (1970).
  • Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.
  • The political activity prevailing in the United States is something one could never understand unless one had seen it. No sooner do you set foot on American soil than you find yourself in a sort of tumult; a confused clamor rises on every side, and a thousand voices are heard at once, each expressing some social requirements. All around you everything is on the move: here the people of a district are assembled to discuss the possibility of building a church; there they are busy choosing a representative; further on, the delegates of a district are hurrying to town to consult about some local improvements; elsewhere it's the village farmers who have left their furrows to discuss the plan for a road or a school.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence, vol. 1, part 2, chapter 6, p. 242 (1969). Originally published in 1835–1840.
  • There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence, vol. 1, part 2, chapter 8, p. 270 (1969). Originally published in 1835–1840.
  • Politics is a fascinating game, because politics is government. It is the art of government.
    • Harry S. Truman.—William Hillman, Mr. President: The First Publication from the Personal Diaries, Private Letters, Papers and Revealing Interviews of Harry S. Truman, p. 198 (1952).
  • Politics makes strange bed-fellows.
  • Until you've been in politics
    you've never really been alive
    it's rough and sometimes it's
    dirty and it's always hard
    work and tedious details
    But, it's the only sport for grownups—all other
    games are for kids.
    • Author unknown. Framed saying on the mantel of Senator John C. Culver's private office, 1978.—Elizabeth Drew, "A Reporter at Large (Senator John C. Culver—part I)", The New Yorker, September 11, 1978, p. 60. Disclaimed by Robert A. Heinlein, noted science-fiction author.


  • Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.
  • There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
  • In the main it will be found that a power over a man's support [salary] is a power over his will.
  • From this we learn that a wise prince sees to it that never, in order to attack someone, does he become the ally of a prince more powerful than himself, except when necessity forces him, as I said above. If you win, you are the powerful king's prisoner, and wise princes avoid as much as they can being in other men's power.
    • Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, chapter 21, in Machiavelli: The Chief Works and Others, trans. Allan Gilbert, vol. 1, p. 83–84 (1965).
  • The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.
    • James Madison, speech in the Virginia constitutional convention, Richmond, Virginia (December 2, 1829), in Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison vol. 9 (1910), p. 361. These words are inscribed in the Madison Memorial Hall, Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building.
  • The power of Kings and Magistrates is nothing else, but what is only derivative, transferr'd and committed to them in trust from the People, to the Common good of them all, in whom the power yet remaines fundamentally, and cannot be tak'n from them, without a violation of thir natural birthright.
    • John Milton, "The Tenure of Kings", The Works of John Milton, vol. 5, p. 10 (1932).
  • For we put the power in the people.
    • William Penn.—Robert Proud, The History of Pennsylvania in North America, vol. 1, p. 139 (1797).
  • They realize that in thirty-four months we have built up new instruments of public power. In the hands of a people's Government this power is wholesome and proper. But in the hands of political puppets of an economic autocracy such power would provide shackles for the liberties of the people.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, annual message to the Congress, January 3, 1936.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936, p. 16 (1938).
  • When I resist, therefore, when I as a Democrat resist the concentration of power, I am resisting the processes of death, because the concentration of power is what always precedes the destruction of human initiative, and, therefore of human energy.
    • Woodrow Wilson, governor of New Jersey, speech, New York City, September 4, 1912.—The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link, vol. 25, p. 100 (1978). This speech was delivered to the Woodrow Wilson Workingmen's League "dollar dinner", at the Yorkville Casino.


  • We are all citizens of one world, we are all of one blood. To hate a man because he was born in another country, because he speaks a different language, or because he takes a different view on this subject or that, is a great folly. Desist, I implore you, for we are all equally human…. Let us have but one end in view, the welfare of humanity.
    • Attributed to John Amos Comenius.—Laurence J. Peter, Peter's Quotations, p. 76 (1977). This passage was used by Adlai E. Stevenson on his Christmas card in 1961.
  • Sex prejudice is so ingrained in our society that many who practice it are simply unaware that they are hurting women. It is the last socially acceptable prejudice.
    • Bernice Sandler, testimony, June 19, 1970.—Discrimination Against Women, hearings before the special subcommittee on education of the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, 91st Congress, 2d session, part 1, p. 302 (1970). She was chairman of the Action Committee for Federal Contract Compliance in Education of the Women's Equity Action League.
  • Consider: if you incorporate those tropical countries with the Republic of the United States, you will have to incorporate their people too.
    • Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate on the annexation of San Domingo, January 11, 1871, The Congressional Globe, vol. 43, p. 26.


  • Well, I am reading more and enjoying it less—[laughter]—and so on, but I have not complained nor do I plan to make any general complaints. I read and talk to myself about it, but I don't plan to issue any general statement on the press. I think that they are doing their task, as a critical branch, the fourth estate. And I am attempting to do mine. And we are going to live together for a period, and then go our separate ways. [Laughter].
    • John F. Kennedy, when asked to comment on the press in general, news conference, May 9, 1962. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 376 (1963).
  • To the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.
    • James Madison, "Report on the Resolutions", in Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison vol. 6 (1906), p. 389. This report of the resolutions of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1799 was submitted by a committee headed by Madison and is widely known as the Virginia Report of 1799.
  • Government has an obligation not to inhibit the collection and dissemination of news…. I'm convinced that if reporters should ever lose the right to protect the confidentiality of their sources then serious investigative reporting will simply dry up. The kind of resourceful, probing journalism that first exposed most of the serious scandals, corruption and injustice in our nation's history would simply disappear…. And let me tell you, reading about one's failings in the daily papers is one of the privileges of high office in this free country of ours.
    • Nelson A. Rockefeller, governor of New York, speech to the Anti-Defamation League, Syracuse, New York, November 29, 1972, as reported by The New York Times, November 30, 1972, p. 1, 86.
  • Whenever the press quits abusing me I know I'm in the wrong pew. I don't mind it because when they throw bricks at me—I'm a pretty good shot myself and I usually throw 'em back at 'em.
    • Harry S. Truman, speech at a dinner in his honor, Washington, D.C., February 22, 1958.—Text as recorded by The New York Times, February 23, 1958, p. 46.
  • In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever.
    • Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism", The Works of Oscar Wilde, ed. G. F. Maine, p. 1033 (1954).


  • Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilisation.
    • Winston Churchill, letter to Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, November 21, 1943.—Churchill, Closing the Ring (vol. 5 of The Second World War), p. 679 (1951).
  • A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men, were all deteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and haggard, so the iron was rusty, the stone was slimy, the wood was rotten, the air was faint, the light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a tomb, the prison had no knowledge of the brightness outside; and would have kept its polluted atmosphere intact, in one of the spice islands of the Indian Ocean.
    • Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, ed. Harvey P. Sucksmith, book 1, chapter 1, p. 2, 5 (1979). First published 1855–1857.

Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821–81)

  • The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
    • Attributed to FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Mr. Emerson visited Thoreau at the jail, and the meeting between the two philosophers must have been interesting and somewhat dramatic. The account of the meeting was told me by Miss Maria Thoreau [Henry Thoreau's aunt]—"Henry, why are you here?" Waldo, why are you not here?
    • Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.—Arthur Samuel Jones, Thoreau's Incarceration [As Told by His Jailer], p. 15 (1962). This exchange was supposed to have taken place on July 23 or 24, 1846, in the Concord, Massachusetts, jail where Thoreau was placed for nonpayment of poll taxes. There are many versions of this story, but Thoreau's account does not mention a visit by Emerson, in his Reform Papers, ed. Wendell Glick, p. 79–84 (1973), so it is probably apocryphal.


  • The advancement of the arts from year to year taxes our credulity, and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.
  • According to the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step".
    • John F. Kennedy, radio and television address to the American people on the nuclear test ban treaty, July 26, 1963. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 606.
  • I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.
    • Attributed to Abraham Lincoln.—Representative Everett M. Dirksen, remarks in the House, September 18, 1941, Congressional Record, vol. 87, p. 7479. Reported as unverified in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953). He may have been paraphrasing this: "I hope to 'stand firm' enough to not go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the country's cause".—President Lincoln, letter to Zachariah Chandler, November 20, 1863.—Collected Works, vol. 7, p. 24.
  • Next came the Patent laws. These began in England in 1624; and, in this country, with the adoption of our constitution. Before then [these?], any man might instantly use what another had invented; so that the inventor had no special advantage from his own invention. The patent system changed this; secured to the inventor, for a limited time, the exclusive use of his invention; and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things.
    • Abraham Lincoln, second lecture on discoveries and inventions, delivered to the Phi Alpha Society of Illinois College at Jacksonville, Illinois, February 11, 1859; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 3, p. 357.
  • The chief cause which made the fusion of the different elements of society so imperfect was the extreme difficulty which our ancestors found in passing from place to place. Of all inventions, the alphabet and the printing press alone excepted, those inventions which abridge distance have done most for the civilisation of our species. Every improvement of the means of locomotion benefits mankind morally and intellectually as well as materially, and not only facilitates the interchange of the various productions of nature and art, but tends to remove national and provincial antipathies, and to bind together all the branches of the great human family.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England, 5th ed., vol. 1, chapter 3, p. 370 (1849). "Of all inventions, the alphabet and the printing press alone excepted, those inventions which abridge distance have done most for civilization" was inscribed on one side of the Golden Door of the Transportation Building at the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893.
  • Expositions are the timekeepers of progress.
    • William McKinley, speech delivered at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, September 5, 1901.—Modern Eloquence, ed. Ashley H. Thorndike, rev. Adam Ward, vol. 11, p. 401 (1936). This was McKinley's last speech, as he was mortally wounded the next day at the Exposition. He served in Congress 1877–1884 and 1885–1891.
  • Two conditions render difficult this historic situation of mankind: It is full of tremendously deadly armament, and it has not progressed morally as much as it has scientifically and technically.
    • Pope Paul VI, sermon at the Shrine of Fatima, Portugal, May 13, 1967, as reported by The New York Times, May 14, 1967, p. 47.
  • I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.
    • Attributed to Petronius.—Robert Townsend, Up the Organization, p. 162 (1970). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end,… We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.
  • The day of large profits is probably past. There may be room for further intensive, but not extensive, development of industry in the present area of civilization.
    • Carroll D. Wright, U.S. commissioner of labor.—Industrial Depressions, first annual report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 1885, chapter 3, p. 257. House Executive Doc. 497#150;1, part 5.


  • All men have a feeling, that they would rather you told them a civil lie than give them a point blank refusal…. If you make a promise, the thing is still uncertain, depends on a future day, and concerns but few people; but if you refuse you alienate people to a certainty and at once, and many people too.
    • Quintus Tullius Cicero, "On Standing for the Consulship", section 12.—The Treatises of M. T. Cicero, trans. C. D. Yonge, p. 499, 500 (1872). This work, also known as the "Handbook of Electioneering", was addressed to Marcus Tullius Cicero, the author's brother. Another translation of the passage is: "Human nature being what it is, all men prefer a false promise to a flat refusal. At the worst the man to whom you have lied may be angry. That risk, if you make a promise, is uncertain and deferred, and it affects only a few. But if you refuse you are sure to offend many, and that at once".—H. J. Haskell, The New Deal in Old Rome, p. 169 (1939).
  • We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.
    • Attributed to Abraham Lincoln, speech delivered before the first Republican state convention of Illinois, Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856.—The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Arthur B. Lapsley, vol. 2, p. 249 (1905). This version of the speech has been questioned because it was reconstructed by Henry C. Whitney, who made notes at the time but did not write it out until 1896. He did not claim that it was literally correct, only that he had followed the argument and that in many cases the sentences were as Lincoln spoke them. The only contemporary account of the so-called "Lost Speech" was a brief report in the Alton, Illinois, Weekly Courier, June 5, 1856, which does not contain this sentence. Some historians believe the Whitney reconstruction "is not … worthy of serious consideration"; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 341.
  • The Great Spirit placed me and my people on this land poor and naked. When the white men came we gave them lands, and did not wish to hurt them. But the white man drove us back and took our lands. Then the Great Father [president] made us many promises, but they are not kept. He promised to give us large presents, and when they came to us they were small; they seemed to be lost on the way.
    • Sioux Indian Chief Red Cloud, speech at the Council of Peace, New York City, June 15, 1870, as reported by The New York Times, June 16, 1870, p. 2.
  • Promises and Pye-Crusts,… are made to be broken.
    • Jonathan Swift, "Polite Conversation", The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis, vol. 4, p. 146 (1957).


  • And if we are to open employment opportunities in this country for members of all races and creeds, then the Federal Government must set an example…. The President himself must set the key example. I am not going to promise a Cabinet post or any other post to any race or ethnic group. That is racism in reverse at its worst. So I do not promise to consider race or religion in my appointments if I am successful. I promise only that I will not consider them.
    • John F. Kennedy, campaign speech, Wittenberg College, Springfield, Ohio, October 17, 1960.—Freedom of Communications, final report of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, part 1, p. 635 (1961). Senate Rept. 87–994.
  • I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
    • Abraham Lincoln, fourth debate with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 3, p. 145–46.


  • A rayformer thinks he was ilicted because he was a rayformer, whin th' thruth iv th' matther is he was ilicted because no wan knew him.
  • The voice of great events is proclaiming to us, Reform, that you may preserve.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, speech on parliamentary reform, March 2, 1831.—The Complete Writings of Lord Macaulay, vol. 17, p. 18 (1900). President Franklin D. Roosevelt paraphrased slightly "The words of the great essayist", not named: "The voice of great events is proclaiming to us. Reform if you would preserve", in his address at the Democratic state convention, Syracuse, New York, September 29, 1936.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936, p. 390 (1938).
  • The best reformers the world has ever seen are those who commence on themselves.
    • Attributed to GEORGE BERNARD SHAW.—Evan Esar, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, p. 178 (1949). Unverified in Shaw's published writings.


  • A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
    • Albert Einstein, "The World as I See It", Ideas and Opinions, trans. Sonja Bargmann, p. 8 (1954).
  • If I knew something useful to me and harmful to my family, I should put it out of my mind. If I knew something useful to my family and not to my country, I should try to forget it. If I knew something useful to my country and harmful to Europe, or useful to Europe and harmful to the human race, I should consider it a crime.
    • Montesquieu.—Robert John Loy, Montesquieu, chapter 3, p. 122 (1968). Before giving this translation, Loy says, "Montesquieu was so fond of the passage that he composed it in several forms; it stands as his philosophical emblem". For the original French, see Montesquieu, Oeuvres Completes, p. 981 (1949).
  • There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, speech accepting renomination for the presidency, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 27, 1936.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936, p. 235 (1938).
  • God has lent us the earth for our life; it is a great entail. It belongs as much to those who are to come after us, and whose names are already written in the book of creation, as to us; and we have no right, by anything that we do or neglect, to involve them in unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits which it was in our power to bequeath.
    • John Ruskin, "The Lamp of Memory", The Seven Lamps of Architecture, chapter 6, section 9, p. 248 (1907).
  • The Buck Stops Here
    • Harry S. Truman, motto on his White House desk.—Alfred Steinberg, Harry S. Truman, p. 185 (1963).
  • For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.
    • John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, "A Modell of Christian Charity", discourse written aboard the Arbella during the voyage to Massachusetts, 1630.—Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop, p. 19 (1867). Robert C. Winthrop was a representative from Massachusetts, 1840–1850, and was Speaker of the House 1847–1849; he was a senator from Massachusetts 1850–1851. Walter F. Mondale referred to the "city on a hill" in a presidential campaign speech in Cleveland, Ohio, October 25, 1984; The Washington Post account notes that this quotation from Winthrop is a favorite of President Reagan's.—October 26, 1984, p. 1. President-elect John F. Kennedy said, in an address to the Massachusetts Legislature on January 9, 1961, "During the last 60 days I have been engaged in the task of constructing an administration…. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella [sic] 331 years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a government on a new and perilous frontier. 'We must always consider,' he said, 'that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.' Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, State, and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities".—Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169. For another portion of this speech, see No. 1494.

Revolutionary War[edit]

  • Americans developed the resourcefulness and wisdom to solve the problem of organizing a nation in the midst of war and crisis, one of the greatest achievements of modern political history. The Americans of the Revolutionary generation proved themselves the most creative statesmen in modern history, perhaps in all history. They established institutions that have had a more lasting influence than any established anywhere else.
    • Henry Steele Commager, interview with John A. Garraty.—Garraty, Interpreting American History, Conversations with Historians, part 1, p. I–100 (1970).
  • Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted?… God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith (November 13, 1787); in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1955), vol. 12, p. 356.
  • An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish! I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood; but, if this War should continue, I wish to have the most active part in it.
    • John Paul Jones, letter to Gouverneur Morris, September 2, 1782.—Robert Morris Letter Book, Rosenbach Collection No. 33, Manuscript Collection, U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. This sentence is reprinted in Lincoln Lorenz, John Paul Jones, Fighter for Freedom and Glory, p. xiv (1943).
  • I have not yet begun to fight.
    • John Paul Jones, captain of the Bonhomme Richard, reply to the British ship Serapis, September 23, 1779. The exact wording of his reply is uncertain, and several accounts exist. The standard version above is from an account of the engagement by one of Jones's officers, First Lieutenant Richard Dale.—John Henry Sherburne, The Life and Character of John Paul Jones, 2d ed., p. 121 (1851). Sherburne includes Jones's letter of October 3, 1779, to Benjamin Franklin, where he says, p. 116, "The English commodore asked me if I demanded quarters, and I having answered him in the most determined negative, they renewed the battle with double fury". Benjamin Rush writes, "I heard a minute account of his engagement with the Seraphis in a small circle of gentlemen at a dinner. It was delivered with great apparent modesty and commanded the most respectful attention. Towards the close of the battle, while his deck was swimming in blood, the captain of the Seraphis called him to strike. 'No, Sir,' said he, 'I will not, we have had but a small fight as yet.'"—The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, ed. George W. Corner, p. 157 (1948).

Casimir Pulaski (1747–79)

  • Every proceeding respecting myself has been so thoroughly mortifying, that nothing but the integrity of my heart, and the fervency of my Zeal Supports me under it…. Change then your opinion of one foreigner, who from his intrance into your Service, has never the cause to be pleased; who, in Europe, is by Rank superior to all that are in your Service; who certainly is not inferior in Zeal and Capacity and who perhaps, may have been considered as one who came to beg your favour. Be more just, Gentlemen, and Know that as I could not Submit to Stoop before the Sovereigns of Europe, So I came to hazard all the freedom of America, and desirous of passing the rest of my life in a Country truly free and before settling as a Citizen, to fight for Liberty.
    • CASIMIR PULASKI, farewell address to Congress, Charleston, South Carolina, August 19, 1779.—R. D. Jamro, Pulaski: A Portrait of Freedom, appendix Y, p. 199, 200 (1981).
  • The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the Courage and Conduct of this army—Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; that is all we can expect—We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die.
    • George Washington, general orders, July 2, 1776.—The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 5, p. 211 (1932).
  • To morrow being the day set apart by the Honorable Congress for public Thanksgiving and Praise; and duty calling us devoutely to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us. The General directs that the army remain in it's present quarters, and that the Chaplains perform divine service with their several Corps and brigades. And earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensibly necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day.
    • George Washington, general orders, December 17, 1777.—The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 10, p. 168 (1933).
  • You will therefore send me none but Natives, and Men of some property, if you have them.
    • George Washington, letter to his regimental commanders, April 30, 1777.—The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 7, p. 495 (1932).

Washington wanted a contingent of guards he could trust. This order is often quoted as "Put none but Americans on guard tonight".

  • HERE were held the
    town-meetings that
    ushered in the Revolution
    HERE Samuel Adams, James Otis
    and Joseph Warren exhorted
    HERE the men of Boston proved
    themselves independent
    courageous freemen
    worthy to raise issues
    which were to concern the
    liberty and happiness
    of millions yet unborn
    • Author unknown. Sign at the main entrance of the Old South Meeting House, Boston, Massachusetts.


  • "I was told", continued Egremont, "that an impassable gulf divided the Rich from the Poor; I was told that the Privileged and the People formed Two Nations, governed by different laws, influenced by different manners, with no thoughts or sympathies in common; with an innate inability of mutual comprehension".
    • Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or, The Two Nations, ed. Thom Braun, book 4, chapter 8, p. 299 (1980). First published in 1845.
  • This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.
    • John F. Kennedy, State of the Union address, January 14, 1963. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 13. Inscription on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
  • I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at New Haven, Connecticut, March 6, 1860; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 4, p. 24.
  • Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.
    • Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (vol. 1 of The Second World War), p. 348 (1948). On March 31, 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had informed the House of Commons that Britain would support Poland against any action threatening its independence. This marked the end of submission to Germany. Churchill thought the decision should have been made sooner when it would have been easier to stop Germany.


  • To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.
    • Confucius, Analects, book 2, chapter 24, Confucian Analects, the Great Learning, and the Doctrine of the Mean, trans. James Legge, p. 154 (1893, reprinted 1971).
  • Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.
    • Peter Marshall, Senate chaplain, prayer offered at the opening of the session, March 10, 1948.—Prayers Offered by the Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Marshall … 1947–1948, p. 49 (1949). Senate Doc. 80–170.
  • Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, saying.—Gifford Pinchot, "Roosevelt as President" in State Papers as Governor and President, 1899–1909 (vol. 15 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed.), p. xxxiii (1926). Pinchot commented, "There are few sayings of his that hold for me so much of him as this".

Right and wrong[edit]

  • You may burn my body to ashes, and scatter them to the winds of heaven; you may drag my soul down to the regions of darkness and despair to be tormented forever; but you will never get me to support a measure which I believe to be wrong, although by doing so I may accomplish that which I believe to be right.
    • Attributed to Abraham Lincoln.—Ida M. Tarbell, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 1, p. 139 (1900). This book is based on the reminiscences of contemporaries of Lincoln's. General T. H. Henderson of Illinois related this story—told by his father, who had served with Lincoln in the Illinois legislature—which "illustrates his character for integrity and his firmness in maintaining what he regarded as right in his public acts". This incident is supposed to have occurred during the session of 1836–1837, when efforts were made to move the capital of Illinois to Springfield; a bill to that effect was coupled with another measure that Lincoln did not approve of. "Finally, after midnight … Mr. Lincoln rose amid the silence and solemnity which prevailed, and, my father said, made one of the most eloquent and powerful speeches to which he had ever listened. He concluded his remarks" with the words above (pp. 138–39).
  • Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech in reply to Senator Stephen Douglas, Peoria, Illinois, October 16, 1854; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 273. "This speech, together with one delivered twelve days before at Springfield, made Lincoln a power in national politics. He had had little to do with politics since the expiration of his term in Congress, but the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused him to instant action…. When closely studied the Peoria speech reveals germs of many of the powerful arguments elaborated by Lincoln later in his career".—The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, new and enl. ed., ed. John G. Nicolay and John Hay, vol. 2, p. 190, footnote (1905).

Daniel O'Connell (1775–1847)

  • Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong.
    • Attributed to DANIEL O'CONNELL.—Wendell Phillips, speech on the 100th anniversary of O'Connell's birth, August 6, 1875, Speeches, Lectures, and Letters, 2d series, p. 398 (1891). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).

Carl Schurz (1829–1906)

  • The Senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by exclaiming, "My country, right or wrong". In one sense I say so too. My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
    • Senator CARL SCHURZ, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872, The Congressional Globe, vol. 45, p. 1287. The Globe merely notes "[Manifestations of applause in the galleries]" but according to Schurz's biographer, "The applause in the gallery was deafening". This is "one of Schurz's most frequently quoted replies".—Hans L. Trefousse, Carl Schurz: A Biography, chapter 11, p. 180 (1982). Schurz expanded on this theme in a speech delivered at the Anti-Imperialistic Conference, Chicago, Illinois, October 17, 1899: "I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: 'Our country, right or wrong!' They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: 'Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.'"—Schurz, "The Policy of Imperialism", Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, vol. 6, p. 119–20 (1913).

Harry Weinberger (1888–1944)

  • The greatest right in the world is the right to be wrong. If the Government or majorities think an individual is right, no one will interfere with him; but when agitators talk against the things considered holy, or when radicals criticise, or satirize the political gods, or question the justice of our laws and institutions, or pacifists talk against war, how the old inquisition awakens, and ostracism, the excommunication of the church, the prison, the wheel, the torture-chamber, the mob, are called to suppress the free expression of thought.
    • HARRY WEINBERGER, "The First Casualties in War", letter to the editor, The Evening Post, New York City, April 10, 1917, p. 11.


  • It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man's blessings. Concern for the man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors; concern for the great unsolved problems of the organization of labor and the distribution of goods in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.
    • Albert Einstein, speech at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, February 16, 1931, as reported in The New York Times, February 17, 1931, p. 6.
  • Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
    • Albert Einstein, paper prepared for initial meeting of the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, New York City, September 9–11, 1940.—Einstein, Out of My Later Years, chapter 8, part 1, p. 26 (1950, rev. and reprinted 1970).
  • Modern civilization depends on science … James Smithson was well aware that knowledge should not be viewed as existing in isolated parts, but as a whole, each portion of which throws light on all the other, and that the tendency of all is to improve the human mind, and give it new sources of power and enjoyment … narrow minds think nothing of importance but their own favorite pursuit, but liberal views exclude no branch of science or literature, for they all contribute to sweeten, to adorn, and to embellish life … science is the pursuit above all which impresses us with the capacity of man for intellectual and moral progress and awakens the human intellect to aspiration for a higher condition of humanity.
    • Joseph Henry, first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Inscription on the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
  • What is a scientist?… We give the name scientist to the type of man who has felt experiment to be a means guiding him to search out the deep truth of life, to lift a veil from its fascinating secrets, and who, in this pursuit, has felt arising within him a love for the mysteries of nature, so passionate as to annihilate the thought of himself.
  • A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
    • Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. Frank Gaynor, p. 33–34 (1950).


  • Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.
  • I request that they may be considered in confidence, until the members of Congress are fully possessed of their contents, and shall have had opportunity to deliberate on the consequences of their publication; after which time, I submit them to your wisdom.
    • John Adams, message to both houses of Congress transmitting dispatches from France (April 3, 1798); in Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams (1854), vol. 9, p. 158.
  • I believe that the public temper is such that the voters of the land are prepared to support the party which gives the best promise of administering the government in the honest, simple, and plain manner which is consistent with its character and purposes. They have learned that mystery and concealment in the management of their affairs cover tricks and betrayal. The statesmanship they require consists in honesty and frugality, a prompt response to the needs of the people as they arise, and a vigilant protection of all their varied interests.
    • Grover Cleveland, letter accepting nomination as the Democratic candidate for president, August 8, 1884.—The Writings and Speeches of Grover Cleveland, p. 13 (1892).


  • If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now—when?
    • Aboth 1:14, saying of Hillel. Pirkay Avot, often known in English as the "Chapters of the Fathers", is the best known of the books of the Mishnah, first part of the Talmud. Translations vary; that above is from Leo Rosten's Treasury of Jewish Quotations, p. 459 (1972).
  • How much easier is self-sacrifice than self-realization!
    • Eric Hoffer, "Thoughts of Eric Hoffer, Including: 'Absolute Faith Corrupts Absolutely,'" The New York Times Magazine, April 25, 1971, p. 60.
  • This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.
    • William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act I, scene iii, lines 78–80. Polonius is speaking to Laertes.
  • What we do belongs to what we are; and what we are is what becomes of us.

Ships and shipping[edit]

  • It is a national humiliation that we are now compelled to pay from twenty to thirty million dollars annually (exclusive of passage money which we should share with vessels of other nations) to foreigners for doing the work which should be done by American vessels American built, American owned, and American manned. This is a direct drain upon the resources of the country of just so much money; equal to casting it into the sea, so far as this nation is concerned.
    • Ulysses S. Grant, message to the Senate and House of Representatives, March 23, 1870, Congressional Globe, vol. 42, p. 2177.
  • It is cheering to see that the rats are still around—the ship is not sinking.
    • Eric Hoffer, "Thoughts of Eric Hoffer, Including: 'Absolute Faith Corrupts Absolutely,'" The New York Times Magazine, April 25, 1971, p. 24.
  • [A ship is always referred to as "she"] Because it costs so much to keep one in paint and powder.
    • Chester W. Nimitz, when asked why a ship is always referred to as she, to Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy, Washington, D.C., February 13, 1940.—Associated Press dispatch, The New York Times, February 15, 1940, p. 39.


  • In some causes silence is dangerous; so if any know of conspiracies against their country or king, or any that might greatly prejudice their neighbor, they ought to discover it.
    • Ambrose. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.
    • Thomas Carlyle, essay on Sir Walter Scott, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, vol. 4, p. 190 (1881). Carlyle refers to this theme elsewhere, one example being: "As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden); or as I might express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity".—Carlyle, Sartor Resartus and Selected Prose, book 3, chapter 3, p. 205 (1970).
  • Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.
    • George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such, chapter 4, p. 51 (1900). First published in 1879.
  • Grosse Seelen dulden still.
    • Great souls endure in silence.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Don Carlos, act I, scene iv, Don Carlos, Mary Stuart, trans. R. D. Boylan and Joseph Mellish, p. 30 (1902). The Marquis is speaking. "Great spirits suffer patiently" is the translation in Friedrich Schiller, Plays, ed. Walter Hinderer, Don Carlos trans. A. Leslie and Jeanne R. Willson, p. 124 (1983).


  • I did more for the Russian serf in giving him land as well as personal liberty, than America did for the negro slave set free by the proclamation of President Lincoln. I am at a loss to understand how you Americans could have been so blind as to leave the negro slave without tools to work out his salvation. In giving him personal liberty, you have him an obligation to perform to the state which he must be unable to fulfill. Without property of any kind he cannot educate himself and his children. I believe the time must come when many will question the manner of American emancipation of the negro slaves in 1863. The vote, in the hands of an ignorant man, without either property or self respect, will be used to the damage of the people at large; for the rich man, without honor or any kind of patriotism, will purchase it, and with it swamp the rights of a free people.
    • ALEXANDER II, emperor of Russia, conversation with Wharton Barker, Pavlovski Palace, August 17, 1879.—Barker, "The Secret of Russia's Friendship", The Independent, March 24, 1904, p. 647.

Euripides (c. 485–406 B.C.)

  • But this is slavery, not to speak one's thought.
    • EURIPIDES, The Phoenician Women, line 392.—The Complete Greek Tragedies, ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, vol. 4, p. 392 (1958).
  • But this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Holmes, April 22, 1820.—The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 10, p. 157 (1899). Jefferson refers to the Missouri question, whether to admit Missouri as a slave state but prohibit slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase. Holmes was a representative from Massachusetts from 1817 to March 15, 1820, when he resigned to attend the Maine constitutional convention. He was elected to the Senate from Maine and served from June 13, 1820, to 1827, and 1829–1833.
  • Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We—even we here—hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.
    • President Abraham Lincoln, annual message to Congress, December 1, 1862; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 5, p. 537.
  • I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I can just let her alone.
    • Abraham Lincoln, fourth debate with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 3, p. 146. Lincoln used similar wording in a speech in Springfield, Illinois, June 26, 1857: "Now I protest against that counterfeit logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either. I can just leave her alone".—Collected Works, vol. 2, p. 405 (1953).
  • Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of kingcraft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it comes from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 500.
  • Whenever [I] hear any one, arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
    • President Abraham Lincoln, speech to 140th Indiana regiment, March 17, 1865; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 8, p. 361.
  • All socialism involves slavery…. That which fundamentally distinguishes the slave is that he labours under coercion to satisfy another's desires.
    • Herbert Spencer, "The Coming Slavery", The Contemporary Review, April 1884, p. 474. This essay was reprinted in chapter 2 of his book, Man vs. the State (1884).
  • Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly forsee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.
    • Attributed to GEORGE WASHINGTON.—John Bernard, Retrospections of America, 1797–1811, p. 91 (1887). This is from Bernard's account of a conversation he had with Washington in 1798. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).


  • Now, the vicissitudes that afflict the individual have their source in society. It is this situation that has given currency to the phrase "social forces". Personal relations have given way to impersonal ones. The Great Society has arrived and the task of our generation is to bring it under control. The study of how it is to be done is the function of politics.
  • [Society] is a partnership in all science, a partnership in all art, a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.
    • Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France", 1790, The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 3, p. 359 (1899).
  • We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except a politician or an official, a society where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges.
    • Winston Churchill, radio broadcast, London, March 21, 1943.—Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James, vol. 7, p. 6761 (1974).
  • The truth is that a vast restructuring of our society is needed if remedies are to become available to the average person. Without that restructuring the good will that holds society together will be slowly dissipated. It is that sense of futility which permeates the present series of protests and dissents. Where there is a persistent sense of futility, there is violence; and that is where we are today.
  • The nature of a society is largely determined by the direction in which talent and ambition flow—by the tilt of the social landscape.
  • The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society.
    • Abraham Lincoln, letter to Henry L. Pierce and others, April 6, 1859; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 3, p. 375.


  • And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient—that we are only 6 percent of the world's population—that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind—that we cannot right every wrong or reverse every adversity—and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.
    • John F. Kennedy, address at the University of Washington's 100th anniversary program, Seattle, Washington, November 16, 1961. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 726.
  • There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
    • H. L. Mencken, "The Divine Afflatus", A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949). This essay was originally published in the New York Evening Mail, November 16, 1917, and reprinted in Prejudices: Second Series (1920).


  • The sword conquered for a while, but the spirit conquers for ever!
    • Sholem Asch, The Apostle (1943), trans. Maurice Samuel, p. 804.
  • Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
    Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
    Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;
    Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!
    knoweth it exhaustless, self-sustained,
    Immortal, indestructible,—shall such
    Say, "I have killed a man, or caused to kill?"
    Nay, but as when one layeth
    His worn-out robes away,
    And, taking new ones, sayeth,
    "These will I wear to-day!"
    So putteth by the spirit
    Lightly its garb of flesh,
    And passeth to inherit
    A residence afresh.
    • Bhagavad Gita (The Song Celestial or Bhagavad-Gita, trans. Sir Edwin Arnold (1934), p. 10–11). This is chapter 2, sections 20–22 in other editions.
  • If that vital spark that we find in a grain of wheat can pass unchanged through countless deaths and resurrections, will the spirit of man be unable to pass from this body to another?
    • William Jennings Bryan, eulogy, Elks Lodge annual memorial service, Lincoln, Nebraska, December 2, 1906, as reported by the Nebraska State Journal, December 3, 1906, p. 3.

In "The Prince of Peace", a lecture delivered at Chautauquas and religious gatherings, starting in 1904, he phrased the idea this way: "If this invisible germ of life in the grain of wheat can thus pass unimpaired through three thousand resurrections, I shall not doubt that my soul has power to clothe itself with a body suited to its new existence when this earthly frame has crumbled into dust".—Speeches of William Jennings Bryan, vol. 2, p. 284 (1909).

  • I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
    • John F. Kennedy, remarks at a closed-circuit television broadcast on behalf of the national cultural center, November 29, 1962. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 846–47. Inscription on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
  • Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them?


  • Our real problem, then, is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, January 9, 1958. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958, p. 5.
  • We all have enough strength to endure the misfortunes of others.
    • La Rochefoucauld. The saying, "Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d'autrui", was first published in his Réflexions ou Sentences et Maximes Morales, 1655. There are several English translations, including that above from his Selected Maxims and Reflections, trans. Edward M. Stack, p. 26 (1956).
  • It is from weakness that people reach for dictators and concentrated government power. Only the strong can be free. And only the productive can be strong.
    • Wendell Willkie, speech accepting nomination as Republican candidate for president, Elwood, Indiana, August 17, 1940.—Willkie, This Is Wendell Willkie, p. 273–74 (1940).


  • In the usual progress of things, the necessities of a nation in every stage of its existence will be found at least equal to its resources.
  • Every good citizen … should be willing to devote a brief time during some one day in the year, when necessary, to the making up of a listing of his income for taxes … to contribute to his Government, not the scriptural tithe, but a small percentage of his net profits.
    • Cordell Hull, remarks in the House, April 26, 1913, Congressional Record, vol. 50, p. 505.
  • If the Government cannot reduce the "terrific" tax burden on the country, I will predict that you will have a depression that will curl your hair, because we are just taking too much money out of this economy that we need to make the jobs that you have to have as time goes on.
    • George M. Humphrey, secretary of the treasury, at a news conference on January 15, 1957, as reported by The New York Times, January 17, 1957, p. 20. On January 16, President Eisenhower sent to Congress a record peacetime budget of $71.8 billion.
  • The power to tax is the power to destroy.
    • This quotation comes from the words of DANIEL WEBSTER and those of JOHN MARSHALL in the Supreme Court case, McCulloch v. Maryland. Webster, in arguing the case, said: "An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy", 17 U.S. 327 (1819). In his decision, Chief Justice Marshall said: "That the power of taxing it [the bank] by the States may be exercised so as to destroy it, is too obvious to be denied" (p. 427), and "That the power to tax involves the power to destroy … [is] not to be denied" (p. 431).


  • "The time has come", the Walrus said,
    "To talk of many things:
    Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
    Of cabbages—and kings—
    And why the sea is boiling hot—
    And whether pigs have wings".
    • Lewis Carroll, "The Walrus and the Carpenter", stanza 11, Through the Looking-Glass, chapter 4.—Logical Nonsense: The Works of Lewis Carroll, ed. Philip C. Blackburn and Lionel White, p. 188 (1934). First published in 1871.
  • What though the tide of years may roll.
    • EDWARD A. CRAIGHILL, "God Old Song", first line of second stanza, 1895. This song from the University of Virginia is set to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne".—John S. Patton, Sallie J. Doswell, and Lewis D. Crenshaw, Jefferson's University, p. 72–73 (1915).
  • Man hat immer Zeit genug, wenn man sie gut anwenden will.
  • One always has time enough, if one will apply it well.
    • JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Autobiography of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, trans. John Oxenford, vol. 2, book 10, p. 16 (1974).
  • In its [knowledge's] light, we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, "In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon".
    • John F. Kennedy, address at the University of California, Berkeley, California, March 23, 1962. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 266. Kennedy used this story a number of times. The attribution to Marshal Lyautey is reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions.
    • John Randolph of Roanoke.—William Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke, 1773–1833, vol. 2, chapter 7, p. 205 (1922, reprinted 1970).
  • The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings.
    • Dan Cook, sports broadcaster and writer for the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News, on television newscast in April 1978, after the first basketball playoff game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Washington Bullets, to illustrate that while the Spurs had won once, the series was not over yet. Bullets coach Dick Motta borrowed the phrase later during the Bullets' eventually successful championship drive, and it became widely known and was often mistakenly attributed to him.—The Washington Post, June 11, 1978, p. D6. Cook may well have said isn't, but this remark is generally heard with ain't.


  • Hell is truth seen too late—duty neglected in its season.
    • Attributed to TRYON EDWARDS.—Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 225 (1891).
  • I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad.
    • Gerald R. Ford, remarks on taking the oath of office, August 9, 1974. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, p. 2.
  • Another one of the old poets, whose name has escaped my memory at present, called Truth the daughter of Time.
    • AULUS GELLIUS, The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, trans. John C. Rolfe, vol. 2, book 12, chapter 11, verse 7, p. 394–95 (1927).
  • Persecution cannot harm him who stands by Truth. Did not Socrates fall proudly a victim in body? Was not Paul stoned for the sake of the Truth? It is our inner selves that hurt us when we disobey it, and it kills us when we betray it.
    • Khalil Gibran, The Secrets of the Heart, trans. Anthony R. Ferris, p. 157 (1947).
  • It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth—and listen to the song of that syren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
    • Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775.—William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, 9th ed., p. 138 (1836, reprinted 1970). Language altered to first person.
  • We should face reality and our past mistakes in an honest, adult way. Boasting of glory does not make glory, and singing in the dark does not dispel fear.
    • Hussein I, king of Jordan, remarks during a conference of Arab chiefs of state, Khartoum, Sudan, August 30, 1967, as reported by The New York Times, August 31, 1967, p. 6.
  • The most violent revolutions in an individual's beliefs leave most of his old order standing. Time and space, cause and effect, nature and history, and one's own biography remain untouched. New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact so as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of continuity.
    • WILLIAM JAMES, "What Pragmatism Means", Pragmatism, p. 60–61 (1931). Lectures delivered at the Lowell Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, December 1906, and at Columbia University, New York City, January 1907.
  • Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record

One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,— Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future's portal with the Past's blood-rusted key.

    • James Russell Lowell, "The Present Crisis", stanzas 8 and 18, The Poetical Works of James Russell Lowell, p. 68 (1978). Originally published in 1844.
  • You'll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don't have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.
    • Representative SAM RAYBURN, private conversation.—W. B. Ragsdale, "An Old Friend Writes of Rayburn", U.S. News & World Report, October 23, 1961, p. 72.


  • It's a Story they tell in the border country, where Massachusetts joins Vermont and New Hampshire. Yes, Dan'l Webster's dead—or, at least, they buried him.
    But every time there's a thunderstorm around Marshfield, they say you can hear his rolling voice in the hollows of the sky. And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, "Dan'l Webster—Dan'l Webster!" the ground'll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you'll hear a deep voice saying, "Neighbor, how stands the Union?" Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed, one and indivisible, or he's liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that's what I was told when I was a youngster.
    • STEPHEN VINCENT BENÉT, The Devil and Daniel Webster, p. 13–14 (1937).
  • Our Union: It must be preserved.
    • President ANDREW JACKSON, toast at a Jefferson Day dinner, April 13, 1830.—Marquis James, Andrew Jackson: Portrait of a President, p. 235 (1937). The account by James emphasizes the shocked reaction of Jackson's vice president, John C. Calhoun, to this toast, since it was clear he had lost Jackson's support of the Southern cause of nullification. When Calhoun's turn came, his toast was: "The Union, next to our liberty, most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States and by distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union" (pp. 235–36). According to Martin Van Buren, Autobiography, vol. 2, p. 415 (1920, reprinted 1973), at the urging of General Hayne, Jackson altered his toast to "Our Federal Union" before it was given to the newspapers, and it was reported in this form in many sources including James Parton, Life of Andrew Jackson, vol. 3, p. 283 (1860), and Thomas Hart Benton, Thirty Years View, vol. 1, p. 148 (1854, reprinted 1883).
  • Still a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.
    • Robert E. Lee, letter to his son, G. W. Custis Lee, January 23, 1861.—John William Jones, Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee, p. 137 (1876).
  • "A house divided against itself cannot stand". I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech delivered at the close of the Republican state convention, which named him the candidate for the United States Senate, Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 461. The quotation is a slight paraphrase of the Bible, Mark 3:25. This "was probably the most carefully prepared address of Lincoln's life. The majority of his friends thought the sentiments nothing short of political suicide. Herndon writes that before delivering the oration Lincoln had declared … that 'the time has come when those sentiments should be uttered and if it is decreed that I should go down because of this speech, then let me go down linked with the truth—let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.'"—Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, new and enl. ed., ed. John G. Nicolay and John Hay, vol. 3, p. 1–2, footnote 1 (1905).
  • I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.
    • President-elect Abraham Lincoln, address to the New Jersey Senate, February 21, 1861; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 4, p. 236.
  • Within that door
    A man sits or the image of a man
    Staring at stillness on a marble floor.
    No drum distracts him nor no trumpet can
    Although he hears the trumpet and the drum.
    He listens for the time to come.
    Within this door
    A man sits or the image of a man
    Remembering the time before.
    He hears beneath the river in its choking channel
    A deeper river rushing on the stone,
    Sits there in his doubt alone,
    Discerns the Principle,
    The guns begin,
    Emancipates—but not the slaves,
    The Union—not from servitude but shame:
    Emancipates the Union from the monstrous name
    Whose infamy dishonored
    Even the great Founders in their graves …

    He saves the Union and the dream goes on.
    • Archibald MacLeish, "At the Lincoln Memorial", stanza 4, lines 1–6, and stanza 5, New & Collected Poems, 1917–1976, p. 433–35 (1976). This poem was written for ceremonies marking the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and was read by MacLeish at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., September 22, 1962.
  • The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world.
    • James Madison, "Outline" notes, September 1829, in Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison vol. 9 (1910), p. 357. Inscribed in the Madison Memorial Hall, Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building.
  • While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! 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! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full and high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a strip erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured, bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as "What is all this worth?" nor those other words of delusion and folly, "Liberty first and Union afterwards"; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart,—Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!
    • Senator DANIEL WEBSTER, remarks in the Senate, second speech on Foote's resolution, January 26, 1830.—The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 6, p. 75 (1903).


  • In union there is strength.
    • Aesop, fable, "The Bundle of Sticks", Aesop's Fables, with drawings by Fritz Kredel, p. 122 (1947). "Union gives strength" is the version in The Fables of Aesop, ed. Joseph Jacobs, p. 87 (1964).
  • Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.
    • The Bible, Psalms 133:1–2.
  • Civilisation will not last, freedom will not survive, peace will not be kept, unless a very large majority of mankind unite together to defend them and show themselves possessed of a constabulary power before which barbaric and atavistic forces will stand in awe.
    • Winston Churchill, chancellor's address, University of Bristol, Bristol, England, July 2, 1938.—Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James, vol. 6, p. 5991 (1974).
  • All for one, one for all, that is our device, is it not?
    • Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers, chapter 9, p. 75 (1949). D'Artagnan is speaking.
  • Even though this is late in an election year, there is no way we can go forward except together and no way anybody can win except by serving the people's urgent needs. We cannot stand still or slip backwards. We must go forward now together.
    • President Gerald R. Ford, remarks on taking the oath of office, August 9, 1974. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, p. 2.
  • What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country whether they be white or they be black. Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that and say a prayer for our country and our people.
    • Robert F. Kennedy. One of the inscriptions at the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery. These words are taken from his extemporaneous eulogy of Martin Luther King, Jr., given at the airport in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968.—Robert F. Kennedy: Promises to Keep, sel. Arthur Wortman and Richard Rhodes, p. 33 (1969) The printed version lacks the first two sentences above and a few words of the third, and there are other minor variations in wording. The quotation from the Greeks has been attributed to Aeschylus but has not been found in his works.
  • For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
    • Rudyard Kipling, "The Law of the Jungle", The Second Jungle Book, p. 29 (1899).
  • And see the confluence of dreams
    That clashed together in our night,
    One river born of many streams
    Roll in one blaze of blinding light!
    • George William Russell, "Salutation", last stanza.—Kathleen Hoagland, 1000 Years of Irish Poetry, p. 617 (1947). This was written for those who took part in the Irish rebellion against England, 1916.
  • It manus in gyrum; paullatim singula vires
    Deperdunt proprias; color est E pluribus unus.
    • Spins round the stirring hand; lose by degrees
      Their separate powers the parts, and comes at last
      From many several colors one that rules.
    • Virgil, "Moretum", lines 103–4, The Works of Virgil, trans. into English verse by John Augustine Wilstach, vol. 1, p. 123 (1884). Moretum literally means garden herbs. From Virgil's minor poems, this is a tribute "to common things and plebian associations. The lines are laudatory of early habits and rustic poverty. They close with a description of the ingredients and mode of preparation of a salad composed of garlic, parsley, rue, and onions, seasoned with cheese, salt, coriander, and vinegar, and finally sprinkled with oil. "The poem is a brief one, of uncertain, but probably early date. But, brief as it is, and insignificant as it seems to be, certain of its words formulate the talisman of our National Government. "So that we may say, with probable truth, that, in describing an Italian salad, a frugal shepherd of the Roman Republic dictated that motto [E pluribus unum] which has served as the symbol of union for States in a hemisphere then unknown, for a Republic which uses, with enthusiasm, even the language of that illustrious government to which it is indebted, under so many forms, for safe precedents and wise examples" (p. 124).


  • The people who remained victorious were less like conquerors than conquered.
    • Augustine, The City of God, book 3, chapter 19.—The Works of Aurelius Augustine, ed. Marcus Dods, vol. 1, p. 119–20 (1871). De Civitate Dei was written 413–426.
  • I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat".… You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
    • Winston Churchill, speech, House of Commons, May 13, 1940.—Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James, vol. 6, p. 6220 (1974).
  • No retreat. No retreat. They must conquer or die who've no retreat.
    • John Gay, "We've Cheated the Parson" (song), Polly: an Opera, air 46, act II, scene x, The Poetical Works of John Gay, ed. John Underhill, vol. 2, p. 336 (1893).
  • There's an old saying that victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.
    • John F. Kennedy, referring to the Bay of Pigs disaster, press conference, April 21, 1961. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 312.
  • Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward and give us victories.
    • Abraham Lincoln, letter to General Joseph Hooker, January 26, 1863; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 6, p. 79.
  • Upon the fields of friendly strife
    Are sown the seeds
    That, upon other fields, on other days
    Will bear the fruits of victory.
    • Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences, p. 82 (1964). MacArthur wrote these lines while superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, 1919–1922, and had them engraved over the entrance to the gymnasium.
  • Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.
    • Horace Mann, baccalaureate address, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1859.—Life and Works of Horace Mann, ed. Mrs. Mary Mann, vol. 1, p. 575 (1868). "The motivating principle of Mann's life was nowhere better or more clearly expressed than in the oft-quoted words with which he closed his last Commencement address at Antioch College".—Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 6, p. 243. Mann died a few weeks later. He had served in Congress 1848–1853.


  • Violence is as American as cherry pie.
    • H. Rap Brown, press conference at the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee headquarters, Washington, D.C., July 27, 1967, as reported by The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., July 27, 1967, p. 1.
  • The use of violence as an instrument of persuasion is therefore inviting and seems to the discontented to be the only effective protest.
  • Violence has no constitutional sanction; and every government from the beginning has moved against it. But where grievances pile high and most of the elected spokesmen represent the Establishment, violence may be the only effective response.
  • I'd hate to be in those [slum] conditions and I'll tell you if I were in those conditions, you'd have more trouble than you have already because I've got enough spark left in me to lead a mighty good revolt.
    • Hubert Humphrey, speech to the National Association of Counties in New Orleans, Louisiana, July 18, 1966, as reported by The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 19, 1966, p. 18.
  • The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • I feel that we will continue to have a non-violent movement, and we will continue to find the vast majority of Negroes committed to non-violence, at least as the best tactical approach and from a pragmatic point of view as the best strategy in dealing with the problem of racial injustice. Realism impels me to admit, however, that when there is justice and the pursuit of justice, violence appears, and where there is injustice and frustration, the potentialities for violence are greater, and I would like to strongly stress the point that the more we can achieve victories through non-violence, the more it will be possible to keep the non-violent discipline at the center of the movement. But the more we find individuals facing conditions of frustration, conditions of disappointment and seething despair as a result of the slow pace of things and the failure to change conditions, the more it will be possible for the apostles of violence to interfere.
  • Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.
    • Thurgood Marshall, speech at the national convention of Alpha Phi Alpha, St. Louis, Missouri, August 15, 1966, as reported by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 17, 1966, p. 1.
  • Our most serious challenges to date have been external—the kind this strong and resourceful country could unite against. While serious external dangers remain, the graver threats today are internal: haphazard urbanization, racial discrimination, disfiguring of the environment, unprecedented interdependence, the dislocation of human identity and motivation created by an affluent society—all resulting in a rising tide of individual and group violence.
    • To Establish Justice, to Insure Domestic Tranquility, final report of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (1960), p. xxxii. Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower was chairman of the commission.

Voters and voting[edit]

  • I would relate to the crowds how I called on a certain rural constituent and was shocked to hear him say he was thinking of voting for my opponent. I reminded him of the many things I had done for him as prosecuting attorney, as county judge, as congressman, and senator. I recalled how I had helped get an access road built to his farm, how I had visited him in a military hospital in France when he was wounded in World War I, how I had assisted him in securing his veteran's benefits, how I had arranged his loan from the Farm Credit Administration, how I had got him a disaster loan when the flood destroyed his home, etc., etc.

    "How can you think of voting for my opponent?" I exhorted at the end of this long recital. "Surely you remember all these things I have done for you?"

    "Yeah", he said, I remember. But what in hell have you done for me lately?"
    • Alben W. Barkley, That Reminds Me— (1954), p. 165. Barkley first told this story during his 1938 campaign for renomination as Kentucky's Democratic candidate for the United States Senate.
  • VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1948), p. 359. Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book.
  • We'd all like t'vote fer th'best man, but he's never a candidate.
    • Kin Hubbard, The Best of Kin Hubbard, part 1, p. 14 (1984). The sayings of Abe Martin, Hubbard's rural sage, appeared from 1904–1930 in many newspapers.
  • I am of the opinion that all who can should vote for the most intelligent, honest, and conscientious men eligible to office, irrespective of former party opinions, who will endeavour to make the new constitutions and the laws passed under them as beneficial as possible to the true interests, prosperity, and liberty of all classes and conditions of the people.
    • Robert E. Lee, letter to General James Longstreet, October 29, 1867.—Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, p. 269 (1924).
  • Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man…. Because all Americans just must have the right to vote. And we are going to give them that right. All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race. And they are going to have those privileges of citizenship regardless of race.
    • President Lyndon B. Johnson, "The American Promise", delivered to a joint session of Congress, March 15, 1965. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 1, p. 281, 286. He was talking about the civil rights bill he was about to present to Congress.
  • The margin is narrow, but the responsibility is clear.
    • President-elect JOHN F. KENNEDY, press conference, November 10, 1963.—Transcript, The New York Times, November 11, 1963, p. 20. In Theodore Sorensen's Kennedy (1965), these words are followed by "There may be difficulties with the Congress, but a margin of only one vote would still be a mandate" (p. 219).
  • I believe that there are societies in which every man may safely be admitted to vote…. I say, sir, that there are countries in which the condition of the labouring-classes is such that they may safely be intrusted with the right of electing members of the Legislature…. Universal suffrage exists in the United States without producing any very frightful consequences.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, speech in Parliament on parliamentary reform, March 2, 1831.—Macaulay, Speeches, Parliamentary and Miscellaneous, vol. 1, p. 12–13 (1853).
  • Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.
    • George Jean Nathan, in Clifton Fadiman, The American Treasury, 1455–1955, p. 344 (1955). Unverified in Nathan's works.
  • The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.
    • Thomas Paine, "Dissertation on First Principles of Government", The Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Moncure D. Conway, vol. 3, p. 267 (1895). Originally published in 1795.
  • Perhaps America will one day go fascist democratically, by popular vote.
  • In times of stress and strain, people will vote.
    • Author unknown. Attributed to parliamentary debates, Great Britain, 1857. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).


  • In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign…. Secondly, a just cause…. Thirdly … a rightful intention.
    • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, part II–II, question 40, article 1, p. 1359–60 (1947). Written 1266–1273. The three conditions are sometimes paraphrased as: public authority, just cause, right motive.
  • Stout hearts, my laddies! If the row comes, REMEMBER THE MAINE, and show the world how American sailors can fight.
    • Clifford K. Berryman (1869–1949), caption under cartoon, The Washington Post, April 3, 1898, p. 1. On February 15, 1898, the warship Maine blew up in the harbor at Havana, Cuba. Edward T. Folliard, correspondent and historian of The Washington Post, said of Berryman's cartoon: "Thus was born the slogan and battle cry of the Spanish-American War".—The Washington Post, September 24, 1972, Potomac magazine, special section, "The Washington Post, 1972", p. 8.
  • I venture to say no war can be long carried on against the will of the people.
    • Edmund Burke, "Letters on a Regicide Peace", letter 1, 1796–1797, The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 5, p. 283 (1899).
  • Let the officers and directors of our armament factories, our gun builders and munitions makers and shipbuilders all be conscripted—to get $30 a month, the same wage paid to the lads in the trenches…. Give capital thirty days to think it over and you will learn by that time that there will be no war. That will stop the racket—that and nothing else.
    • Smedley D. Butler, "War Is a Racket", The Forum and Century, September 1934, p. 143.
  • The eagle has ceased to scream, but the parrots will now begin to chatter. The war of the giants is over and the pigmies will now start to squabble.
    • Winston Churchill, comment on May 7, 1945, after General Ismay, his wartime chief of staff, announced the news of V-E Day.—Kay Halle, Irrepressible Churchill, p. 249 (1966).
  • To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.
    • Winston Churchill, remarks at a White House luncheon, June 26, 1954. His exact words are not known, because the meetings and the luncheon that day were closed to reporters, but above is the commonly cited version. His words are quoted as "It is 'better to jaw-jaw than to war-war,'" in the sub-heading on p. 1 of The New York Times, June 27, 1954, and as "To jaw-jaw always is better than to war-war" on p. 3. The Washington Post in its June 27 issue, p. 1, has "better to talk jaw to jaw than have war", and The Star, Washington, D.C., p. 1, a slight variation, "It is better to talk jaw to jaw than to have war".
  • War is not merely a political act but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means.
    • Karl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. O. J. Matthijs Jolles, book 1, chapter 1, section 24, p. 16 (1943). Originally published in 1833.
  • War is only caused through the political intercourse of governments and nations … war is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse with an admixture of other means.
    • Karl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. O. J. Matthijs Jolles, book 8, chapter 6, p. 596 (1943). Originally published in 1833.
  • War is regarded as nothing but the continuation of state policy with other means.
    • Karl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. O. J. Matthijs Jolles, author's note, p. xxix (1943). Originally published in 1833.
  • I say when you get into a war, you should win as quick as you can, because your losses become a function of the duration of the war. I believe when you get in a war, get everything you need and win it.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, news conference, Indio, California, March 15, 1968, as reported in The New York Times, March 16, 1968, p. 15.

Abraham Flexner (1866–1959)

  • Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.
    • ABRAHAM FLEXNER, Universities, part 3, p. 302 (1930).
  • All of us who served in one war or another know very well that all wars are the glory and the agony of the young.
    • Gerald R. Ford, address to the 75th annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, August 19, 1974. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, p. 25.
  • Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation—the last arguments to which kings resort.
    • Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775.—William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, 9th ed., p. 139 (1836, reprinted 1970).
"While there is no doubt as to the general effect of Henry's speech, questions as to its actual wording are not so easily disposed of. Not only is there no manuscript copy of the oration, there is no stenographic report…. It was not until some forty years later that William Wirt first reprinted a reconstruction of Henry's oration. In the absence of contemporary written information" there was much criticism of Wirt's text. Wirt collected much of the information for his biography of Patrick Henry "when many of Henry's auditors at St. John's [church] were still in their clear-minded fifties or sixties". Wirt collected information from "intelligent and reliable" auditors, including John Tyler, Judge St. George Tucker, and Edmund Randolph. "Wirt's text was based on a few very helpful sources plus many bits of information. He had ample proof for certain burning phrases … a remarkable resemblance to Henry's other speeches during that period", the fact that the speech conforms to others in "oratorical style and technique, even in the use of Biblical quotations or analogies. Of course, Wirt may have used fragments" from earlier speeches for the reconstruction. "Yet the information on the text as a whole is more precise than for many other great speeches in history".—Robert Douthat Meade, Patrick Henry, Practical Revolutionary, vol. 2, p. 38–40 (1969). "I can find no evidence that Patrick Henry's 'Give me liberty, or give me death' went ringing round the country in 1775, when he thus burst forth to the Virginia delegates, or in fact that it was quoted at all until after William Wirt's official life in 1817".—Carroll A. Wilson, "Familiar 'Small College' Quotations, II: Mark Hopkins and the Log", The Colophon, spring 1938, p. 204.
  • There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free—if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon, until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained—we must fight!—I repeat it, sir, we must fight!! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts, is all that is left us!
    • Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775.—William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, 9th ed., p. 140 (1836, reprinted 1970).
  • Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.
    • Herbert Hoover, address to the 23d Republican national convention, Chicago, Illinois, June 27, 1944.—Official Report of the Proceedings of the Twenty-third Republican National Convention, p. 166 (1944).
  • You have not been mistaken in supposing my views and feeling to be in favor of the abolition of war. Of my dispos[i]tion to maintain peace until its condition shall be made less tolerable than that of war itself, the world has had proofs, and more, perhaps, than it has approved. I hope it is practicable, by improving the mind and morals of society, to lessen the dispos[i]tion to war; but of its abolition I despair.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Noah Worcester (November 26, 1817); in Andrew A. Lipscomb, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 18 (1903), p. 298.
  • Among the calamities of war, may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates, and credulity encourages.
    • Samuel Johnson, The Idler, no. 30, November 11, 1758. A more succinct version is: "The first casualty when war comes is truth", attributed to Senator Hiram Johnson, remarks in the Senate, 1918.—The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases, ed. Burton Stevenson, p. 2445 (1948). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).

Dudley Wright Knox (1877–1960)

  • War is itself a political act with primarily political objects and under the American form of government political officials must necessarily direct its general course.
    • Captain DUDLEY W. KNOX, A History of the United States Navy, chapter 24, final paragraph, p. 274 (1936).

Lin Biao (1908–71)

  • The struggles waged by the different peoples against U.S. imperialism reinforce each other and merge into a torrential worldwide tide of opposition to U.S. imperialism…. It can be split up and defeated. The peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other regions can destroy it piece by piece, some striking at its head and others at its feet. That is why the greatest fear of U.S. imperialism is that people's wars will be launched in different parts of the world … and why it regards people's war as a mortal danger.
    • LIN BIAO, minister of defense, People's Republic of China. Text released September 2, 1965.—Samuel B. Griffith, Peking and People's Wars, p. 102 (1966).

Livy (59 B.C.–A.D. 17)

  • Thus, if there is anyone who is confident that he can advise me as to the best advantage of the state in this campaign which I am about to conduct, let him not refuse his services to the state, but come with me into Macedonia. I will furnish him with his sea-passage, with a horse, a tent, and even travel-funds. If anyone is reluctant to do this and prefers the leisure of the city to the hardships of campaigning, let him not steer the ship from on shore.
    • LIVY, book 44, chapter 22.—Livy, trans. Alfred C. Schlesinger, vol. 13, p. 161 (1951). Lucius Aemilius Paulus is addressing the people at a public meeting. President Franklin Roosevelt attacked armchair generals by citing this and preceding passages at his press conference, March 17, 1942: "Being of an historical turn of mind, [I figured] that probably some poor devil had gone through this process of annoyance in past years, some previous time in history, so I went quite far back and I found [Lucius Aemilius] … it sounds as if it were written in 1942".—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1942, p. 166 (1950).

David Lloyd George (1863–1945)

  • Once blood is shed in a national quarrel reason and right are swept aside by the rage of angry men.
    • DAVID LLOYD GEORGE, War Memoirs, vol. 2, chapter 81, p. 1815 (1942).
  • That's the way it is in war. You win or lose, live or die—and the difference is just an eyelash.
  • The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature. But the Doctrines lately advanced strike at the root of all these provisions, and will deposit the peace of the Country in that Department which the Constitution distrusts as most ready without cause to renounce it. For if the opinion of the President not the facts & proofs themselves are to sway the judgment of Congress, in declaring war, and if the President in the recess of Congress create a foreign mission, appoint the minister, & negociate a War Treaty, without the possibility of a check even from the Senate, untill the measures present alternatives overruling the freedom of its judgment; if again a Treaty when made obliges the Legislature to declare war contrary to its judgment, and in pursuance of the same doctrine, a law declaring war, imposes a like moral obligation, to grant the requisite supplies until it be formally repealed with the consent of the President & Senate, it is evident that the people are cheated out of the best ingredients in their Government, the safeguards of peace which is the greatest of their blessings.
    • James Madison, letter to Thomas Jefferson (April 2, 1798, in Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison vol. 6 (1906), p. 312–13.
  • War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason; and if any thing is to be hoped, every thing ought to be tried.
    • James Madison, "Universal Peace", National Gazette (February 2, 1792), in Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison vol. 6 (1906), p. 88–89. These words are inscribed in the Madison Memorial Hall, Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building.
  • The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.
    • Mao Zedong, letter, January 5, 1930.—Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse-Tung, p. 72 (1966). Mao was quoting from a letter from the Front Committee to the Central Committee, on guerrilla tactics.
  • War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice,—is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.
    • John Stuart Mill, "The Contest in America", Dissertations and Discussions, vol. 1, p. 26 (1868). First published in Fraser's Magazine, February 1862.
  • War challenges virtually every other institution of society—the justice and equity of its economy, the adequacy of its political systems, the energy of its productive plant, the bases, wisdom and purposes of its foreign policy.
  • There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away. There is a time to fight, and that time has now come.
    • Peter Muhlenberg. The precise text of this Lutheran clergyman's sermon in Woodstock, Virginia, in January 1776, does not exist. The quotation above is from Edward W. Hocker, The Fighting Parson of the American Revolution, p. 61 (1936).
  • We have to go along a road covered with blood. We have no other alternative. For us it is a matter of life or death, a matter of living or existing. We have to be ready to face the challenges that await us.
    • Gamal Abdal Nasser, speech to Egypt's National Assembly, Cairo, November 6, 1969, as reported by The Washington Post, November 7, 1969, p. 1.
  • I seriously doubt if we will ever have another war. This is probably the very last one.
    • President Richard Nixon, on-the-record interview with C. L. Sulzberger, March 8, 1971.—The New York Times, March 10, 1971, p. 14.
  • A riot is a spontaneous outburst. A war is subject to advance planning.
    • Richard Nixon, address before the National Association of Manufacturers, New York City, December 8, 1967.—James J. Kilpatrick quoted a transcript in his syndicated column in The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., December 26, 1967, p. A13. Nixon's topic was the "war in our cities".

John Parker (1729–75)

  • Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.
    • JOHN PARKER.—George Stimpson, A Book About American History, p. 109 (1950). Captain Parker said this to his Minutemen troops at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775, as they prepared to meet the British in battle. Inscription on a marker at Lexington green.

Plutarch (46?–c. 120)

  • Paulus Aemilius, on taking command of the forces in Macedonia, and finding them talkative and impertinently busy, as though they were all commanders, issued out his orders that they should have only ready hands and keen swords, and leave the rest to him.
    • PLUTARCH, Plutarch's Lives, trans. John Dryden, rev. A. H. Clough, life of Galba, vol. 5, p. 456 (1859).
  • I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war. I vote no.
    • Jeannette Rankin, casting her vote against the United States entering World War I, in the early hours of April 6, 1917, as reported by The New York Times, April 6, 1917, p. 1.

Jeanette Rankin of Montana was the first woman elected to Congress, where she served 1917–1919 and 1941–1943. Not only did she vote against World War I, she was the only member of Congress to oppose declaring war on Japan in December 1941.

  • I have always said that a conference was held for one reason only, to give everybody a chance to get sore at everybody else. Sometimes it takes two or three conferences to scare up a war, but generally one will do it.
    • Will Rogers, syndicated column, July 5, 1933.—The New York Times, July 6, 1933, p. 23. Disraeli is another who had an unsanguine view of conferences: "The Conference lasted six weeks. It wasted six weeks. It lasted as long as a Carnival, and, like a Carnival, it was an affair of masks and mystification. Our Ministers went to it as men in distressed circumstances go to a place of amusement—to while away the time, with a consciousness of impending failure".—Speech in the House of Commons on Denmark and Germany, vote of censure, July 4, 1864, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 3d series, vol. 176, col. 743.
  • I originated a remark many years ago that I think has been copied more than any little thing that I've every said, and I used it in the FOLLIES of 1922. I said America has a unique record. We never lost a war and we never won a conference in our lives. I believe that we could without any degree of egotism, single-handed lick any nation in the world. But we can't confer with Costa Rica and come home with our shirts on.
    • Will Rogers, Paula McSpadden Love, The Will Rogers Book, p. 177 (1972).

The author was a niece of Will Rogers's and curator of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma.

  • And while I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, campaign speech, Boston, Massachusetts, October 30, 1940.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940, p. 517 (1941).
  • Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come.
    • Carl Sandburg, "The People, Yes", stanza 23, line 23, The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, rev. and expanded ed., p. 464 (1970). First published in 1936 in The People, Yes.

Sydney Smith (1771–1845)

  • For God's sake, do not drag me into another war! I am worn down, and worn out, with crusading and defending Europe, and protecting mankind; I must think a little of myself.
    • SYDNEY SMITH, letter to the Countess Grey, February 19, 1823.—A Memoir of the Rev. Sydney Smith by His Daughter Lady Holland, p. 434 (1874).

Thucydides (c. 460–c. 400 B.C.)

  • Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave. Therefore do not take lightly the perils of war.
    • THUCYDIDES, "The Funeral Speech", The Speeches of Pericles, trans. H. G. Edinger, p. 39 (1979).
  • They said we were soft, that we would not fight, that we could not win. We are not a warlike nation. We do not go to war for gain or for territory; we go to war for principles, and we produce young men like these. I think I told every one of them that I would rather have that medal, the Congressional Medal of Honor, than to be President of the United States.
    • Harry S. Truman, remarks at presentation of the Congressional Medal of Honor to fourteen members of the Navy and Marine Corps, October 5, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1945, p. 375.
  • When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory—must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

    "O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle—be Thou near them! With them—in spirit—we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with anavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it—for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen".
    • Mark Twain, "The War Prayer", Europe and Elsewhere, p. 397–98 (1923). Dictated 1904–1905.
  • … I saw these terrible things,
    and took great part in them.
    • (… quaeque ipse miserrima vidi
      et quorum pars magna fui.)
    • Virgil, The Aeneid (29-19 BC), trans. James H. Mantinband, book 2, lines 5–6, p. 25 (1964). This sentence has also been translated as: "All of which misery I saw, and a great part of which I was". Aeneas was describing the sack of Troy.
  • The War That Will End War.
    • H. G. Wells, book title, 1914. While the phrase "The war to end war" is often associated with Woodrow Wilson, its authorship was claimed by Wells in an article in Liberty, December 29, 1934, p. 4. Bertrand Russell also credited Wells in Portraits from Memory, p. 83 (1956). A cynical version attributed to David Lloyd George is: "This war, like the next war, is a war to end war". See William Safire, Safire's Political Dictionary, p. 777 (1978), for contemporary uses of the phrase.
  • A time will come when a politician who has wilfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own.
    • H. G. Wells, The Salvaging of Civilization (1921), chapter 1, conclusion, p. 40.
  • War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military.
    • Attributed to various Frenchmen including Talleyrand, Clemenceau, and Briand. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). Often heard, "… entrusted to generals".

War and peace[edit]

  • Croesus said to Cambyses; That peace was better than war; because in peace the sons did bury their fathers, but in wars the fathers did bury their sons.
    • Francis Bacon, Apophthegms, New and Old (vol. 13 of The Works of Francis Bacon), ed. James A. Spedding, Robert L. Ellis and Douglas D. Heath, no. 149, p. 359 (1860, reprinted 1969). First published 1625.
  • And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
    • The Bible, Isaiah 2:4.

Jean de Bloch (1836–1902)

  • An analysis of the history of mankind shows that from the year 1496 B.C. to the year 1861 of our era, that is, in a cycle of 3357 years, were but 227 years of peace and 3130 years of war: in other words, were thirteen years of war for every year of peace. Considered thus, the history of the lives of peoples presents a picture of uninterrupted struggle. War, it would appear, is a normal attribute to human life.
    • JEAN DE BLOCH, The Future of War, trans. R. C. Long, p. lxv (1903).
  • In War: Resolution
    In Defeat: Defiance
    In Victory: Magnanimity
    In Peace: Good Will
    • Winston Churchill, The Second World War, p. viii (1948–1954). This motto, the "moral of the work", appeared on p. viii of each of the six volumes in this work.

Norman Cousins (1915–90)

  • War is an invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace with justice.
    • NORMAN COUSINS, Who Speaks for Man?, p. 318 (1953).

John Dryden (1631–1700)

  • Such subtle Covenants shall be made,
    Till Peace it self is War in Masquerade.
    • JOHN DRYDEN, Absalom and Achitophel, part 2, lines 268–69, p. 9 (1682, reprinted 1970). A variant of the second part, "And Peace it self is War in Masquerade", appears earlier in the poem, part 1, line 752, p. 23.

John Foster Dulles (1888–1959)

  • Peace will never be won if men reserve for war their greatest efforts, Peace, too, requires well-directed and sustained sacrificial endeavor. Given that, we can, I believe, achieve the great goal of our foreign policy, that of enabling our people to enjoy in peace the blessings of liberty.
    • JOHN FOSTER DULLES, secretary of state, news conference statement, December 31, 1954.—Department of State Bulletin, January 10, 1955, p. 44.

George Orwell (1903–50)



    • GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four, p. 5 (1949).

These three slogans of the Party were engraved on the Ministry of Truth building.

Louis Pasteur (1822–95)

  • You bring me the deepest joy that can be felt by a man whose invincible belief is that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War, that nations will unite, not to destroy, but to build, and that the future will belong to those who will have done most for suffering humanity.
    • LOUIS PASTEUR, speech at celebration honoring his seventieth birthday, the Sorbonne, Paris, France, December 27, 1892. Pasteur's son read the speech of thanks because of the weakness of his father's voice.—René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, trans. Mrs. R. L. Devonshire, vol. 2, p. 297 (1902). On his 1956 Christmas card, Adlai E. Stevenson used a version of this passage which varies slightly from the arrangement and translation given above: "Not to destroy but to construct, / I hold the unconquerable belief / that science and peace will triumph over ignorance and war / that nations will come together / not to destroy but to construct / and that the future belongs to those / who accomplish most for humanity".
  • Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
    Shovel them under and let me work—
    I am the grass; I cover all.

    And pile them high at Gettysburg
    And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
    Shovel them under and let me work.
    Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
    What place is this?
    Where are we now?

    I am the grass.
    Let me work.
    • Carl Sandburg, "Grass", The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, rev. and expanded ed., p. 136 (1970). First published in 1918 in Cornhuskers.
  • Wars are, of course, as a rule to be avoided; but they are far better than certain kinds of peace.
  • Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.
    • Author unknown. Preamble to the constitution of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.—U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO: Basic Documents, 7th ed., p. 9 (1965). The UNESCO office in Washington, D.C., has identified the author of this sentence both as Clement Richard Attlee, prime minister of Great Britain, and more recently as Archibald MacLeish, chairman of the American delegation to the London conference to draw up the UNESCO constitution, which was adopted in London on November 16, 1945.

George Washington[edit]

  • And as to you, Sir, treacherous in private friendship (for so you have been to me, and that in the day of danger) and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.
    • Thomas Paine, letter to George Washington, July 30, 1796.—The Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Moncure D. Conway, vol. 3, p. 252 (1895).
  • Gentlemen, the character of Washington is among the most cherished contemplations of my life. It is a fixed star in the firmament of great names, shining without twinkling or obscuration, with clear, steady, beneficent light.
    • DANIEL WEBSTER, secretary of state, letter to the New York Committee for the Celebration of the Birthday of Washington, February 20, 1851.—The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 12, p. 261 (1903).


  • Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart

sorrow falls, memory's pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
comes wisdom by the awful grace of God.

    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon. The above lines are from Edith Hamilton, trans., Three Greek Plays, p. 170 (1937). Other translations of this passage from Aeschylus vary.

Robert F. Kennedy, delivering an extemporaneous eulogy to Martin Luther King, Jr., the evening of April 4, 1968, in Indianapolis, Indiana, said, "Aeschylus wrote: 'In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'" These words, lacking "own", have been used as one of the inscriptions at the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery.

  • [The argument of Alcidamas:] Everyone honours the wise. Thus the Parians have honoured Archilochus, in spite of his bitter tongue; the Chians Homer, though he was not their countryman; the Mytilenaeans Sappho, though she was a woman; the Lacedaemonians actually made Chilon a member of their senate, though they are the least literary of men; the inhabitants of Lampsacus gave public burial to Anaxagoras, though he was an alien, and honour him even to this day.
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, book 2, The Complete Works of Aristotle, rev. Oxford trans., ed. Jonathan Barnes, vol. 2, p. 2228–29 (1984).
  • Ask counsel of both times—of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest.
    • Francis Bacon, "Of Great Place", The Essays, or Counsels Civil & Moral of Francis Bacon, p. 48 (1905). Based on the 1625 edition but with modernized spelling.
  • Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.
    • Felix Frankfurter, Henslee v. Union Planters Bank, 335 U.S. 600 (1948) (dissenting).
  • Standing in this presence, mindful of the solemnity of this occasion, feeling the emotions which no one may know until he senses the great weight of responsibility for himself, I must utter my belief in the divine inspiration of the founding fathers.
    • Warren G. Harding, inaugural address, March 4, 1921.—Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States from George Washington, 1789, to Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969, p. 207 (1969). House Doc. 91–142. Harding is credited with originating the phrase founding fathers. Senator Harding's remarks before the Sons and Daughters of the Revolution, Washington, D.C., February 22, 1918, included this sentence: "It is good to meet and drink at the fountains of wisdom inherited from the founding fathers of the Republic".—Address on Washington's Birthday, p. 3 (1918). Senate Doc. 65–180. He also used the phrase in his speech on being officially notified of his nomination for the presidency, Marion, Ohio, July 22, 1920. According to "Of Deathless Remarks…", American Heritage, June 1970, p. 57, his 1918 remarks were "the first use of the phrase that the combined efforts of the experts at the Library of Congress have been able to find".
  • The poet's aim is either to profit or to please, or to blend in one the delightful and the useful. Whatever the lesson you would convey, be brief, that your hearers may catch quickly what is said and faithfully retain it. Every superfluous word is spilled from the too-full memory.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 333–37.—Edward Henry Blakeney, Horace on the Art of Poetry, p. 54 (1928, reprinted 1970). Horace's message is often condensed to "Whatever advice you give, be brief". (Quidquid praecipies, esto brevis.)—line 335.
  • That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.
    • Attributed to John Stuart Mill.—Adlai E. Stevenson, Call to Greatness, p. 102 (1954). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.
    • John Patrick, The Teahouse of the August Moon, act I, scene i, p. 6 (1957). These words are spoken by Sakini, an Okinawan, to the audience. They are repeated in act III, scene iii, and at the conclusion of the play.
  • When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
    • Attributed to Mark Twain in The Reader's Digest (September 1939), p. 22. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). This has been widely reprinted and attributed to Twain, but has never been found in his works, though various Twain groups and the Twain Papers staff have searched for it.


  • Rich widows are the only secondhand goods that sell at first-class prices.
    • Attributed to Benjamin Franklin.—The Home Book of Humorous Quotations, ed. A. K. Adams, p. 378 (1969). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Gentlemen, to the lady without whom I should never have survived for eighty, nor sixty, nor yet thirty years. Her smile has been my lyric, her understanding, the rhythm of the stanza. She has been the spring wherefrom I have drawn the power to write the words. She is the poem of my life.
    • Attributed to JusticeOliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.. Not verified in works about him nor in Magnificent Yankee, the film about him. He expressed a similar sentiment in a letter to Sir Frederick Pollock, May 24, 1929: "For sixty years she made life poetry for me".—Holmes-Pollock Letters, ed. Mark De Wolfe Howe, vol. 2, p. 243 (1941).
  • I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself to this audience. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.
    • John F. Kennedy, remarks at a press luncheon, Paris, France, June 2, 1961. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 429.
  • An incautious congressman playfully ran his hand over Nick's shiny scalp and commented, "It feels just like my wife's backside". Nick instantly repeated the gesture. "So it does", he replied.
    • Nicholas Longworth. This episode was recounted in James Brough, Princess Alice, p. 273 (1975). A slightly different version is repeated in an article by E. Raymond Lewis in Capitol Studies, fall 1975, p. 125, and still later in R. B. and L. V. Cheney, Kings of the Hill, p. 157 (1983).


  • If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
    • Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, March 31, 1776.—Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, vol. 1, p. 370 (1963).
  • Next to God, we are indebted to women, first for life itself, and then for making it worth having.
  • They talk about a woman's sphere as though it had a limit;
    There's not a place in Earth or Heaven,
    There's not a task to mankind given,
    There's not a blessing or a woe,
    There's not a whispered yes or no,
    There's not a life, or death, or birth,
    That has a feather's weight or worth—

Without a woman in it.

    • C. E. Bowman, "The Sphere of Woman".—Joseph M. Chapple, Heart Throbs in Prose and Verse, p. 343 (1905). A similar version:
      They talk about 'a woman's sphere'
      As though it has a limit;
      There's not a spot on sea or shore,
      In sanctum, office, shop or store,
      Without a woman in it.

Author unknown.—Jennie Day Haines, Sovereign Woman Versus Mere Man, p. 50 (1905).

  • I confess that I do not understand the principle on which the power to fix a minimum for the wages of women can be denied by those who admit the power to fix a maximum for their hours of work. I fully assent to the proposition that here as elsewhere the distinctions of the law are distinctions of degree, but I perceive no difference in the kind or degree of interference with liberty, the only matter with which we have any concern, between the one case and the other. The bargain is equally affected whichever half you regulate…. It will need more than the Nineteenth Amendment to convince me that there are no differences between men and women, or that legislation cannot take those differences into account.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., dissenting, Adkins, et al., Constituting the Minimum Wage Board of the District of Columbia, v. Children's Hospital of the District of Columbia; Same v. Lyons, 261 U.S. 569–70 (1923).
  • A Nation spoke to a Nation,
    A Queen sent word to a Throne:
    'Daughter am I in my mother's house,
    But mistress in my own.
    The gates are mine to open,
    As the gates are mine to close,
    And I set my house in order,'
    Said our Lady of the Snows.
    • Rudyard Kipling, "Our Lady of the Snows", stanza 1, The Collected Works of Rudyard Kipling: The Seven Seas, The Five Nations, The Years Between, vol. 26, p. 227 (1941, reprinted 1970). The poem is about the Canadian preferential tariff of 1897.
  • On one issue, at least, men and women agree: they both distrust women.
  • Patience makes a woman beautiful in middle age.
    • Attributed to Elliot Paul. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • And behind every man who's a failure there's a woman, too!
    • John Ruge, cartoon caption, Playboy, March 1967, p. 138.
  • One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.
    • Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance (1893), act I, in The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, vol. 7, p. 197 (1923). Lord Illingworth is speaking.


  • The day is short, the labor long, the workers are idle, and reward is great, and the Master is urgent.
    • Aboth, 2:15, saying of Rabbi Tarfon. Pirkay Avot, often known in English as the "Chapters of the Fathers", is the best known of the books of the Mishnah, first part of the Talmud. Translations vary; that above is from A Treasury of Jewish Quotations, ed. Joseph L. Baron, p. 277 (1956).
  • Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.
    • Attributed to Sir James Matthew Barrie, in The International Encyclopedia of Quotations, comp. John P. Bradley, Leo F. Daniels, and Thomas C. Jones, p. 781 (1978). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • The most unhappy of all men is the man who cannot tell what he is going to do, who has got no work cut-out for him in the world, and does not go into it. For work is the grand cure of all the maladies and miseries that ever beset mankind,—honest work, which you intend getting done.
    • Thomas Carlyle, inaugural address as rector of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, April 2, 1866.—Carlyle, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, vol. 6 (vol. 29 of The Works of Thomas Carlyle), p. 455 (1899, reprinted 1969).
  • Do the day's work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but don't be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but don't be a demagogue. Don't hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don't hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Don't hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.
    • Calvin Coolidge, speech to the Massachusetts state Senate on being elected its president, Boston, Massachusetts, January 7, 1914.—Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts, p. 7–8 (1919).

Eric Hoffer (1902–83)

  • Our greatest weariness comes from work not done.
    • ERIC HOFFER, "Thoughts of Eric Hoffer", Including: 'Absolute Faith Corrupts Absolutely,'" The New York Times Magazine, April 25, 1971, p. 55.

Elbert Hubbard (1856–1915)

  • If you work for a man, in heaven's name work for him!

If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him—speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of the time, and the rest of the time work against him. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.

    • ELBERT HUBBARD, "Get Out or Get in Line", Selected Writings of Elbert Hubbard, p. 59–60 (1928).
  • In the Great Society, work shall be an outlet for man's interests and desires. Each individual shall have full opportunity to use his capacities in employment which satisfies personally and contributes generally to the quality of the Nation's life.
    • President Lyndon B. Johnson, Manpower Report of the President, March 5, 1965. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 1, p. 262.
  • I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
    • Attributed to Helen Keller, Charles L. Wallis, The Treasure Chest, p. 240 (1983). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • As good play for nothing, you know, as work for nothing.
    • Sir Walter Scott, letter to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, December 30, 1808.—John Gibson Lockhart, The Life of Sir Walter Scott, vol. 3, p. 144 (1902, reprinted 1983). Another use of this proverb was attributed, in an obituary, to Sir Alexander Cockburn, Lord Chief Justice of England. "He subsequently acquired a large practice in London in railway and election cases. Although he did his best for his clients, he was careful that they should do their duty by him, and the story is told that on one occasion, when an election committee met, Mr. Cockburn, the counsel for one of the parties, was absent because his fee had not accompanied the brief and the only message left was that he had gone to the Derby, with the remark that 'a man might as well play for nothing as work for nothing.'"—Canada Law Journal, January 1, 1881, p. 11.

John Smith (c. 1580–1631)

  • You must obey this now for a Law, that he that will not worke shall not eate (except by sicknesse he be disabled:) for the labours of thirtie or fortie honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintaine an hundred and fiftie idle loyterers.
    • Captain JOHN SMITH, advice to his company when he was governor of Jamestown Colony, Virginia, 1608.—Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England & The Summer Isles, vol. 1, chapter 10, p. 174 (1907). The preceding paragraph notes that "six houres each day was spent in worke, the rest in Pastime and merry exercises, but the untowardnesse of the greatest number caused the President [to] advise as followeth".
  • Drive a nail home and clinch it so faithfully that you can wake up in the night and think of your work with satisfaction,—a work at which you would not be ashamed to invoke the Muse.


  • Give me matter, and I will construct a world out of it!
    • Immanuel Kant, "Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens", Preface, Kant's Cosmogony, trans. W. Hastie, p. 29 (1900).
  • The world is large, when its weary leagues two loving hearts divide;But the world is small, when your enemy is loose on the other side.
    • John Boyle O'Reilly, "Distance", Watchwords from John Boyle O'Reilly, ed. Katherine E. Conway, p. 16 (1892). These lines were quoted by Senator John F. Kennedy in a speech at the Al Smith Memorial Dinner in New York City, October 19, 1960, and, as president, to the Irish Parliament, Dublin, Ireland, June 28, 1963.
  • We have it in our power to begin the world over again.
    • Thomas Paine, "Common Sense", conclusion, The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Philip S. Foner, vol. 1, p. 45 (1945). Originally published in 1776. President Ronald Reagan quoted these words in a televised presidential campaign debate with Walter F. Mondale, October 7, 1984.
  • The world of the future will not flourish behind walls—no matter who builds them and no matter what their purpose. A world divided economically must inevitably be a world divided politically. As Secretary of State, I cannot contemplate that prospect with anything but deep disquiet.
    • William Pierce Rogers, secretary of state, address before the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, Washington, D.C., May 1, 1972.—The Washington Post, May 22, 1972, p. A20.
  • Physicists and astronomers see their own implications in the world being round, but to me it means that only one-third of the world is asleep at any given time and the other two-thirds is up to something.
    • Dean Rusk, secretary of state, speech to the American Bar Association, Atlanta, Georgia, October 22, 1964, as reported by The Atlanta Constitution, October 23, 1964, p. 10.
  • For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
    Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
    Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
    Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
    Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
    From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
    Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
    With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;
    Till the war-drums throbb'd, no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
    In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
    There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
    And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
    • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Locksley Hall", verses 60–65, The Poetical Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, p. 111 (1897).

World War II[edit]

  • No army has ever done so much with so little.
    • Douglas MacArthur, as reported by The New York Times, April 11, 1942, p. 1. He referred to the fall of Bataan.
  • People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil…. The hour of your redemption is here…. Rally to me…. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike. Strike at every favourable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of Divine God points the way. Follow in His name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory.
    • Douglas MacArthur, speech to the people of the Philippines, on Leyte, October 17, 1944.—MacArthur, Reminiscences, p. 216–17 (1964).
  • The time has come when we must proceed with the business of carrying the war to the enemy, not permitting the greater portion of our armed forces and our valuable material to be immobilized within the continental United States.
    • George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff, as reported by the Washington, D.C., Times-Herald, March 3, 1942, p. 1.
  • Our spirit of enjoyment was stronger than our spirit of sacrifice. We wanted to have more than we wanted to give. We tried to spare effort, and met disaster.
    • Henri Pétain.—Attributed to him in a caption, which said, "Frenchmen … heard Marshal Pétain pronounce this requiem over a lost France". The caption accompanies an article, "Danger: Men Not at Work!" by Hatton W. Summers, Nation's Business, May 1941, p. 15.
  • The frontier of America is on the Rhine.
    • Attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, by a member or members of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, meeting in executive session at the White House, January 31, 1939.—Whitney H. Shepardson and William O. Scroggs, The United States in World Affairs, p. 104 (1940). Reports of this remark caused an outcry by American isolationists and in the German press, while they gave courage to the British and French. Roosevelt vehemently denied the remark, calling it a "deliberate lie" at his press conference on February 3.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1939, p. 113 (1941). Representative John A. Martin referred to this in remarks in the House during a discussion of building military airplanes: "A controversy has been raging over an alleged private remark of the President that the frontier of America is on the Rhine. Whether he said it or not, the frontier of America has been on the Rhine, and beyond. An American Army has trod the soil of Germany. The American frontier has been on the coasts of Europe, of Africa, and of Asia, when those coasts were vastly more distant from ours than they are today".—Congressional Record, February 14, 1939, vol. 84, p. 1394.
  • In time of this grave national danger, when all excess income should go to win the war, no American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, message to Congress, April 27, 1942.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1942, p. 221 (1950).
  • Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, address to a joint session of Congress asking that a state of war be declared between the United States and Japan, December 8, 1941.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941, p. 514 (1950).
  • There is no doubt that the absence of a second front in Europe considerably relieves the position of the German Army, nor can there be any doubt that the appearance of a second front on the Continent of Europe—and undoubtedly this will appear in the near future—will essentially relieve the position of our armies to the detriment of the German Army.
    • Joseph Stalin, radio address from Moscow, November 6, 1941.—Vital Speeches of the Day, December 1, 1941, p. 102.
  • What place does the possibility of a second front occupy in the Soviet estimates of the current situation? A most important place; one might say a place of first-rate importance.
    • Joseph Stalin, letter to Henry C. Cassidy, representative of The Associated Press in Moscow, October 4, 1942.—The New York Times, October 5, 1942, p. 1.
  • I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
    • Attributed to Isoroku Yamamoto, a Japanese admiral in World War II, in the motion picture Tora, Tora, Tora.—Twentieth Century Fox, Tora, Tora, Tora; Dialogue and Cutting Continuity, reel 18, p. 16 (1970). The screenplay was written by Gordon W. Prange, based on his unpublished material, and by Ladislas Farago, who had published his The Broken Seal in 1967. The sentence is not in Farago's book, nor did it appear later in Prange's book, At Dawn We Slept, published posthumously in 1981. No evidence exists that these words were Yamamoto's. However, in a letter to Ogata Taketora, dated January 9, 1942, Yamamoto wrote, "A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; in fact, to have it pointed out is more a matter of shame".—Hirosuki Asawa, The Reluctant Admiral, trans. John Bester, p. 285 (1979).
  • There are two kinds of mines; one is the personnel mine and the other is the vehicular mine. When we come to a mine field our infantry attacks exactly as if it were not there. The losses we get from personnel mines we consider only equal to those we would have gotten from machine guns and artillery if the Germans had chosen to defend that particular area with strong bodies of troops instead of with mine fields. The attacking infantry does not set off the vehicular mines, so after they have penetrated to the far side of the field they form a bridgehead, after which the engineers come up and dig out channels through which our vehicles can go.
    • Georgy K. Zhukov. Dwight D. Eisenhower attributes this statement to the Russian marshal in Crusade in Europe (1948), p. 467–68, and adds, "I had a vivid picture of what would happen to any American or British commander if he pursued such tactics, and I had an even more vivid picture of what the men in any one of our divisions would have had to say about the matter had we attempted to make such a practice a part of our tactical doctrine. Americans assess the cost of war in terms of human lives, the Russians in the over-all drain on the nation".

Writers and writing[edit]

Rudolf Besier (1878–1942)

  • When that passage was written only God and Robert Browning understood it. Now only God understands it.
    • RUDOLF BESIER, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, act II, p. 66 (1932). Robert Browning is speaking.
  • The original style is not the style which never borrows of any one, but that which no other person is capable of reproducing.
    • (L'écrivain original n'est pas celui qui n'imite personne, mais celui que personne ne peut imiter.)
    • François René de Chateaubriand, The Genius of Christianity (Génie du Christianisme), trans. Charles I. White, part 2, book 1, chapter 3, p. 221 (1856, reprinted 1976). This sentence has also been translated as: "The original writer is not he who refrains from imitating others, but he who can be imitated by none".—The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3d ed., p. 141 (1979).
  • If I let my fingers wander idly over the keys of a typewriter it might happen that my screed made an intelligible sentence. If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters they might write all the books in the British Museum.
    • Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World, chapter 4, p. 72 (1928). Eddington calls this "a rather classical illustration" of chance. A discussion of this concept is in William Ralph Bennett, Scientific and Engineering Problem-solving with the Computer, chapter 4, p. 105 (1976). A similar quotation was attributed, apparently incorrectly, to [Thomas Henry?] Huxley by Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe, p. 4 (1931).
  • If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism. If you steal from two, it's research.
    • Wilson Mizner.—John Burke (Richard O'Connor), Rogue's Progress: The Fabulous Adventures of Wilson Mizner, chapter 9, p. 167 (1975).
  • The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.
    • Blaise Pascal, Pensées, The Provincial Letters, provincial letter 16, p. 571 (1941). See also Oratory.
  • Fine writers should split hairs together, and sit side by side, like friendly apes, to pick the fleas from each other's fur.
    • Logan Pearsall Smith, "Afterthoughts", All Trivia: Trivia, More Trivia, After-thoughts, Last Words, p. 150 (1933).
  • Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another. The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbor's, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.
    • Attributed to Voltaire. Tryon Edwards, Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 392 (1891). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • I am more or less familiar with the works of the members of this Institute. I have worked in the same field. I have felt that quick comradeship of letters which is a very real comradeship, because it is a comradeship of thought and of principle.
    • Woodrow Wilson, "That Quick Comradeship of Letters", address at the Institute of France, Paris, France, May 10, 1919.—The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Ray Stannard Baker and William E. Dodd, vol. 5, p. 482 (1927).
  • The imaginative artist willy-nilly influences his time. If he understands his responsibility and acts on it—taking the art seriously always, himself never quite—he can make a contribution equal to, if different from, that of the scientist, the politician, and the jurist. The anarchic artist so much in vogue now—asserting with vehemence and violence that he writes only for himself, grubbing in the worst seams of life—can do damage. But he can also be so useful in breaking up obsolete molds, exposing shams, and crying out the truth, that the broadest freedom of art seems to me necessary to a country worth living in.
    • Herman Wouk.—Kirk Polking. "An Exclusive Interview with Herman Wouk", Writer's Digest, September 1966, p. 50.


  • It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.