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1942 war propaganda poster by Jean Carlu for the U.S. Government

Labor is work of any kind

  • The labor movement was the development of a collective organization of working people
  • A labor union is an association of wage-earners meant to maintain or improve conditions of employment


  • No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair. It began with a rally on May 4, 1886, but the consequences are still being felt today. Although the rally is included in American history textbooks, very few present the event accurately or point out its significance.
    • William J. Adelman "The Haymarket Affair". Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  • Measure not the work
    Until the day's out and the labour done,
    Then bring your gauges.
  • Such hath it been—shall be—beneath the sun
    The many still must labour for the one.
    • Lord Byron, The Corsair (1814), Canto I, Stanza 8.
  • Labor is discovered to be the grand conqueror, enriching and building up nations more surely than the proudest battles.
  • The consistent anarchist, then, should be a socialist, but a socialist of a particular sort. He will not only oppose alienated and specialized labor and look forward to the appropriation of capital by the whole body of workers, but he will also insist that this appropriation be direct, not exercised by some elite force acting in the name of the proletariat.
  • Personally, I have nothing against work, particularly when performed, quietly and unobtrusively, by someone else. I just don't happen to think it's an appropriate subject for an "ethic."
    • Barbara Ehrenreich, "Goodbye to the Work Ethic" (1988), in The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (1991).
  • He who understands the limits of life knows how easy it is to procure enough to remove the pain of want and make the whole life complete and perfect. Hence he has no longer any need of things which are not to be won save by labor and conflict.
    • Epicurus, “Principal Doctrines,” 21
  • Every employee in an undertaking, then, takes a larger or smaller share in the work of administration, and has, therefore, to use and display his administrative faculties. This is why we often see men, who are specially gifted, gradually rise from the lowest to the highest level of the industrial hierarchy, although they have only had an elementary education. But young men, who begin practical work as engineers soon after leaving industrial schools, are in a particularly good position both for learning administration and for showing their ability in this direction, for in administration, as in all other branches of industrial activity, a man’s work is judged by its results.
    • Henri Fayol, (1900) Henri Fayol addressed his colleagues in the mineral industry 23 June 1900.
  • The idea that to make a man work you've got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We've done that for so long that we've forgotten there's any other way.
  • For as labor cannot produce without the use of land, the denial of the equal right to the use of land is necessarily the denial of the right of labor to its own produce.
    • Henry George, Progress and Poverty (1879), Book VII, Ch. 1.
  • If little labour, little are our gaines:
    Man's fortunes are according to his paines.
  • To labour is the lot of man below;
    And when Jove gave us life, he gave us woe.
  • The highest reward that God gives us for good work, is the ability to do better work.
  • I've had the best possible chance of learning that what the working-classes really need is to be allowed some part in the direction of public affairs, Doctor—to develop their abilities, their understanding and their self-respect.
    • Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, English adaptation by Max Faber (1970), act II, p. 28. Mr. Hovstad is speaking.
  • I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that the working men are the basis of all governments, for the plain reason that they are the more numerous, and as you added that those were the sentiments of the gentlemen present, representing not only the working class, but citizens of other callings than those of the mechanic, I am happy to concur with you in these sentiments, not only of the native born citizens, but also of the Germans and foreigners from other countries.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech to Germans at Cincinnati, Ohio (February 12, 1861) [Commercial version]; in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 4, p. 202.
  • In the early days of the world, the Almighty said to the first of our race "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread"; and since then, if we except the light and the air of heaven, no good thing has been, or can be enjoyed by us, without having first cost labour. And inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have labored, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.
    • Abraham Lincoln, fragments of a tariff discussion (c. December 1, 1847); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 1, p. 407–8.
  • It is better, then, to save the work while it is begun. You have done the labor; maintain it—keep it. If men choose to serve you, go with them; but as you have made up your organization upon principle, stand by it; for, as surely as God reigns over you, and has inspired your mind, and given you a sense of propriety, and continues to give you hope, so surely will you still cling to these ideas, and you will at last come back after your wanderings, merely to do your work over again.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Chicago, Illinois (July 10, 1858); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 498.
  • Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
    • Abraham Lincoln, First State of the Union Address (December 3, 1861); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 5, p. 52.
  • The most notable feature of a disturbance in your city last summer, was the hanging of some working people by other working people. It should never be so. The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds.
    • Abraham Lincoln, reply to New York Workingmen's Democratic Republican Association (March 21, 1864); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 7, p. 259.
  • From labor there shall come forth rest.
  • Capital is dead labor,that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.
  • The man who by his labour gets
       His bread, in independent state,
    Who never begs, and seldom eats,
       Himself can fix or change his fate.
    • Matthew Prior (1664–1721), The Old Gentry (posthumous), St. 5.
  • What would you do if your country's welfare depended on labor? When a ship is in a storm it requires one captain.
    • Fritz Sauckel, To Leon Goldensohn, February 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History (2004), p. 209.
  • Labor in this country is independent and proud. It has not to ask the patronage of capital, but capital solicits the aid of labor.
    • Daniel Webster, A discourse, delivered at Plymouth, December 22, 1820. In commemoration of the first settlement of New-England.
  • They are usually denominated labor-saving machines, but it would be more just to call them labor-doing machines.
    • Daniel Webster, remarks in the Senate (March 12, 1838); The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), vol. 8, p. 177.
  • Nothing tends to materialize man and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind more than the extreme division of labor.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 423-25.
  • Labour in vain; or coals to Newcastle.
    • Anon. In a sermon to the people of Queen-Hith. Advertised in the Daily Courant, Oct. 6, 1709. Published in Paternoster Row, London. "Coals to Newcastle," or "from Newcastle," found in Heywood—If you Know Not Me, Part II. (1606). Gaunt—Bills of Mortality. (1661). Middleton—Phœnix, Act I, scene 5. R. Thoresby—Correspondence. Letter June 29, 1682. Owls to Athens. (Athenian coins were stamped with the owl.) Aristophanes—Aves. 301. Diogenes Laertius—Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Plato, XXXII. You are importing pepper into Hindostan. From the Bustan of Sadi.
  • Qui laborat, orat.
  • Qui orat et laborat, cor levat ad Deum cum manibus.
    • He who prays and labours lifts his heart to God with his hands.
    • St. Bernard, Ad sororem. A similar expression is found in the works of Gregory the Great—Moral in Libr. Job, Book XVIII. Also in Pseudo-Hieron, in Jerem., Thren. III. 41. See also "What worship, for example, is there not in mere washing!" Carlyle—Past and Present, Chapter XV., referring to "Work is prayer".
  • Not all the labor of the earth
    Is done by hardened hands.
  • And yet without labour there were no ease, no rest, so much as conceivable.
  • Labor is discovered to be the grand conqueror, enriching and building up nations more surely than the proudest battles.
  • Vulgo enim dicitur, Jucundi acti labores: nec male Euripides: concludam, si potero, Latine: Græcum enim hunc versum nostis omnes: Suavis laborum est præteritorum memoria.
    • It is generally said, "Past labors are pleasant," Euripides says, for you all know the Greek verse, "The recollection of past labors is pleasant."
    • Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, II. 32.
  • A truly American sentiment recognises the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.
    • Grover Cleveland, letter accepting the nomination for President. Aug. 18, 1884.
  • When admirals extoll'd for standing still,
    Of doing nothing with a deal of skill.
  • Honest labour bears a lovely face.
  • Labour itself is but a sorrowful song,
    The protest of the weak against the strong.
  • It is so far from being needless pains, that it may bring considerable profit, to carry Charcoals to Newcastle.
    • Thomas Fuller, Pisgah, Sight of Palestine (Ed. 1650), p. 128. Worthies, p. 302. (Ed. 1661).
  • For as labor cannot produce without the use of land, the denial of the equal right to the use of land is necessarily the denial of the right of labor to its own produce.
  • How blest is he who crowns in shades like these,
    A youth of labour with an age of ease.
  • Vitam perdidi laboricose agendo.
    • I have spent my life laboriously doing nothing.
    • Quoted by Grotius on his death bed.
  • If little labour, little are our gaines:
    Man's fortunes are according to his paines.
  • To labour is the lot of man below;
    And when Jove gave us life, he gave us woe.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book X, line 78. Pope's translation.
  • Our fruitless labours mourn,
    And only rich in barren fame return.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book X, line 46. Pope's translation.
  • With fingers weary and worn,
    With eyelids heavy and red,
    A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
    Plying her needle and thread.
  • Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam
    Multa tulit fecitque puer, sudavit et alsit.
    • He who would reach the desired goal must, while a boy, suffer and labor much and bear both heat and cold.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), CCCCXII.
  • O laborum
    Dulce lenimen.
    • O sweet solace of labors.
    • Horace, Carmina, I. 32. 14.
  • In silvam ligna ferre.
    • To carry timber into the wood.
    • Horace, Satires, I. 10. 24.
  • Cur quæris quietem, quam natus sis ad laborem?
    • Why seekest thou rest, since thou art born to labor?
    • Thomas á Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, II. 10. 1.
  • The heights by great men reached and kept
    Were not attained by sudden flight,
    But they, while l heir companions slept,
    Were toiling upward in the night.
  • Taste the joy
    That springs from labor.
    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Masque of Pandora, Part VI. In the Garden. "From labor there shall come forth rest."--Longfellow—To a Child, line 162.
  • Labor est etiam ipsa voluptas.
  • Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
    Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
    The emptiness of ages in his face,
    And on his back the burden of the world.
    • Edwin Markham, The Man with the Hoe. Written after seeing Millet's picture "Angelus".
  • But now my task is smoothly done,
    I can fly, or I can run.
  • Lo! all life this truth declares,
    Laborare est orare;
    And the whole earth rings with prayers.
  • Labor is life! 'Tis the still water faileth;
    Idleness ever despaireth, bewaileth;
    Keep the watch wound, for the dark rust assaileth.
  • Labor is rest—from the sorrows that greet us;
    Rest from all petty vexations that meet us,
    Rest from sin-promptings that ever entreat us,
    Rest from the world-sirens that hire us to ill.
    Work—and pure slumbers shall wait on thy pillow;
    Work—thou shalt ride over Care's coming billow;
    Lie not down wearied 'neath Woe's weeping willow!
    Work with a stout heart and resolute will!
  • Dum vires annique sinunt, tolerate labores.
    Jam veniet tacito curva senecta pede.
    • While strength and years permit, endure labor; soon bent old age will come with silent foot.
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, II. 669.
  • And all labor without any play, boys,
    Makes Jack a dull boy in the end.
  • Grex venalium.
    • The herd of hirelings. (A venal pack.)
    • Plautus, Cistellaria, IV. 2. 67.
  • Oleum et operam perdidi.
    • I have lost my oil and my labor. (Labored in vain.)
    • Plautus, Pœnulus, I. 2. 119.
  • The man who by his labour gets
    His bread, in independent state,
    Who never begs, and seldom eats,
    Himself can fix or change his fate.
  • Many faint with toil,
    That few may know the cares and woe of sloth.
  • Labour of love.
    • I Thessalonians. I. 3.
  • With starving labor pampering idle waste;
    To tear at pleasure the defected land.
  • The labourer is worthy of his reward.
    • I Timothy. V. 18; Luke. X. 7. (hire).
  • Clamorous pauperism feasteth
    While honest Labor, pining, hideth his sharp ribs.
  • Labor omnia vincit improbus.
    • Stubborn labor conquers everything.
    • Virgil, Georgics (c. 29 BC), I. 145.
  • Too long, that some may rest,
    Tired millions toil unblest.
  • Labor in this country is independent and proud. It has not to ask the patronage of capital, but capital solicits the aid of labor.
  • Ah, little recks the laborer,
    How near his work is holding him to God,
    The loving Laborer through space and time.
  • Ah vitam perdidi operse nihil agendo.
    • Ah, my life is lost in laboriously doing nothing.
    • Josiah Woodward, Fair Warnings to a Careless World, p. 97. Ed. 1736, quoting Merick Casaubon.

Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 164-165.
  • The power of arbitrarily dismissing those in one's employ, is a power exercised in a great degree over a vast number of persons in this country, without their having any redress at law. Put the case of a day labourer or ordinary servant. You may refuse to give him a character, and he has no redress. If you give him a false character, he has the means of redress, but that is of a very different kind. And this is the law of the land.
    • Shadwell, V.-C, Ranger v. Great Western Rail. Co. (1838), 2 Jur. (0. S.) 789.
  • The possession of the servant is the possession of the master.
    • Hide, C.J., King v. Burgess (1663), Ray. (Sir Thos.) Rep. 85.
  • Apprentices and servants are characters perfectly distinct: the one receives instruction, the other a stipulated price for his labour.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., The King v. Inhabitants of St. Paul's, Bedford (1797), 6 T. R. 454.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him. There is always work, and tools to work withal, for those who will.
  • Let parents who hate their offspring rear them to hate labor, and to inherit riches; and before long they will be stung by every vice, racked by its poison, and damned by its penalty.
  • Blessed is the man who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness. Know thy work, and do it; and work at it like Hercules. One monster there is in the world, the idle man.
  • Labor is sweet, for Thou hast toiled,
    And care is light, for Thou hast cared;
    Let not our works with self be soiled,
    Nor in unsimple ways ensnared.
    Through life's long day and death's dark night,
    O gentle Jesus! be our light.
  • No man is base who does a true work; for true action is the highest being. No man is miserable that does a true work; for right action is the highest happiness. No man is isolated that does a true work; for useful action is the highest harmony — it is the highest harmony with nature and with souls — it is living association with men — and it is practical fellowship with God.
  • Man must work. That is certain as the sun. But he may work grudgingly, or he may work gratefully; he may work as a man, or he may work as a machine. He cannot always choose his work, but he can do it in a generous temper, and with an up-looking heart. There is no work so rude, that he may not exalt it; there is no work so impassive, that he may not breathe a soul into it; there is no work so dull, that he may not enliven it.
  • A man's labors must pass like the sunrises and sunsets of the world. The next thing, not the last, must be his care.
  • Labor is not, as some have erroneously supposed, a penal clause of the original curse. There was labor, bright, healthful, unfatiguing, in unfallen Paradise. By sin, labor became drudgery — the earth was restrained from her spontaneous fertility, and the strong arm of the husbandman was required, not to develop, but to "subdue" it. But labor in itself is noble, and is necessary for the ripe unfolding of the highest life.
  • Labor is the true alchemist that beats out in patient transmutation the baser metals into gold.
  • God does not give excellence to men but as the reward of labor.
  • Nothing is denied to well-directed labor; nothing is ever to be attained without it.
  • The virtues, like the body,become strong more by labor than by nourishment.

See also[edit]

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