Chauncey Depew

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A pessimist is a man who thinks all women are bad. An optimist is a man who hopes they are.

Chauncey Mitchell Depew (April 23, 1834 - April 5, 1928) was an American attorney, businessman, and Republican politician. He is best remembered for his two terms as United States Senator from New York and for his work for Cornelius Vanderbilt, as an attorney and as president of the New York Central Railroad System.


  • The rays from this beacon, lighting this gateway to the continent, will welcome the poor and the persecuted with the hope and promise of homes and citizenship. It will teach them that there is room and brotherhood for all who will support our institutions and aid in our development; but that those who come to disturb our peace and dethrone our laws are aliens and enemies forever.
    • Oration at the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty (28 october 1886)
  • I saw Mr. Lincoln a number of times during the canvass for his second election. The characteristic which struck me most was his superabundance of common sense. His power of managing men, of deciding and avoiding difficult questions, surpassed that of any man I ever met. A keen insight of human nature had been cultivated by the trials and struggles of his early life. He knew the people and how to reach them better than any man of his time. I heard him tell a great many stories, many of which would not do exactly for the drawing-room; but for the person he wished to reach, and the object he desired to accomplish with the individual, the story did more than any argument could have done.
    • Testimony XXIV in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (1886) edited by Allen Thorndike Rice
  • A pessimist is a man who thinks all women are bad. An optimist is a man who hopes they are.
    • As quoted in FPA Book of Quotations : A New Collection of Famous Sayings (1952) by Franklin Pierce Adams
  • I get my exercise acting as pallbearer to my friends who exercise.
    • As quoted in Four Talks for Bibliophiles (1958) by George Allen, p. 70
  • If you will refrain from telling any lies about the Republican Party, I'lll promise not to tell the truth about the Democrats.
    • As quoted in "If Elected I Promise … " Stories and Gems of Wisdom by and About Politicians (1969) by John F. Parker
  • One of the characters of the Senate, and one of the upheavals of the Populist movement was Senator Jeff. Davis, of Arkansas. Davis was loudly, vociferously, and clamorously a friend of the people. Precisely what he did to benefit the people was never very clear, but if we must take his word for it, he was the only friend the people had. Among his efforts to help the people was to denounce big business of all kinds and anything which gave large employment or had great capital. I think that in his own mind the ideal state would have been made of small landowners and an occasional lawyer. He himself was a lawyer.
    • My Memories of Eighty Years (1922), p. 184
  • Something must be done, and that speedily, to bridge the widening chasm between the Executive and the Congress. Our experience with President Wilson has demonstrated this. As a self-centered autocrat, confident of himself and suspicious of others, hostile to advice or discussion, he became the absolute master of the Congress while his party was in the majority. The Congress, instead of being a co-ordinate branch, was really in session only to accept, adopt and put into laws the imperious will of the president. When, however, the majority changed, there being no confidence between the executive and the legislative branch of the government, the necessary procedure was almost paralyzed. The president was unyielding and the Congress insisted upon the recognition of its constitutional rights. Even if the president is, as McKinley was, in close and frequent touch with the Senate and the House of Representatives, the relation is temporary and unequal, and not what it out to be, automatic. Happily we have started a budget system; but the Cabinet should have seats on the floor of the Houses, and authority to answer questions and participate in debates.
    • My Memories of Eighty Years (1922), p. 189
  • There are millions of stories in the world, and several hundred of them good ones.
    • My Memories of Eighty Years (1922), p. 292
  • A witty illustration or an apt story will accomplish more than columns of argument.
    • My Memories of Eighty Years (1922), p. 318
  • While conditions in the United States because of the World War are serious, they are so much better than in the years following the close of the Civil War, that we who have had the double experience can be greatly encouraged. Then one-half of our country was devastated, its industries destroyed or paralyzed; now we are united and stronger in every way. Then we had a paper currency and a dangerous inflation, now we are on a gold standard and with an excellent banking and credit system. The development of our resources and wonderful inventions and discoveries since the Civil War place us in the foremost position to enter upon world commerce when all other nations have come as they must to co-operation and co-ordination upon lines for the preservation of peace and the promotion of international prosperity.
    • My Memories of Eighty Years (1922), p. 352

Quotes about Depew

  • "He is one of the foremost orators in the country, and as an after-dinner speaker is unrivaled. He charms a cultivated audience by his subtle humor, and a general audience by his flowing wit; is, in fact, so flexible that he can readily and easily adapt himself to circumstances."
    • Allen Thorndike Rice in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (1886), p. 637
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