John Jay Chapman

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John Jay Chapman (18621933) was an American writer and essayist, born in New York City.


  • When a man talks with absolute sincerity and freedom he goes on a voyage of discovery. The whole company has shares in the enterprise.
    • Society, Causes and Consequences (1898)
  • Every generation is a secret society and has incommunicable enthusiasms, tastes and interests which are a mystery both to its predecessors and to posterity.

Practical Agitation (1900)[edit]

  • It is just as impossible to help reform by conciliating prejudice as it is by buying votes. Prejudice is the enemy. Whoever is not for you is against you.
    • Chapter 1
  • Everybody in America is soft, and hates conflict. The cure for this, both in politics and social life, is the same—hardihood. Give them raw truth.
    • Chapter 1
  • The short lesson that comes out of long experience in political agitation is something like this: all the motive power in all of these movements is the instinct of religious feeling. All the obstruction comes from attempting to rely on anything else. Conciliation is the enemy.
    • Chapter 1
  • People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this,—that reform consists in taking a bone from a dog. Philosophy will not do it.
    • Chapter 7
  • Our goodness comes solely from thinking on goodness; our wickedness from thinking on wickedness. We too are the victims of our own contemplation.
    • Chapter 7
  • Good government is the outcome of private virtue.
    • Chapter 2
  • A political organization is a transferable commodity. You could not find a better way of killing virtue than by packing it into one of these contraptions which some gang of thieves is sure to find useful.
    • Chapter 1

The Two Philosophers: A Quaint, Sad Comedy (1892)[edit]

The Two Philosophers: A Quaint, Sad Comedy

Act 1

I've studied every science round,
And many a doctrine have I found;
Greek and German roots of thought
In years of labor have I sought;
And every gnarled and eyed potato
Out of Zoroaster and Plato
Do I plant in your young heads,
And watch 'em sprout as in hot-beds

Act 2

And since we speak of culture,
What is culture, do you think?
Culture is spiritual food
And intellectual drink.
A petty saying, — I confess
Not quite what I expected.
Let some one make another guess,


Notice is hereby given that one
Of your professors in your college
Has made a scurvy attack upon
The American school of knowledge,
Which said attack is couched in words
Unmeasured and profane,
And seems to show, conclusively,
The writer is insane.
But sane or mad, the writer is
Grossly devoid of truth,
And wickedly incompetent
To have the charge of youth.

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