A demagogue or rabble-rouser is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of people in order to gain power and promote a political or personal agenda.
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- Demosthenes: A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.
- The demagogue is usually sly, a detractor of others, a professor of humility and disinterestedness, a great stickler for equality as respects all above him, a man who acts in corners, and avoids open and manly expositions of his course, calls blackguards gentlemen, and gentlemen folks, appeals to passions and prejudices rather than to reason, and is in all respects, a man of intrigue and deception, of sly cunning and management.
- James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat (1838) On Demagogues
- Unfortunately, the opinion has gone forth that no politician dares to be the advocate of peace when the question of war is mooted. That will be an evil hour — the sand of our republic will be nearly run — when it shall be in the power of any demagogue, or fanatic, to raise a war-clamor, and control the legislation of the country. The evils of war must fall upon the people, and with them the war-feeling should originate. We, their representatives, are but a mirror to reflect the light, and never should become a torch to fire the pile.
- Jefferson Davis, Speech in Congress (1846)
- God give us men. The time demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and willing hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And dam his treacherous flatteries without winking;
Tall men, sun-browned, who live above the fog
In public duty and in private thinking.
- Josiah Gilbert Holland, Wanted, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
- A demagogue is a person with whom we disagree as to which gang should mismanage the country.
- Whilst the exploits of the conqueror and the intrigues of the demagogue are faithfully preserved through a succession of ages, the persevering and unobtrusive efforts of genius, developing the best blessings of the Deity to man, are often consigned to oblivion.
- David Mushet, as cited in Industrial Biography; Iron-workers and Tool-makers, by Samuel Smiles, p. 189