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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. ~ Thomas Jefferson

A government is a body that has the authority to make and the power to enforce laws within a civil, corporate, religious, academic, or other organization or group.


The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man. ~ William Beveridge
Government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end. ~ John Dickinson
To prevent government from becoming corrupt and tyrannous, its organization and methods should be as simple as possible, its functions be restricted to those necessary to the common welfare, and in all its parts it should be kept as close to the people and as directly within their control as may be. ~ Henry George
A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise. ~ Friedrich Hayek
The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion makes sense only if that opinion is independent of government. ~ Friedrich Hayek
It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem. ~ Friedrich Hayek
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. ~ James Madison
No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable without possessing a certain portion of order and stability. ~ James Madison
Government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one ~ Thomas Paine
  • The government has strategies. The people have counterstrategies.
    • Ancient Chinese proverb, quoted in Thomas J. Sargent, “Rational Expectations and the Reconstruction of Macroeconomics” (1980)
  • In some parts of the world, states have collapsed as a result of internal and communal conflicts, depriving their citizens of any effective protection. Elsewhere, human security has been jeopardized by governments which refuse to act in the common interest, which persecute their opponents and punish innocent members of minority groups.
  • Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.
    • Barnhill, John Basil (1914). "Indictment of Socialism No. 3" (PDF). Barnhill-Tichenor Debate on Socialism. Saint Louis, Missouri: National Rip-Saw Publishing. pp. p. 34. Retrieved on 2008-10-16. 
  • [Parsons] had witnessed the blinding overnight successes achieved by the government-by-terror totalitarianism of Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. He had the foresight to see that [the United States of] America, once armed with the new powers of total destruction and surveillance that were sure to follow the swelling flood of new technologies, had the potential to become even more repressive unless its founding principles of individual liberty were religiously preserved and its leaders held accountable to them.
  • (Hymenaeus Beta), William Breeze current Frater Superior of Ordo Templi Orientis Beta 2008, p. xi.
  • The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man.
  • The danger is becoming greater. As the arsenals of the superpowers grow in size and sophistication and as other governments—perhaps even, in the future, dozens of governments—acquire these weapons, it may be only a matter of time before madness, desperation, greed or miscalculation lets loose the terrible force.
    • Jimmy Carter, as quoted in The Watchtower magazine, (15 August 1981).
  • If it was possible for men who exercise their reason, to believe that the divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these Colonies might at least require from the Parliament of Great Britain some evidence, that this dreadful authority over them has been granted to that body. But a reverence for our great Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect upon the subject, that Government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end.
  • Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been found that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.
  • Resolv'd to ruin or to rule the state.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part I, line 174.
  • Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.
    • Albert Einstein, The World As I See It, "Some Notes on my American Impressions" (first published as "My First Impression of the U.S.A." (1921)).
  • No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.
    • Richard Feynman, in "The Uncertainty of Values", in The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist (1999).
  • A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
  • The state is not a universal nor in itself an autonomous source of power. The state is nothing else but the effect, the profile, the mobile shape of a perpetual statification or statifications, in the sense of incessant transactions which modify, or move, or drastically change, or insidiously shift sources of finance, modes of investment, decision-making centers, forms and types of control, relationships between local powers, the central authority, and so on. In short, the state has no heart, as we well know, but not just in the sense that it has no feelings, either good or bad, but it has no heart in the sense that it has no interior. The state is nothing else but the mobile effect of a regime of multiple governmentalities.
  • All free governments are managed by the combined wisdom and folly of the people.
    • James A. Garfield, letter to B. A. Hinsdale, 1880-04-21 (Jonas Mills Bundy, The Nation's Hero – In Memoriam: The life of James Abram Garfield, 1881, New York: A. S. Barnes).
  • The government’s monopoly is what has allowed it to produce so bad a product for so long.
    • David R. Henderson, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey, Financial Times/Prentice Hall (2002) p. 298.
  • To prevent government from becoming corrupt and tyrannous, its organization and methods should be as simple as possible, its functions be restricted to those necessary to the common welfare, and in all its parts it should be kept as close to the people and as directly within their control as may be.
    • Henry George, Social Problems (1883), Ch. 17 : The Functions of Government.
  • For just experience tells, in every soil,
    That those who think must govern those that toil.
  • Well, I would say that, as long-term institutions, I am totally against dictatorships. But a dictatorship may be a necessary system for a transitional period. At times it is necessary for a country to have, for a time, some form or other of dictatorial power. As you will understand, it is possible for a dictator to govern in a liberal way. And it is also possible for a democracy to govern with a total lack of liberalism. Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism. My personal impression — and this is valid for South America — is that in Chile, for example, we will witness a transition from a dictatorial government to a liberal government. And during this transition it may be necessary to maintain certain dictatorial powers, not as something permanent, but as a temporary arrangement.
  • A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise. If Mrs. Thatcher said that free choice is to be exercised more in the market place than in the ballot box, she has merely uttered the truism that the first is indispensable for individual freedom, while the second is not: free choice can at least exist under a dictatorship that can limit itself but not under the government of an unlimited democracy which cannot.
  • The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion makes sense only if that opinion is independent of government. The ideal of democracy rests on the belief that the view which will direct government emerges from an independent and spontaneous process. It requires, therefore, the existence of a large sphere independent of majority control in which the opinions of the individuals are formed.
  • Once wide coercive powers are given to governmental agencies for particular purposes, such powers cannot be effectively controlled by democratic assemblies.
  • The chief evil is unlimited government, and nobody is qualified to wield unlimited power. The powers which modern democracy possesses would be even more intolerable in the hands of some small elite.
  • It is not democracy but unlimited government that is objectionable, and I do not see why the people should not learn to limit the scope of majority rule as well as that of any other form of government. At any rate, the advantages of democracy as a method of peaceful change and of political education seem to be so great compared with those of any other system that I can have no sympathy with the antidemocratic strain of conservatism. It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem.
  • What experience and history teach is this, ... that nations and governments have never learned anything from history or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
  • The people do not have an indiscriminate or uncontrolled right to establish or to abolish governments. They have a right to abolish only those governments that become 'destructive of these ends'. 'These ends' refers to the security of equal natural rights. It is only for the sake of security of these rights that legitimate governments are instituted, or that governments may be altered or abolished. And governments are legitimate only insofar as their 'just powers' are derived 'from the consent of the governed'.
  • That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
  • Whenever 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.
  • A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned -- this is the sum of good government
  • If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.
  • But when they bring YOU in before public assemblies and government officials and authorities, do not become anxious about how or what YOU will speak in defense or what YOU will say; for the holy spirit will teach YOU in that very hour the things YOU ought to say.
  • Rights come from a creator, not government. Government's purpose is limited to protecting natural rights, which is the standard we use to judge governments.
  • Imagine there's no countries,
    It isnt hard to do,
    Nothing to kill or die for,
    No religion too,
    Imagine all the people
    living life in peace...

    You may say I'm a dreamer,
    but I'm not the only one,
    I hope some day you'll join us,
    And the world will be as one.

  • That no human ruler can claim the same degree of allegiance that God claims; that God's kingship or suzerainty relativizes all human regimes; that all human political arrangements, even the most just and humane, fall short of the kingdom of God: these are ideas that have reverberated over the centuries and into our own time.
  • Government, in the last analysis, is organized opinion. Where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government, which sooner or later becomes autocratic government.
  • Governments are nothing more or less than gigantic criminal conspiracies, overgrown street gangs with no claims whatsoever to legitimacy. They are funded by theft and the basis of all their operations is aggression. They're no more entitled to keep their activities secret than any other gaggle of murderers, rapists and thieves is.
  • No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.
  • If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
  • A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.
  • What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
    • Mayer, Milton (1966) [1955]. They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (2nd edition ed.). University of Chicago Press. pp. p. 166. ISBN 0-226-51192-8. 
  • The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself... Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.
  • On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
  • The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.
  • This Rousseauvian idea of yours, that government is possible only when the governed love their governors, has been responsible for literally centuries of bloodshed. It is killing people right now as we speak in Iraq. One hundred years ago, all sane people assumed that the purpose of the State was to enforce the law, not to be loved. The British governed half the world, with a much higher quality of service than exists almost anywhere today, under this theory, and did so quite successfully.
    • Mencius Moldbug, Unqualified Reservations (The Rawlsian god: cryptocalvinism in action, July 1, 2007)
  • The way people in democracies think of the government as something different from themselves is a real handicap. And, of course, sometimes the government confirms their opinion.
    • Lewis Mumford, as quoted in Philosophers of the Earth : Conversations with Ecologists (1972) by Anne Chisholm.
  • Staat heisst das kälteste aller kalten Ungeheuer. Kalt lügt es auch; und diese Lüge kriecht aus seinem Munde: „Ich, der Staat, bin das Volk.“ Lüge ist’s! Schaffende waren es, die schufen die Völker und hängten einen Glauben und eine Liebe über sie hin: also dienten sie dem Leben. Vernichter sind es, die stellen Fallen auf für Viele und heissen sie Staat: sie hängen ein Schwert und hundert Begierden über sie hin.
    • A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life. Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus spake Zarathustra, XI. The New Idol (German Text).
  • Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadows about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
  • Giving money and power to Government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
  • For forms of government let fools contest;
    Whate'er is best administer'd is best.
  • The evils that exist in our government are more often the consequence of too hasty and too much legislation, than too little.
  • Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.
  • In a free society, the primary role of government is to protect the God-given, inalienable, inherent rights of its citizens, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.
    • Will Rogers, attributed in Connie Robertson, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998).
  • Government in and of itself is the foremost agent for destroying order and imposing chaos.
    • L.K. Samuels, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, Cobden Press (2013) p. 180.
  • For government, through high and low and lower,
    Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,
    Congreeing in a full and natural close,
    Like music.
    • [[William Shakespeare], Henry V (c. 1599), Act I, scene 2, line 190.
  • How, in one house,
    Should many people, under two commands,
    Hold amity? 'Tis hard; almost impossible.
  • Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
    • Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter I, Part II, 775.
  • With the exception of the writ of habeas corpus, a privilege not required under the Jewish government, simply because it did not allow of imprisonment, there is not a single feature of free government that is not distinctly developed in the Bible.
    • Gardiner Spring, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 425.
  • The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual, crime.
    • Max Stirner, attributed in The Great Quotations (1960) by George Seldes, p. 664.
  • … bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.
    • Tacitus, Annals, Book III, 27
    • Common paraphrase: The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government.
  • I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
  • [Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.
  • Government is violence, Christianity is meekness, non-resistance, love. And, therefore, government cannot be Christian, and a man who wishes to be a Christian must not serve government.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Letter to Eugen Heinrich Schmitt (1896).
  • Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportional to each other.
  • Government is either organized benevolence or organized madness; its peculiar magnitude permits no shading.

Fictional, author unidentified[edit]

  • A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.
    • Shepherd Book, Firefly, episode "War Stories". (Shepherd is quoting Capt. Malcolm Reynolds).
  • People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)[edit]

  • And thus Bureaucracy, the giant power wielded by pigmies, came into the world.
    • Honoré de Balzac, Bureaucracy (vol. 12 in The Works of Honoré de Balzac), p. 13 (1901, reprinted 1971).
  • If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means—to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal—would bring terrible retribution.
    • Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting, Olmstead et al. v. United States, 277 U.S. 485 (1928).
  • We cannot meet it [the threat of dictatorship] if we turn this country into a wishy-washy imitation of totalitarianism, where every man's hand is out for pabulum and virile creativeness has given place to the patronizing favor of swollen bureaucracy.
    • Vannevar Bush, speech at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, December 5, 1949, as reported by The New York Times, December 6, 1949, p. 12.
  • The nearest approach to immortality on earth is a government bureau.
  • In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government.
    • Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, ed. Richard D. Altick, book 4, chapter 4, p. 267 (1965). First published in 1843.
  • Only perhaps in the United States, which alone of countries can do without governing,—every man being at least able to live, and move off into the wilderness, let Congress jargon as it will,—can such a form of so-called "Government" continue for any length of time to torment men with the semblance, when the indispensable substance is not there.
  • The administration of government, like a guardianship ought to be directed to the good of those who confer, not of those who receive the trust.
    • Attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero. Tryon Edwards, Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 204 (1891). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • For nearly five years the present Ministers have harassed every trade, worried every profession, and assailed or menaced every class, institution, and species of property in the country. Occasionally they have varied this state of civil warfare by perpetrating some job which outraged public opinion, or by stumbling into mistakes which have been always discreditable, and sometimes ruinous. All this they call a policy, and seem quite proud of it; but the country has, I think, made up its mind to close this career of plundering and blundering.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, letter to Lord Grey de Wilton, October 3, 1873. W. F. Monypenny and George Earl Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, vol. 5, chapter 7, p. 262 (1920). Lord Grey was standing for Parliament, and was a personal friend of Disraeli's, who "wrote for publication … a full-blooded letter, conceived in the hustings spirit, but it only restated, in pointed fashion, charges which Disraeli had often brought against Ministers in public speeches and … [in] the House of Commons. A vehement outcry was, however, raised against its tone and language; and even many of his own party attributed to this indiscretion Grey de Wilton's failure by a small majority" to win the seat. Disraeli "was quite impenitent" (p. 262). A footnote indicates that the "plundering and blundering" phrase had been used before by Disraeli, in Coningsby, book 2, chapter 4.
  • The American wage earner and the American housewife are a lot better economists than most economists care to admit. They know that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
    • Gerald R. Ford, remarks to a joint session of Congress, August 12, 1974. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, p. 6. Ford was quoted as having expressed the same idea nearly fifteen years earlier: "If the government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have." John F. Parker, "If Elected, I Promise…," Stories and Gems of Wisdom by and About Politicians, p. 193 (1960). No source is given.
  • In a political sense, there is one problem that currently underlies all of the others. That problem is making Government sufficiently responsive to the people. If we don't make government responsive to the people, we don't make it believable. And we must make government believable if we are to have a functioning democracy.
    • Gerald R. Ford, address at Robert A. Taft government seminar banquet, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Florida, December 16, 1971. Gerald R. Ford, Selected Speeches, ed. Michael V. Doyle, p. 170 (1973).
  • The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other … is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist.
    • Benjamin Franklin, debates in the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1787. James Madison, Journal of the Federal Convention, ed. E. H. Scott, p. 259 (1893).
  • Our form of government may remain notwithstanding legislation or decision, but, as long ago observed, it is with governments, as with religion, the form may survive the substance of the faith.
  • Fellow-citizens! Clouds and darkness are round about Him! His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies! Justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne! Mercy and truth shall go before his face! Fellow-citizens! God reigns and the government at Washington still lives.
    • James A. Garfield, address to calm a crowd in New York City, April 17, 1865, two days after the death of President Lincoln. Theodore Clarke Smith, The Life and Letters of James Abram Garfield, vol. 1, p. 383 (1925). Smith notes that while the tradition of this speech was so well established during Garfield's own lifetime as to become "a familiar commonplace," no clipping of it exists among Garfield's papers, nor did Garfield himself, so far as known, refer to it in later times.
  • Welche Regierung die beste sei? Diejenige, die uns lehrt, uns selbst zu regieren.
    • Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, trans. Bailey Saunders, maxim 225, p. 107 (1893).
  • A wise government knows how to enforce with temper, or to conciliate with dignity, but a weak one is odious in the former, and contemptible in the latter.
    • George Grenville, speech against the motion for expelling John Wilkes, House of Commons, February 3, 1769. The Parliamentary History of England, printed by T. C. Hansard, vol. 16, col. 570 (1813). "Though Grenville had taken a prominent part in the early measures against Wilkes, he opposed his expulsion from the House of Commons on 3 Feb. 1769, in probably the ablest speech that he ever made." The Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 8, p. 559.
  • The system … is the best that the present views and circumstances of the country will permit.
    • Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, ed. Benjamin F. Wright, no. 85, p. 544 (1961). Hamilton acknowledged the imperfect nature of the government that would result from adopting the Constitution, but he felt it imprudent "to prolong the precarious state of our national affairs … in the chimerical pursuit of the perfect plan."
  • But, sir, I have said I do not dread these corporations as instruments of power to destroy this country, because there are a thousand agencies which can regulate, restrain, and control them; but there is a corporation we may all well dread. That corporation is the Federal Government.
    • Benjamin Harvey Hill, remarks in the Senate on the Pacific Railroad funding bill, March 27, 1878, Congressional Record, vol. 7, p. 2067.
  • Far more important to me is, that I should be loyal to what I regard as the law of my political life, which is this: a belief that that country is best governed, which is least governed …
    • George Hoadly, remarks in Ohio constitutional convention, June 19, 1873. Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Third Constitutional Convention of Ohio…, p. 436 (1873).
  • It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
    • Hubert Humphrey, remarks at the dedication of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, November 1, 1977. Congressional Record, November 4, 1977, vol. 123, p. 37287.
  • I confess I have the same fears for our South American brethren; the qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training, and for these they will require time and probably much suffering.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Everett, March 27, 1824. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb, vol. 16, p. 22 (1904).
  • I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. 12, p. 442 (1955).
  • If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, November 29, 1802. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 8, p. 178 (1897).
  • Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread.
    • Thomas Jefferson, "Autobiography," The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 1, p. 113 (1892).
  • I believe that the essence of government lies with unceasing concern for the welfare and dignity and decency and innate integrity of life for every individual. I don't like to say this and wish I didn't have to add these words to make it clear but I will—regardless of color, creed, ancestry, sex or age.
    • Lyndon B. Johnson, remarks at a civil rights symposium, LBJ Library, Austin, Texas, December 12, 1972. Text, p. 1.
  • Before my term has ended, we shall have to test anew whether a nation organized and governed such as ours can endure. The outcome is by no means certain.
    • John F. Kennedy, annual message to Congress on the State of the Union, January 30, 1961. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 19.
  • Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and you had put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across the Niagara River on a rope, would you shake the cable, or keep shouting out to him—"Blondin, stand up a little straighter—Blondin, stoop a little more—go a little faster—lean a little more to the north—lean a little more to the south?" No, you would hold your breath as well as your tongue, and keep your hands off until he was safe over. The Government are carrying an immense weight. Untold treasures are in their hands. They are doing the very best they can. Don't badger them. Keep silence, and we'll get you safe across.
    • Abraham Lincoln, reply to critics of his administration, 1864. Francis B. Carpenter, "Anecdotes and Reminiscences of President Lincoln" in Henry Jarvis Raymond, The Life and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln…, p. 752 (1865). Carpenter, a portrait artist, lived in the White House for six months beginning February 1864, to paint the president and the entire Cabinet. His relations with the president became of an "intimate character," and he was permitted "the freedom of his private office at almost all hours,… privileged to see and know more of his daily life" than most people. He states that he "endeavored to embrace only those [anecdotes] which bear the marks of authenticity. Many … I myself heard the President relate; others were communicated to me by persons who either heard or took part in them" (p. 725). Blondin (real name Jean François Gravelet) was a French tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1855, 1859, and 1860.
  • I am struggling to maintain the government, not to overthrow it. I am struggling especially to prevent others from overthrowing it.
    • Abraham Lincoln, response to a serenade, October 19, 1864. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 8, p. 52 (1953).
  • Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?
    • Abraham Lincoln, message to Congress in special session, July 4, 1861. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 4, p. 426 (1953).
  • There is an important sense in which government is distinctive from administration. One is perpetual, the other is temporary and changeable. A man may be loyal to his government and yet oppose the particular principles and methods of administration.
    • Attributed to Abraham Lincoln. W. T. Roche, address at Washington, Kansas, April 9, 1942: "These words were spoken by Lincoln, then a Congressman, in defense of his condemnation of President Polk for provoking the Mexican War." Congressional Record, April 15, 1942, vol. 88, Appendix, p. A1493. Not found in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler (1953).
  • While the people retain their virtue, and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years.
    • Abraham Lincoln, first inaugural address (final text), March 4, 1861. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 4, p. 270 (1953).
  • We must judge of a form of government by its general tendency, not by happy accidents.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, speech on parliamentary reform, March 2, 1831. The Complete Writings of Lord Macaulay, vol. 17, p. 13 (1900).
  • Yes, Gentlemen; if I am asked why we are free with servitude all around us, why our Habeas Corpus Act has not been suspended, why our press is still subject to no censor, why we still have the liberty of association, why our representative institutions still abide in all their strength, I answer, It is because in the year of revolutions we stood firmly by our government in its peril; and, if I am asked why we stood by our government in its peril, when men all around us were engaged in pulling governments down, I answer, It was because we knew that though our government was not a perfect government, it was a good government, that its faults admitted of peaceable and legal remedies, that it had never inflexibly opposed just demands, that we had obtained concessions of inestimable value, not by beating the drum, not by ringing the tocsin, not by tearing up the pavement, not by running to the gunsmiths' shops to search for arms, but by the mere force of reason and public opinion.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, speech on his re-election to Parliament, November 2, 1852. Macaulay, Miscellanies, vol. 2 (vol. 18 of The Complete Writings of Lord Macaulay), p. 170–71 (1900).
  • The free system of government we have established is so congenial with reason, with common sense, and with a universal feeling, that it must produce approbation and a desire of imitation, as avenues may be found for truth to the knowledge of nations.
    • James Madison, letter to Pierre E. Duponceau, January 23, 1826. James Madison papers, Library of Congress. These words are inscribed in the Madison Memorial Hall, Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building.
  • If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
    • James Madison, The Federalist, ed. Benjamin F. Wright, no. 51, p. 356 (1961).
  • Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite.
    • Every country has the government it deserves.
    • Joseph de Maistre, letter to M. le chevalier de…, August 15, 1811. Lettres et Opuscules Inédits du Comte J. De Maistre, 5th ed., book 1, p. 264 (1869).
  • Thus, a people may prefer a free government, but if, from indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice, or want of public spirit, they are unequal to the exertions necessary for preserving it; if they will not fight for it when it is directly attacked; if they can be deluded by the artifices used to cheat them out of it; if by momentary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had it even for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it.
  • When the people are too much attached to savage independence, to be tolerant of the amount of power to which it is for their good that they should be subject, the state of society (as already observed) is not yet ripe for representative government.
    • John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, chapter 6, p. 108 (1861).
  • You have the God-given right to kick the government around—don't hesitate to do so.
    • Edmund Muskie, speech in South Bend, Indiana, September 11, 1968, as reported by the Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal, September 12, 1968, p. A3.
  • Ne pas laisser vieillir les hommes doit être le grand art du gouvernement.
    • The great art of governing consists in not letting men grow old in their jobs.
    • Napoleon I, letter to Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot, August 9, 1796. Correspondance de Napoléon Ier, vol. 1, p. 532 (1858).
  • [G]overnment even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one
  • Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their turn.
    • William Penn, in his Preface to the First Frame of Government [constitution] for Pennsylvania, which was formally adopted in England, April 25, 1682. The William Penn Tercentenary Committee, Remember William Penn, 2d ed., p. 81 (1945). The committee noted that the preface was perhaps "Penn's best expression of his ideas of government" (p. 80).
  • Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.
    • Attributed to William Penn. Virginia Ely, I Quote, p. 189 (1947). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). Numerous sources cite this remark but it has not been found in Penn's writings.
  • To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right nor the knowledge nor the virtue.
    • Pierre Joseph Proudhon. From an English translation of his Idée Générale de la Révolution au XIXe Siècle (1851) quoted in James Joll, The Anarchists, chapter 3, p. 78 (1964).
  • There is no credit to being a comedian, when you have the whole Government working for you. All you have to do is report the facts. I don't even have to exaggerate.
    • Will Rogers. P.J. O'Brien, Will Rogers, Ambassador of Good Will, Prince of Wit and Wisdom, chapter 9, p. 157 (1935).
  • Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, speech accepting renomination for the presidency, June 27, 1936. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936, p. 235 (1938). Senator John F. Kennedy quoted these words of Roosevelt's in a campaign speech in Houston, Texas, September 12, 1960. Freedom of Communications, final report of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, part 1, p. 203 (1961). Senate Rept. 87–994.
  • History proves that dictatorships do not grow out of strong and successful governments, but out of weak and helpless ones. If by democratic methods people get a government strong enough to protect them from fear and starvation, their democracy succeeds; but if they do not, they grow impatient. Therefore, the only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over its government.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, fireside chat on economic conditions, April 14, 1938. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1938, p. 242–43 (1941).
  • The true art of government consists in not governing too much.
    • Jonathan Shipley, bishop of St. Asaph, sermon, at parish church of St. Mary-Le-Bow, London, February 19, 1773. A Sermon Preached Before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, p. 11 (1773). Reprinted in English Defenders of American Freedoms, 1774–1778, ed. Paul H. Smith, p. 22–23 (1972).
  • Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.
    • Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois, speech before the Los Angeles Town Club, Los Angeles, California, September 11, 1952. Speeches of Adlai Stevenson, p. 31 (1952).
  • I heartily accept the motto,—"That government is best which governs least;" and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe,—"That government is best which governs not at all;" and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.
    • Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, first paragraph, Walden and Civil Disobedience, ed. Owen Thomas, p. 224 (1966). This essay was first published in 1849. The motto Thoreau referred to was almost certainly that of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, a literary-political monthly: "The best government is that which governs least." Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed a similar sentiment in his essay "Politics:" "Hence the less government we have the better—the fewer laws and the less confided power." Essays: Second Series, in The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. 1, p. 302 (1929).
  • Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
    • Attributed to George Washington. Frank J. Wilstach, A Dictionary of Similes, 2d ed., p. 526 (1924). This can be found with minor variations in wording and in punctuation, and with "fearful" for "troublesome," in George Seldes, The Great Quotations, p. 727 (1966). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). In his most recent book of quotations, The Great Thoughts (1985), Seldes says, p. 441, col. 2, footnote, this paragraph "although credited to the 'Farewell' [address] cannot be found in it. Lawson Hamblin, who owns a facsimile, and Horace Peck, America's foremost authority on quotations, informed me this paragraph is apocryphal."
  • Other misfortunes may be borne, or their effects overcome. If disastrous war should sweep our commerce from the ocean, another generation may renew it; if it exhaust our treasury, future industry may replenish it;… It were but a trifle even if the walls of yonder Capitol were to crumble, if its lofty pillars should fall, and its gorgeous decorations be all covered by the dust of the valley. All these might be rebuilt. But who shall reconstruct the fabric of demolished government? Who shall rear again the well-proportioned columns of constitutional liberty?… No, if these columns fall, they will be raised not again…. they will be the remnants of a more glorious edifice than Greece or Rome ever saw, the edifice of constitutional American liberty.
    • Daniel Webster, "The Character of Washington," speech delivered in Washington, D.C., at a public dinner in honor of the centennial birthday of George Washington, February 22, 1832. The Works of Daniel Webster, 10th ed., vol. 1, p. 231 (1857).
  • Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may.
    • Daniel Webster, at a reception in Bangor, Maine, August 25, 1835. The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 2, p. 165 (1903).
  • Trust nothing to the enthusiasm of the people. Give them a strong and a just, and, if possible, a good, government; but, above all, a strong one.
    • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, letter to Lieutenant-General Lord William Bentinck, December 24, 1811. John Gurwood, Selections from the Dispatches and General Orders of Field Marshal, the Duke of Wellington, p. 545 (1851).
  • My reading of history convinces me that most bad government has grown out of too much government.
    • John Sharp Williams, Thomas Jefferson: His Permanent Influence on American Institutions, p. 49 (1913). Lecture delivered at Columbia University, New York City, 1912.
  • Too much law was too much government; and too much government was too little individual privilege,—as too much individual privilege in its turn was selfish license.
    • Woodrow Wilson, "The Author and Signers of the Declaration of Independence," address at Jamestown exposition, Norfolk, Virginia, July 4, 1907. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link, vol. 17, p. 254 (1974).

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 329-35.
  • The declaration that our People are hostile to a government made by themselves, for themselves, and conducted by themselves, is an insult.
    • John Adams, address to the citizens of Westmoreland Co., Virginia. Answered July 11, 1798. See also Thomas Cooper, Some information respecting America (1794). In Report of a Meeting of the Mass. Historical Society by Samuel A. Green (May 9, 1901).
  • * * The manners of women are the surest criterion by which to determine whether a republican government is practicable in a nation or not.
    • John Adams, Diary. June 2, 1778. Charles Francis Adams' Life of Adams, Volume III, p. 171.
  • Yesterday the greatest question was decided which was ever debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, that those United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.
  • Not stones, nor wood, nor the art of artisans make a state; but where men are who know how to take care of themselves, these are cities and walls.
    • Attributed to Alcæus by Aristides, Orations, Volume II. (Jebb's edition. Austin's translation).
  • States are great engines moving slowly.
  • Adeo ut omnes imperii virga sive bacillum vere superius inflexum sit.
    • So that every wand or staff of empire is forsooth curved at top.
    • Francis Bacon, De Sapientia Veterum (1609). 6. Pan, sive Natura. Sometimes translated, "All sceptres are crooked atop." Referring to the shepherd's crook of Pan, and implying that government needs to be roundabout in method.
  • It [Calvinism] established a religion without a prelate, a government without a king.
  • Oh, we are weary pilgrims; to this wilderness we bring
    A Church without a bishop, a State without a King.
    • Anonymous, Puritan's Mistake (1844).
  • Yet if thou didst but know how little wit governs this mighty universe.
  • "Whatever is, is not," is the maxim of the anarchist, as often as anything comes across him in the shape of a law which he happens not to like.
  • England is the mother of parliaments.
    • John Bright, speech at Birmingham, Jan. 18, 1865. See Thorold Rogers' ed. of Bright's Speeches, Volume II, p. 112. Appeared in London Times, Jan. 19, 1865.
  • I am for Peace, for Retrenchment, and for Reform,—thirty years ago the great watchwords of the great Liberal Party.
    • John Bright. Speech at Birmingham Town Hall, April 28, 1859. Attributed to Joseph Hume by Sir Charles Dilke in the Morning Herald, Aug. 2, 1899. Probably said by William IV to Earl Gray, in an interview, Nov. 17, 1830. Found in H. B.'s Cartoons, No. 93, pub. Nov. 26, 1830. Also in a letter of Princess Lieven, Nov., 1830. See Warren's Ten Thousand a Year. (Inscribed on the banner of Tittlebat Titmouse.) Referred to in Molesworth's Hist. of the Reform Bill of 1832, p. 98.
  • Well, will anybody deny now that the Government at Washington, as regards its own people, is the strongest government in the world at this hour? And for this simple reason, that it is based on the will, and the good will, of an instructed people.
  • So then because some towns in England are not represented, America is to have no representative at all. They are "our children"; put when children ask for bread we are not to give a stone.
    • Edmund Burke, speech on American Taxation, Volume II, p. 74.
  • And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.
    • Edmund Burke, Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, Volume V, p. 156.
  • When bad men combine, the good must associate.
    • Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent.
  • Support a compatriot against a native, however the former may blunder or plunder.
    • R. F. Burton, Explorations of the Highroads of Brazil (c. 1869), I, p. 11.
  • Nothing's more dull and negligent
    Than an old, lazy government,
    That knows no interest of state,
    But such as serves a present strait.
  • A power has arisen up in the Government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks.
    • John C. Calhoun, in the U.S. Senate (May 28, 1836). "Cohesive power of public plunder." As quoted by Grover Cleveland.
  • Consider in fact, a body of six hundred and fifty-eight miscellaneous persons, set to consult about "business," with twenty-seven millions, mostly fools, assiduously listening to them, and checking and criticising them. Was there ever, since the world began, will there ever be till the world end, any "business" accomplished in these circumstances?
    • Thomas Carlyle, Latter Day Pamphlets, Parliaments (referring to the relation of the Parliament to the British people, June 1, 1850).
  • There are but two ways of paying debt—increase of industry in raising income, increase of thrift in laying out.
  • And the first thing I would do in my government, I would have nobody to control me, I would be absolute; and who but I: now, he that is absolute, can do what he likes; he that can do what he likes, can take his pleasure; he that can take his pleasure, can be content; and he that can be content, has no more to desire; so the matter's over.
  • There was a State without kings or nobles; there was a church without a bishop; there was a people governed by grave magistrates which it had elected, and equal laws which it had framed.
    • Rufus Choate, speech before the New England Society (December 22, 1843).
  • Who's in or out, who moves this grand machine,
    Nor stirs my curiosity nor spleen:
    Secrets of state no more I wish to know
    Than secret movements of a puppet show:
    Let but the puppets move, I've my desire,
    Unseen the hand which guides the master wire.
  • They have proved themselves offensive partisans and unscrupulous manipulators of local party management.
  • Though the people support the government the government should not support the people.
  • I have considered the pension list of the republic a roll of honor.
  • The communism of combined wealth and capital, the outgrowth of overweening cupidity and selfishness which assiduously undermines the justice and integrity of free institutions, is not less dangerous than the communism of oppressed poverty and toil which, exasperated by injustice and discontent, attacks with wild disorder the citadel of misrule.
  • Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving how not to do it.
  • The country has, I think, made up its mind to close this career of plundering and blundering.
  • The divine right of kings may have been a plea for feeble tyrants, but the divine right of government is the keystone of human progress, and without it governments sink into police, and a nation is degraded into a mob.
  • A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.
  • Individualities may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation.
  • For where's the State beneath the Firmament,
    That doth excell the Bees for Government?
  • Shall we judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely.
  • Fellow-citizens: Clouds and darkness are around Him; His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds; justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne; mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens! God reigns and the Government at Washington lives.
    • James A. Garfield, address (April, 1865). From the balcony of the New York Custom House to a crowd, excited by the news of President Lincoln's assassination.
  • When constabulary duty's to be done
    A policeman's lot is not a happy one.
  • Welche Regierung die beste sei? Diejenige die uns lehrt uns selbst zu regieren.
  • Perish commerce. Let the constitution live!
    • George Hardinge, debate on the Traitorous Correspondence Bill (March 22, 1793). Quoted by William Windham.
  • Unnecessary taxation is unjust taxation.
  • No sooner does he hear any of his brothers mention reform or retrenchment, than up he jumps.
  • There was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was petticoat government.
  • Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfill. The knowledge of character possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven. July 12, 1801. Paraphrased by John B. McMaster in his History of the People of the United States, II. 586. One sentence will undoubtedly be remembered till our republic ceases to exist. 'No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying,' he observed, 'as to put the right man in the right place.'.
  • The trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth.
  • Excise, a hateful tax levied upon commodities.
  • What constitutes a state?
    . . . . . .
    Men who their duties know,
    But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.
    . . . . . .
    And sovereign law, that state's collected will,
    O'er thrones and globes elate,
    Sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill.
  • The Americans equally detest the pageantry of a king and the supercilious hypocrisy of a bishop.
    • Junius, Letter XXXV (Dec. 19, 1769).
  • Salus populi suprema lex.
    • The safety of the State is the highest law.
    • Justinian, Twelve Tables.
  • This end (Robespierre's theories) was the representative sovereignty of all the citizens concentrated in an election as extensive as the people themselves, and acting by the people, and for the people in an elective council, which should be all the government.
  • Misera contribuens plebs.
    • The poor taxpaying people.
    • Law of the Hungarian Diet of 1751, Article 37.
  • I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms, by no means excluding females.
  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech, June 17, 1858. See W. O. Stoddard's Life of Lincoln.
  • If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view, justify revolution—certainly would if such a right were a vital one.
  • That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Gettysburg. 1863. The phrase "of the people, for the people and by the people" is not original with Lincoln. There is a tradition that the phrase, "The Bible shall be for the government of the people, for the people and by the people," appears in the preface of the Wyclif Bible of 1384, or in the Hereford Bible, or in a pamphlet of the period treating of that version. See Notes and Queries, Feb. 12, 1916, p. 127. Albert Mathews, of Boston, examined the reprint of 1850 of the Wyclif Bible, and finds no reference to it. There is a preface to the Old and the New Testament, and a prologue to each book, probably written by John Purvey.
  • All your strength is in your union,
    All your danger is in discord.
  • L'état!—c'est moi!
    • The state!—it is I!
    • Attributed to Louis XIV of France. Dulaure, History of Paris, p. 387. See Chéruel, Histoire de l'Administration Monarchique en France, II. 32.
  • The Commons, faithful to their system, remained in a wise and masterly inactivity.
  • The government of the Union, then, is emphatically and truly a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them and for their benefit.
    • Chief Justice John Marshall, McCulloch vs. Maryland, 4 Wheaton 316 (1819).
  • The all-men power; government over all, by all, and for the sake of all.
    • Chief Justice John Marshall. Pamphlet. The Relation of Slavery to a Republican Form of Government. Speech delivered at the New England Anti-Slavery Convention (May 26, 1858). Pamphlet used by Lincoln when preparing speeches. This phrase was underlined by him.
  • To make a bank, was a great plot of state;
    Invent a shovel, and be a magistrate.
  • States are not made, nor patched; they grow:
    Grow slow through centuries of pain,
    And grow correctly in the main;
    But only grow by certain laws,
    Of certain bits in certain jaws.
  • Hope nothing from foreign governments. They will never be really willing to aid you until you have shown that you are strong enough to conquer without them.
  • If the prince of a State love benevolence, he will have no opponent in all the empire.
    • Mencius, Works, Book IV, Part I, Chapter 7.
  • Unearned increment.
    • John Stuart Mill, Political Economy, Book V, Chapter II, Section 5. Phrase used in the land agitation of 1870–71. Undoubtedly original with Mill.
  • La corruption de chaque gouvernement commence presque toujours par celle des principes.
    • The deterioration of a government begins almost always by the decay of its principles.
    • Charles de Montesquieu, De l'Esprit, VIII, Chapter I.
  • Les républiques finissent par le luxe; les monarchies, par la pauvreté.
    • Republics end through luxury; monarchies through poverty.
    • Charles de Montesquieu, De l'Esprit, VII, Chapter IV.
  • Nescis, mi fili, quantilla sapientia regitur mundus.
    • Learn, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.
    • Attributed to Axel von Oxenstierna. Buchmann, Geflügelte Wörte, attributes it as likely to Pope Julius III, also to Orselaer, tutor to the sons of a Markgraf of Baden. Lord Chatham claims it for Pope Alexander VI, Jules or Leo, in Letter to Lord Shelburne, Jan. 25, 1775. Conrad von Bennington, Dutch Statesman, also given credit. Quoted by Dr. Arbuthnot, letter to Swift, 1732–3.
  • There is what I call the American idea. * * * This idea demands, as the proximate organization thereof, a democracy,—that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government of the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness' sake I will call it the idea of Freedom.
    • Theodore Parker, speech at the N.E. Anti-Slavery Convention, Boston (May 29, 1850).
  • First there is the democratic idea: that all men are endowed by their creator with certain natural rights; that these rights are alienable only by the possessor thereof; that they are equal in men; that government is to organize these natural, unalienable and equal rights into institutions designed for the good of the governed, and therefore government is to be of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people. Here government is development, not exploitation.
  • Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.
    • Theodore Parker, sermon delivered at Music Hall, Boston (July 4, 1858). On the Effect of Slavery on the American People, p. 5. (Read and underlined by Lincoln).
  • Slavery is in flagrant violation of the institutions of America—direct government—over all the people, by all the people, for all the people.
    • Theodore Parker, sermon delivered at Music Hall, Boston (July 4, 1858), p. 14. (Read and underlined by Lincoln).
  • In principatu commutando civium
    Nil præter domini nomen mutant pauperes.
    • In a change of government the poor change nothing but the name of their masters.
    • Phaedrus, Fables, I. 15. 1.
  • Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.
  • Themistocles said, "The Athenians govern the Greeks; I govern the Athenians; you, my wife, govern me; your son governs you."
  • The government will take the fairest of names, but the worst of realities—mob rule.
  • The right divine of kings to govern wrong.
    • Alexander Pope, Dunciad, Book IV, line 188. (In quotation marks, but probably his own).
  • He shall rule them with a rod of iron.
    • Revelations, II. 27.
  • The labor unions shall have a square deal, and the corporations shall have a square deal, and in addition, all private citizens shall have a square deal.
  • Le despotisme tempéré par l'assassinat, c'est notre magna charta.
    • Despotism tempered by assassination, that is our Magna Charta.
    • A Russian Noble to Count Münster on the assassination of Paul I., Emperor of Russia. (1800).
  • Say to the seceded States—Wayward sisters, depart in peace!
  • The Pope sends for him … and (says he) "We will be merry as we were before, for thou little thinkest what a little foolery governs the whole world."
  • Invisa numquam imperia retinentur diu.
  • What a man that would be had he a particle of gall or the least knowledge of the value of red tape. As Curran said of Grattan, "he would have governed the world."
    • Sydney Smith; of Sir John Mackintosh. Lady Holland's Memoir, p. 245. (Ed. 4).
  • Men who prefer any load of infamy, however great, to any pressure of taxation, however light.
  • The schoolboy whips his taxed top, the beardless youth manages his taxed horse, with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying Englishman, pouring his medicine, which has paid seven per cent., flings himself back on his chintz bed, which has paid twenty-two per cent., and expires in the arms of an apothecary who has paid a license of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death.
  • Ill can he rule the great that cannot reach the small.
    • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book V, Canto II, Stanza 51.
  • Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset.
    • In the opinion of all men he would have been regarded as capable of governing, if he had never governed.
    • Tacitus, Annales, I. 49.
  • Et errat longe mea quidem sententia
    Qui imperium credit gravius esse aut stabilius,
    Vi quod fit, quam illud quod amicitia adjungitur.
    • It is a great error, in my opinion, to believe that a government is more firm or assured when it is supported by force, than when founded on affection.
    • Terence, Adelphi, I. 1. 40.
  • We preach Democracy in vain while Tory and Conservative can point to the opposite side of the Atlantic and say: "There are Nineteen millions of the human race free absolutely, every man heir to the throne, governing themselves—the government of all, by all, for all; but instead of being a consistent republic it is one widespread confederacy of free men for the enslavement of a nation of another complexion."
  • Hæ tibi erunt artes, pacisque imponere morem
    Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.
    • This shall be thy work: to impose conditions of peace, to spare the lowly, and to overthrow the proud.
    • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), VI. 852.
  • Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.
  • A National debt is a National blessing.
    • Attributed to Daniel Webster, repudiated by him. See speech (Jan. 26, 1830).
  • The people's government made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.
  • 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!
  • He touched the dead corpse of Public Credit, and it sprung upon its feet.
  • We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel on the watch-tower of liberty.
  • [He would do his duty as he saw it] without regard to scraps of paper called constitutions.
    • King William to the Prussian Diet disregarding the refusal of the Representatives to grant appropriations. Harper's Weekly, March 26, 1887. Article on Emperor William I, of Germany.
  • No man ever saw the people of whom he forms a part. No man ever saw a government. I live in the midst of the Government of the United States, but I never saw the Government of the United States. Its personnel extends through all the nations, and across the seas, and into every corner of the world in the persons of the representatives of the United States in foreign capitals and in foreign centres of commerce.
  • Wherever magistrates were appointed from among those who complied with the injunctions of the laws, he (Socrates) considered the government to be an aristocracy.
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia of Socrates, Book IV, Chapter VI.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Encyclopedic article on Government at Wikipedia
  • The dictionary definition of government at Wiktionary