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The more I see of the moneyed classes, the more I understand the guillotine. ~ George Bernard Shaw

The guillotine was a beheading device named for its inventor, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a French physician who invented the device in order to permit executions to be conducted more humanely.

Dr. Guillotin, the inventor of the Guillotine


  • As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that — in a manner of speaking the guillotine would fall on me — I started to feel quite dizzy. I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace. I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me. You have younger and better (candidates) who could take up this great task with a totally different energy and with different strength.' Evidently, this time he didn't listen to me.
    • Pope Benedict XVI, Comments on his election as Pope during his first audience with German pilgrims, original comments given in German.
  • GUILLOTINE, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • A transitory acceptance of the guillotine leads to its institutionalisation.
  • There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.
  • And if my thought-dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine.
  • My machine will take off a head in a twinkling and the victim will feel nothing but a refreshing coolness. We cannot make too much haste, gentlemen, to allow the nation to enjoy this advantage.
    • Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, Statement to the French Assembly, 1789.
  • In the social equation, the value of a single life is nil; in the cosmic equation, it is infinite... Not only communism, but any political movement which implicitly relies on purely utilitarian ethics, must become a victim to the same fatal error. It is a fallacy as naïve as a mathematical teaser, and yet its consequences lead straight to Goya's Disasters, to the reign of the guillotine, the torture chambers of the Inquisition, or the cellars of the Lubianka.
  • The more I see of the moneyed classes, the more I understand the guillotine.
    • George Bernard Shaw, Letter, 25 Sept. 1899, in Collected Letters, vol.2, in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, p. 791
  • In not more than a month’s time terror will assume very violent forms, after the example of the great French Revolution; the guillotine ... will be ready for our enemies ... that remarkable invention of the French Revolution which makes man shorter by a head.
    • Leon Trotsky, as quoted in The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police (1981) by George Leggett, p. 54

See also

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