Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

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By a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like. That is not my notion of freedom.
A gram of experience is worth a ton of theory.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (3 February 183022 August 1903) was a British Conservative politician and Prime Minister.

Quotes[edit]

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts.

1850s[edit]

  • We are not the same people that we have been, either in our social characteristics, in our patriotic sentiments, or in the tone of our moral and religious feelings.
    • Speech at the Oxford Union (February 1850), from H. A. Morrah, The Oxford Union. 1823-1923 (1923), p. 139
  • In an age when national greatness depends not on numbers or on territory, but on intelligence, the development of intelligence is a duty the neglect of which will hazard our national position. In a day when thought, not force, is the ruler of mankind, and when in domestic government numbers are more powerful than wealth, it is of the most vital importance to the stability of our institutions that that thought should be sound and those numbers enlightened.
    • Address (titled "National Education") in the lecture hall of the Mechanics' Institution in Stamford (6 November 1856), quoted in The Times (11 November 1856), p. 6
  • A gram of experience is worth a ton of theory.
    • Saturday Review (1859)
  • Now if Conservative has any meaning at all, it means anti-Radical. The Radicals are the only inheritors of the revolutionary views which the Conservative party was set up to counteract; and the two can no more act together, if both are honest, than a weasel can act with a rat. Hostility to Radicalism, incessant, implacable hostility, is the essential definition of Conservatism. The fear that the Radicals may triumph is the only final cause that the Conservative party can plead for their own existence.
    • 'English Politics and Parties', Bentley's Quarterly Review, 1, (1859), p. 12
  • ...the splitting up of mankind into a multitude of infinitesimal governments, in accordance with their actual differences of dialect or their presumed differences of race, would be to undo the work of civilisation and renounce all the benefits which the slow and painful process of consolidation has procured for mankind...It is the agglomeration and not the comminution of states to which civilisation is constantly tending; it is the fusion and not the isolation of races by which the physical and moral excellence of the species is advanced. There are races, as there are trees, which cannot stand erect by themselves, and which, if their growth is not hindered by artificial constraints, are all the healthier for twining round some robuster stem.
    • 'English Politics and Parties', Bentley's Quarterly Review, 1, (1859), p. 22
  • ...though it is England's right to enforce the law of Europe [i.e. treaties] as between contending states, she has no claim, so long as her own interests are untouched, to interfere in the national affairs of any country, whatever the extent of its misgovernment or its anarchy.
    • 'English Politics and Parties', Bentley's Quarterly Review, 1, (1859), p. 23
  • Not the number of noses, but the magnitude of interests, should furnish the elements by which the proportion of representation should be computed...The classes that represent civilisation, the holders of accumulated capital and accumulated thought have a right to require securities to protect them from being overwhelmed by hordes who have neither knowledge to guide them nor stake in the Commonwealth to control them.
    • 'English Politics and Parties', Bentley's Quarterly Review, 1, (1859), pp. 28-29
  • The days and weeks of screwed-up smiles and laboured courtesy, the mock geniality, the hearty shake of the filthy hand, the chuckling reply that must be made to the coarse joke, the loathsome, choking compliment that must be paid to the grimy wife and sluttish daughter, the indispensable flattery of the vilest religious prejudices, the wholesale deglutition of hypocritical pledges.
    • On canvassing for election, quoted in 'The Faction-Fights', Bentley's Quarterly Review, 1, (1859), p. 355

1860s[edit]

  • ...the vista of an age of security and peace – disbanded armaments, forgotten jealousies, immunity not only from the scourge but from the panic of war; pleasant dreams, constantly belied by experience, constantly renewed by theorists, but too closely linked to the hopes of all who believe either in material progress or in the promises of religion ever to be abandoned as chimera.
    • Quarterly Review, 107, 1860, p. 516
  • Wherever democracy has prevailed, the power of the State has been used in some form or other to plunder the well-to-do classes for the benefit of the poor.
    • Quarterly Review, 107, 1860, p. 524
  • It was a part of a budget which even three months had proved to be a mass of miscalculation; it was the pet scheme of a cosmopolitan school who love England little, and whom England loves less, whose sympathies are half-American and half-French; and it was the first application of a theory of combined taxation and reform, according to which the poor were exclusively to fix the revenue which the rich were exclusively to pay.
    • ‘The Conservative Reaction’, The Quarterly Review, vol. 108 (July & October 1860), p. 276
  • The really remarkable fact which is to be inferred from the conduct of the Southern States is, the genuine alarm with which they regarded the workings of Democracy. ... They had acted in partnership with one for seventy years. They had watched it ripening year by year to the full development of mob supremacy. ... They deliberately decided that civil war, with all its horrors, and with all its peculiar risks to themselves as slaveowners, was a lighter evil than to be surrendered to the justice or the clemency of a victorious Democracy. It is not for Europe to dispute the accuracy of their judgment.
    • 'Democracy on its Trial', Quarterly Review, 110, 1861, p. 274
  • First-rate men will not canvass mobs; and if they did, the mobs would not elect the first-rate men.
    • 'Democracy on its Trial', Quarterly Review, 110, 1861, p. 281
  • [T]here is no more formidable obstacle than the Established Church to the spirit of rash and theoretic change which we, almost alone among the nations, have escaped .
    • 'Church-rates', Quarterly Review, 110, 1861, p. 545
  • In the supreme struggle of social order against anarchy, we cannot deny to the champions of civilised society the moral latitude which is by common consent accorded to armed men fighting for their country against a foreign foe.
    • On Lord Castlereagh's use of bribery to pass the Irish Act of Union. Quarterly Review, 111, 1862, p. 204
  • ...the gentleness, the concessions, the morbid tenderness of Louis XVI had only tended to precipitate his own and his people's doom, and aggravate the ferocity of those he tried by kindness to disarm.
    • Quarterly Review, 111, 1862, pp. 538-539
  • The struggle for power in our day lies not between Crown and people, or between a caste of nobles and a bourgeoisie, but between the classes who have property and the classes who have none.
    • 'The Confederate Struggle and Recognition', Quarterly Review, 112, 1862, p. 542
  • Political equality is not merely a folly – it is a chimera. It is idle to discuss whether it ought to exist; for, as a matter of fact, it never does. Whatever may be the written text of a Constitution, the multitude always will have leaders among them, and those leaders not selected by themselves. They may set up the pretence of political equality, if they will, and delude themselves with a belief of its existence. But the only consequences will be, that they will have bad leaders instead of good. Every community has natural leaders, to whom, if they are not misled by the insane passion for equality, they will instinctively defer. Always wealth, in some countries by birth, in all intellectual power and culture, mark out the men whom, in a healthy state of feeling, a community looks to undertake its government. They have the leisure for the task, and can give it the close attention and the preparatory study which it needs. Fortune enables them to do it for the most part gratuitously, so that the struggles of ambition are not defiled by the taint of sordid greed. They occupy a position of sufficient prominence among their neighbours to feel that their course is closely watched, and they belong to a class brought up apart from temptations to the meaner kinds of crime, and therefore it is no praise to them if, in such matters, their moral code stands high. But even if they be at bottom no better than others who have passed though greater vicissitudes of fortune, they have at least this inestimable advantage – that, when higher motives fail, their virtue has all the support which human respect can give. They are the aristocracy of a country in the original and best sense of the word. Whether a few of them are decorated by honorary titles or enjoy hereditary privileges, is a matter of secondary moment. The important point is, that the rulers of the country should be taken from among them, and that with them should be the political preponderance to which they have every right that superior fitness can confer. Unlimited power would be as ill-bestowed upon them as upon any other set of men. They must be checked by constitutional forms and watched by an active public opinion, lest their rightful pre-eminence should degenerate into the domination of a class. But woe to the community that deposes them altogether!
    • 'The Confederate Struggle and Recognition', Quarterly Review, 112, 1862, pp. 547-548
  • A few years ago a delusive optimism was creeping over the minds of men. There was a tendency to push the belief in the moral victories of civilisation to an excess which now seems incredible. It was esteemed heresy to distrust anybody, or to act as if any evil still remained in human nature. At home we were exhorted to show "our confidence in our countrymen," by confiding the guidance of our policy to the ignorant, and the expenditure of our wealth to the needy. Abroad we were invited to believe that commerce had triumphed where Christianity had failed, and that exports and imports had banished war from the earth. And generally we were encouraged to congratulate ourselves that we were permanently lifted up from the mire of passion and prejudice in which our forefathers had wallowed. The last fifteen years have been one long disenchantment; and the American civil war is the culmination of the process.
    • 'The Confederate Struggle and Recognition', Quarterly Review, 112, 1862, pp. 562-563
  • That great moral teacher, Mr. Punch, some years ago proclaimed a society which he called "The Anti-meddling-in-other-people's-business Society." Now, he sometimes wished in private that Her Majesty's Government belonged to that society. (Laughter and cheers.)
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the 5th Lincolnshire Volunteer Corps in Stamford (22 October 1862), quoted in The Times (23 October 1862), p. 7
  • ...that shapeless, formless, fibreless mass of platitudes which in official cant is called "unsectarian religion".
    • Quarterly Review, 113, 1863, p. 266
  • Wherever it has had free play in the ancient world or in the modern, in the old hemisphere or the new, a thirst for empire, and a readiness for aggressive war, has always marked it.
    • On democracy. Quarterly Review, 115, 1864, p. 239
  • In the real business of life no one troubles himself much about 'moral titles'. No one would dream of surrendering any practical security, for the advantages of which he is actually in possession, in deference of the a priori jurisprudence of a whole Academy of philosophers.
    • Quarterly Review, 116, 1864, p. 263
  • [Property furnishes] almost the only motive power of agitation. A violent political movement (setting aside those where religious controversy is at work) is generally only an indication that a class of those who have little see their way to getting more by means of a political convulsion.
    • Quarterly Review, 116, 1864, pp. 265-266
  • To give 'the suffrage' to a poor man is to give him as large a part in determining that legislation which is mainly concerned with property as the banker whose name is known on every Exchange in Europe, as the merchant whose ships are in every sea, as the landowner who owns the soil of a whole manufacturing town...two day-labourers shall outvote Baron Rothschild...The bestowal upon any class of a voting power disproportionate to their stake in the country, must infallibly give that class a power pro tanto of using taxation as an instrument of plunder, and expenditure and legislation as a fountain of gain.
    • Quarterly Review, 116, 1864, p. 266, pp. 269-270
  • ...the common sense of Christendom has always prescribed for national policy principles diametrically opposed to those that are laid down in the Sermon on the Mount.
    • Saturday Review, 17, 1864, pp. 129–30
  • The North is fighting for no sentimental cause—for no victory of a 'higher civilization'. It is fighting for a very ancient and vulgar object of war—for that which Russia has secured in Poland—that which Austria clings to in Venetia—that which Napoleon sought in Spain. It is a struggle for empire, conducted with a recklessness of human life which may have been paralleled in practice, but has never been avowed with equal cynicism. If any shame is left in the Americans, the first revision they will make in their constitution will be to repudiate formally the now exploded doctrine laid down in the Declaration of Independence, that 'Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed'.
    • 'The United States as an Example', Quarterly Review, 117, 1865, pp. 252-253
  • Resistance is folly or heroism—a virtue or a vice—in most cases, according to the probabilities there are of its being successful. The perils of change are so great the promise of the most hopeful theories is so often deceptive, that it is frequently the wiser part to uphold the existing state of things, if it can be done, even though, in point of argument, it should be utterly indefensible.
    • 'Parliamentary Reform', Quarterly Review, 117, 1865, p. 550
  • A Government which is strong enough to hold its own will generally command an acquiescence which with all but very speculative minds, is the equivalent of contentment.
    • 'Parliamentary Reform', Quarterly Review, 117, 1865, p. 550
  • Conflict in free states is the law of life.
    • Quarterly Review, 118, 1865, p. 198
  • Opinions upon moral questions are more often the expression of strongly felt expediency than of careful ethical reasoning; and the opinions so formed by one generation become the conscientious convictions or the sacred instincts of the next.
    • Saturday Review, 29, 1865, p. 532
  • We might as well hope for the termination of the struggle for existence by which, some philosophers tell us, the existence or the modification of the various species of organized beings upon our planet are determined. The battle for political power is merely an effort, well or ill-judged, on the part of the classes who wage it to better or to secure their own position. Unless our social activity shall have become paralyzed, and the nation shall have lost its vitality, this battle must continue to rage. In this sense the question of reform, that is to say, the question of relative class power, can never be settled.
    • Quarterly Review, 120, 1866, p. 273
  • It is said,—and men seem to think that condemnation can go no further than such a censure—that they brought us within twenty-four hours of revolution...But is it in truth so great an evil, when the dearest interests and the most sincere convictions are at stake, to go within twenty-four hours of revolution?
    • On resistance to the Reform Act 1832. Quarterly Review, 123, 1867, p. 557
  • There can be no finality in politics.
    • Quarterly Review, 123, 1867, p. 557
  • I have for so many years entertained a firm conviction that we were going to the dogs that I have got to be quite accustomed to the expectation.
    • Letter to H. W. Acland (4 February 1867), quoted in Lady Gwedolen Cecil, The Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury. Volume I (1921), p. 211
  • As long as I sit for a Conservative borough, I must continue to rank in the party and I will do what I can to promote good legislation. But I cannot look upon them as more likely to promote any cause I may have at heart than the other side. The suffrage is gone: they are lukewarm about the Church, and would no doubt give it up, as they have given up other things, for the sake of office. And beyond these two there is nothing, so far as I know, of which the Conservatives are in any special way the protectors.
    • Letter to J. A. Shaw-Stewart (17 April 1867), quoted in Lady Gwendolen Cecil, Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury, Volume I (1921), p. 264
  • He ventured to enter his most earnest protest against the mode in which several Members of that House were inclined to treat anything that ran out of the common ruck—and introduced them to schemes and ideas which former debates had not reached. The scheme of the hon. Gentleman was not new—he should not have thought that it was new to many Members of that House; the literature of the country had been full of it for three or four years. They all instinctively felt that it was a scheme that had no chance of success. It was not of our atmosphere—it was not in accordance with our habits; it did not belong to us. They all knew that it could not pass. Whether that was creditable to the House or not was a question into which he would not inquire; but every Member of the House the moment he saw the scheme upon the Paper saw that it belonged to the class of impracticable things.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (30 May 1867) against John Stuart Mill's proposal for electing MPs by proportional representation
  • The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was to the fullest extent responsible for not having made any preparation against the famine...The doctrines of political economy had been worshipped as a sort of "fetish" by officials who, because they believed that in the long run supply and demand would square themselves, seemed to have utterly forgotten that human life was short, and that men could not subsist without food beyond a few days. They mechanically left the laws of political economy to work themselves out while hundreds of thousands of human beings were perishing from famine.
  • The great evil, and it was a hard thing to say, was that English officials in India, with many very honourable exceptions, did not regard the lives of the coloured inhabitants with the same feeling of intense sympathy which they would show to those of their own race, colour, and tongue. If that was the case it was not their fault alone. Some blame must be laid upon the society in which they had been brought up, and upon the public opinion in which they had been trained. It became them to remember that from that place, more than from any other in the kingdom, proceeded that influence which formed the public opinion of the age, and more especially that kind of public opinion which governed the action of officials in every part of the Empire. If they would have our officials in distant parts of the Empire, and especially in India, regard the lives of their coloured fellow-subjects with the same sympathy and with the same zealous and quick affection with which they would regard the lives of their fellow-subjects at home, it was the Members of that House who must give the tone and set the example. That sympathy and regard must arise from the zeal and jealousy with which the House watched their conduct and the fate of our Indian fellow-subjects. Until we showed them our thorough earnestness in this matter—until we were careful to correct all abuses and display our own sense that they are as thoroughly our fellow-subjects as those in any other part of the Empire, we could not divest ourselves of all blame if we should find that officials in India did treat with something of coldness and indifference such frightful calamities as that which had so recently happened in that country.
  • We have heard from the opposite Bench several very animated appeals to this House, and several constitutional lectures as to our duties. The noble Earl the late Foreign Secretary (the Earl of Clarendon) went so far, as I understood him, as to tell us that we must watch public opinion more closely, and pay greater attention to the majorities in the other House of Parliament. My Lords, it occurs to me to ask the noble Earl whether he has considered for what purpose this House exists, and whether he would be willing to go through the humiliation of being a mere echo and supple tool of the other House in order to secure for himself the luxury of mock legislation? I agree with my noble Friend the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) below me that it were better not to be than submit to such a slavery.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (26 June 1868)
  • On...rare and great occasions, on which the national mind has fully declared itself, I do not doubt your Lordships would yield to the opinion of the country—otherwise the machinery of Government could not be carried on. But there is an enormous step between that and being the mere echo of the House of Commons...I have no fear of the conduct of the House of Lords in this respect. I am quite sure—whatever judgment may be passed on us, whatever predictions may be made, be your term of existence long or short—you will never consent to act except as a free, independent House of the Legislature, and that you will consider any other more timid or subservient course as at once unworthy of your traditions, unworthy of your honour, and, most of all, unworthy of the nation you serve.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (26 June 1868)
  • Social stability is ensured, not by the cessation of the demand for change – for the needy and the restless will never cease to cry for it – but by the fact that change in its progress must at last hurt some class of men who are strong enough to arrest it. The army of so-called reform, in every stage of its advance, necessarily converts a detachment of its force into opponents. The more rapid the advance the more formidable will the desertion become, till at last a point will be reached where the balance between the forces of conservation and destruction will be redressed, and the political equilibrium be restored.
    • Quarterly Review, 127, 1869, pp. 551-552
  • To act the part of the fulcrum from which the least Radical portion of the party opposed to them can work upon their friends and leaders, is undoubtedly not an attractive future...it may well end in the moderate Liberals enjoying a permanent tenure of office, propped up mainly by their support...Yet it is the only policy by which the Conservatives can now effectively serve their country.
    • Quarterly Review, 127, 1869, p. 560
  • But an Ethiopian cannot change his skin—nor can I put off my "Toryism"—my deep distrust of the changes which are succeeding each other so rapidly. Numbers of men support them who are not of the spirit that bred them; but that spirit is essentially a pagan spirit, discarding the supernatural, and worshipping not God but man. It is creeping over Europe rapidly: and I can not put off the conviction that it is dissolving every cement that holds society together. I have given you enough and too much of my gloomy thoughts. They have been excited by reading in a Liberal paper "that learning is too high and sacred a thing to be sectarian". Bah!
    • Letter to Henry Acland (12 November 1869), quoted in J. F. A. Mason, 'The Election of Lord Salisbury as Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1869', Oxoniensia, vol. xxix (1964–5), p. 188

1870s[edit]

  • I do hope he [Otto von Bismarck] will burn down the Faubourg St. Antoine and crush out the Paris mob. Their freaks and madnesses have been a curse to Europe for the last eighty years.
    • Letter to G. M. W. Sandford on the Paris Commune (26 October 1870), quoted in Paul Smith, Lord Salisbury on Politics: A Selection From His Articles in the Quarterly Review, 1860-1883 (1972), p. 105
  • It is our political machinery which fails. Unrivalled as an instrument for enfeebling the arm of Government, and therefore hindering an excess of executive interference, it has prevented the oppressions into which the zeal of Continental bureaus constantly betrays them. It satisfies the most imperious want of a free people, which is to be let alone. It is not ineffective for purposes of mere destruction, especially when it is driven by the forces of sectarian animosity. But in matters where it is necessary that Government should govern and create, it lamentably breaks down. All the virtues that are attributed to it—in many respects justly—for the concerns of peace, make it helpless for the purposes of war.
    • 'Political Lessons of the War', Quarterly Review, 130, 1871, pp. 274-275
  • The revolution of 1832 was, therefore, in its ultimate results, a democratic revolution, though its earlier form was transitional and incomplete. This form was productive of great advantages for the time: indeed, for some years it might be said, without exaggeration, that the accidental equilibrium of political forces which it had produced presented the highest ideal of internal government the world had hitherto seen. But it was not the less provisional on that account. The forces by which political organisms are destroyed were, for the time, balanced by influences which still lingered, and were, therefore, neutralised. But these were increasing, and the others were decaying, and the balance could not last for any length of time. It has now been finally upset, and we have now fully reached the phase of political transformation to which the revolution of 1832 logically led.
    • 'Political Lessons of the War', Quarterly Review, 130, 1871, pp. 279-280
  • So long as we have government by party, the very notion of repose must be foreign to English politics. Agitation is, so to speak, endowed in this country. There is a standing machinery for producing it. There are rewards which can only be obtained by men who excite the public mind, and devise means of persuading one set of persons that they are deeply injured by another. The production of cries is encouraged by a heavy bounty. The invention and exasperation of controversies lead those who are successful in such arts to place, and honour, and power. Therefore, politicians will always select the most irritating cries, and will raise the most exasperating controversies the circumstances will permit.
    • Quarterly Review, 130, 1871, p. 578
  • The conflict between Socialism and existing civilisation must be a death-struggle. If the combat is once commenced, one or other of the combatants must perish. It is idle to plead that the schemes of these men are their religion. There are religions so hostile to morality, so poisonous to the life-springs of society, that they are outside the pale of human tolerance.
    • 'The Commune and the Internationale', Quarterly Review, 131, 1871, p. 562
  • Some persons, I know, entertain a notion that the proper way to educate a young man of 18 is to put before him all the arguments and systems of belief which ever have been or can be devised, and let him take his choice; but I am quite convinced that no such notion will ever commend itself to the general mass of parents in this country. They are well aware that thorny questions of controversy are not fit for men of unripe and unpractised minds, and that the only effect of asking them to choose impartially between all beliefs is to make them think that no belief is of much importance, and that at an age when temptations are strongest they may come to the conclusion that the moral maxims which rest on belief and belief alone are mere ancient and valueless superstitions.
  • I am sure that no more certain method, not only of dechristianizing, but demoralizing the youth of the classes who send their children to the Universities could be found than subjecting them to the influence of tutors who would start with the idea that all beliefs should be submitted for free selection to the consciences and intelligences of their pupils.
  • The whole of our conduct towards the Yankees is too disgusting to think calmly of. ... If we had recognised the South ten years ago, America would have now been nicely divided into hostile states.
    • Letter (1872), quoted in Andrew Roberts, Lord Salisbury: Victorian Titan (1999), p. 50
  • On Tory principles the case presents much that is painful, but no perplexity whatever. Ireland must be kept, like India, at all hazards: by persuasion if possible; if not, by force.
    • Quarterly Review, 133, 1872, p. 572
  • The two parties represent two opposite moods of the English mind, which may be trusted, unless past experience is wholly useless, to succeed each other from time to time. Neither of them, neither the love of organic changes nor the dislike of it, can be described as normal to a nation. In every nation, they have succeeded each other at varying intervals during the whole of the period which separates its birth from its decay. Each finds in the circumstances and constitution of individuals a regular support which never deserts it. Among men, the old, the phlegmatic, the sober-minded, among classes, those who have more to lose than to gain by change, furnish the natural Conservatives. The young, the envious, the restless, the dreaming, those whose condition cannot easily be made worse, will be rerum novarum cupidi. But the two camps together will not nearly include the nation: for the vast mass of every nation is unpolitical.
    • Quarterly Review, 133, 1872, pp. 583-584
  • ...the central doctrine of Conservatism, that it is better to endure almost any political evil than to risk a breach of the historic continuity of government.
    • Quarterly Review, 135, 1873, p. 544
  • One thing at least is clear—that no one believes in our good intentions. We are often told to secure ourselves by their affections, not by force. Our great-grand children may be privileged to do it, but not we.
    • Letter to Lord Northbrook (28 May 1874) on British rule in India, quoted in S. Gopal, British Policy in India, 1858-1905 (1965), p. 65
  • [Permitting discussions in the Indian Council seems to me] an unmeaning mimicry of the forms of popular institutions where the reality is impossible. What is called public opinion in India is frequently the opinion of a clique, and presents none of the guarantees for sound judgment possessed by a public opinion which represents the combined views of a large mass of different interests and classes. I have the smallest possible belief in 'Councils' possessing any other than consultative functions.
    • Letter to Lord Northbrook (12 June 1874), quoted in S. Gopal, British Policy in India, 1858-1905 (1965), p. 104
  • I am afraid a mistake was made by Lord Macaulay and others in the direction they gave to educational efforts in India. Popular education would have enabled the millions to raise themselves a little out of their extreme poverty. The University education only manufactures a redundant supply of candidate for the liberal professions in a country where the demand is small, and as a by-product turns out a formidable array of seditious article-writers.
    • Letter to Lord Northbrook (25 March 1875), quoted in M. N. Das, Indian National Congress versus the British, Vol I (1978), p. 24
  • I believe...all the enduring institutions which human societies have attained have been reached, not of the set design and forethought of some group of statesmen, but by that unbidden and unconscious convergence of many thoughts and wills in successive generations to which, as it obeys no single guiding hand, we may give the name of "drifting".
    • Minute (20 April 1875), quoted in E. D. Steele, 'Salisbury at the India Office', in Lord Blake and Hugh Cecil (eds.), Salisbury: The Man and his Policies (1987), p. 141
  • As to action the matter is simple: India is held by the sword: and its rulers must in all essentials be guided by the maxims which benefit the Government of the sword.
    • Letter to Sir Philip Wodehouse (4 June 1875), quoted in Michael Bentley, Lord Salisbury's World: Conservative Environments in Late-Victorian Britain (2001), pp. 233-234
  • It was time to put a stop to the growing idea that England ought to pay tribute to India as a kind of apology for having conquered her: & you have done it effectively.
    • Letter to Benjamin Disraeli (16 July 1875), quoted in Marvin Swartz, Politics of British Foreign Policy in the Era of Disraeli and Gladstone (1985), p. 17
  • The vast multitudes of India I thoroughly believe are well contented with our rule. They have changed masters so often that there is nothing humiliating to them in having gained a new one.
    • Speech to a prize-giving ceremony in Cooper's Hill (July 1875), quoted in Frederick Sanders Pulling, The Life and Speeches of the Marquis of Salisbury, K. G. (1885), p. 222
  • Speaking generally, I am desirous to push forward the argument from the interests of the people more than has hitherto been done. As I have said, I consider it to be our true rule and measure of action, and our observance of it is the one justification for our presence in India.
    • Letter to Lord Northbrook (25 August 1875), quoted in S. Gopal, British Policy in India, 1858-1905 (1965), p. 65
  • If England is to remain supreme, she must be able to appeal to the coloured against the white, as well to the white against the coloured. It is therefore not merely as a matter of sentiment and of justice, but as a matter of safety, that we ought to try and lay the foundation of some feeling on the part of coloured races towards the crown other than the recollection of defeat and the sensation of subjection.
    • Letter to the Viceroy of India Lord Lytton (7 July 1876), quoted in S. Gopal, British Policy in India, 1858-1905 (1965), p. 115
  • It is clear enough that the traditional Palmerstonian policy [of British support for Ottoman territorial integrity] is at an end.
    • Salisbury to Disraeli (September 1876), quoted in G. Cecil, The Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury. Volume II, p. 85
  • Diplomacy which does not rest on force is the most feeble and futile of weapons, and except for bare self-defence, we have not the force.
  • English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boat-hook to avoid collisions.
  • The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.
  • I would have devoted my whole efforts to securing the waterway to India – by the acquisition of Egypt or of Crete, and would in no way have discouraged the obliteration of Turkey.
  • No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
    • Letter to Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (15 June 1877), quoted in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) Elizabeth M. Knowles, p. 642; this has also been published without the word "insipid".
  • Salisbury said two things which are more decided than any former utterances of his: that Russia at Constantinople would do us no harm: and that we ought to seize Egypt.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet, as recorded in Lord Derby's diary (16 June 1877), quoted in John Vincent (ed.), The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, Fifteenth Earl of Derby (1994), p. 410
  • Mohammedanism has the only organization and pretty nearly the only ambition hostile to us that is left in India.
    • Letter to Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (25 June 1877), quoted in David Steele, Lord Salisbury: A Political Biography (2001), p. 122 and Shih-tsung Wang, Lord Salisbury and Nationality in the East Viewing Imperialism in Its Proper Perspective (2019)
  • War is righteous or unrighteous according as it is opportune or inopportune.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (17 January 1878)
  • ...if our ancestors had cared for the rights of other people, the British empire would not have been made.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet, as recorded in Lord Derby's diary (8 March 1878), quoted in John Vincent (ed.), The Diaries of Edward Henry Stanley, Fifteenth Earl of Derby (1994), p. 523
  • Englishmen are moderate, careful to avoid unnecessary offence, slow to come to a dangerous and violent conclusion, and tenacious and resolute when the conclusion has once been arrived at.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (8 April 1878)
  • We are trustees for the British Empire. We have received that trust with all its strength, all its glory, all its traditions; and the one thing we have to care for is that we pass them untarnished to our successors.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (8 April 1878)
  • In Europe good government and other qualities may secure the sympathy of a population. In the East the first quality that secures the sympathy of a population is the possession of strength, and the moment they were convinced that strength had gone from Turkey, the power of Turkey to maintain her Empire was gone. Are your Lordships prepared to see the allegiance of the people of Asia given up to the advancing Power? If so, I ask whether there would be any chance of maintaining the loyalty of the people of India, when once they knew that the Russian power was dominant down to the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, and that the English power was nothing compared with it? That was the real danger which we had to fear.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (18 July 1878)
  • You must ask yourselves, supposing 150 years ago a school had arisen similar to schools that we have heard now, who had told and who had persuaded the English Government that such things as the conquest of India, or of Canada, or Gibraltar, or Malta, or the Cape of Good Hope—that these things were unimportant, and that the one thing was to look at home at our own parochial politics? Supposing this had been said 150 years, do you imagine you would now be the great, the numerous, the prosperous nation that you are?
    • Speech to the London and Westminster Working Men's Constitutional Association in Hatfield Park (4 August 1879), quoted in The Times (5 August 1879), p. 4

1880s[edit]

  • The hurricane that has swept us away is so strange & new a phenomenon that we shall not for some time understand its real meaning. ... It seems to me to be inspired by some definite desire for change: & means business. It may disappear as rapidly as it came: or it may be the beginning of a serious war of classes. Gladstone is doing all he can to give it the latter meaning.
    • Letter to Arthur Balfour after the Conservative defeat in the general election (10 April 1880), quoted in Salisbury–Balfour Correspondence, ed. Robin Harcourt Williams (1988), p. 40
  • I am afraid that in Asia allegiance is merely the recognition of superior strength, and that the Afghans will, on the whole, ask themselves, when they are determining to whom their allegiance shall be given, which is the stronger Power—which is the Power that can protect their friends and punish their enemies—and I am afraid that they will conclude that the stronger Power is that which advances and never retreats, and not the Power which retreats and preaches all the way.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (3 March 1881)
  • ...as individuals and as nations we live in states of society utterly different from each other. As a collection of individuals, we live under the highest and latest development of civilization, in which the individual is rigidly forbidden to defend himself, because society is always ready and able to defend him. As a collection of nations we live in an age of the merest Faustrecht, in which each one obtains his rights precisely in proportion to his ability, or that of his allies, to fight for them...In practice it is found that International Law is always on the side of strong battalions...It is puerile...to apply to the dealings of a nation with its neighbour's territory the morality which would be applicable to two individuals possessing adjoining property, and protected from mutual wrong by a law superior to both.
    • Quarterly Review, 151, 1881, pp. 542-544
  • I earnestly hope that the House of Lords will always continue to justify your confidence; that it will conscientiously and firmly fulfil the duties for which I think it is eminently fitted, and which are to represent the permanent and enduring wishes of the nation as opposed to the casual impulses which some passing victory at the polls may in some circumstances have given to the decisions of the other House.
    • Speech in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (11 October 1881), quoted in The Times (12 October 1881), p. 7
  • The Afghan looks upon an Englishman in two lights—first, as a person who is an infidel, and next as a person who has money. In the first character he is anxious to kill him, in the second he is anxious to rifle him. (Cheers and laughter.)
    • Speech in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (12 October 1881), quoted in The Times (13 October 1881), p. 7
  • Much has been said in the present debate about conciliation and the value of conciliatory measures to Ireland...Conciliatory legislation is infinitely superior; but it depends for its efficacy on the circumstances under which it is used, and on the manner in which it is applied. Deterrent legislation, if vigorous and strong, at least deters, whatever the value of that process may be. But conciliatory legislation only conciliates where there is a full belief on the part of those with whom you are dealing that you are acting on a principle of justice, and not that you are acting on motives of fear. Where there is a suspicion or a strong belief that your conciliatory measures have been extorted from you by the violence which they are meant to put a stop to, all the value of that conciliation is taken away.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (5 June 1882)
  • I believe there is a great deal of Villa Toryism which requires organization.
    • Letter to Sir Stafford Northcote (25 June 1882), quoted in James Cornford, 'The Transformation of Conservatism in the Late Nineteenth Century', Victorian Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1 (September 1963), p. 52
  • [T]he opinions which some politicians loudly express...that the maintenance of the honour of this country and jealousy for her military fame are bygone emotions which cannot live in the face of the practical spirit of the present day. ... Now, if you wish to learn whether it is true that industry can be pursued and trade can prosper while glory is tarnished and empire is destroyed, look...on this case of Egypt. You see at once what destruction there is of capital, of industry, of all those solid material advantages which your counsellors would induce you to believe are the one thing for human beings to regard. You will see how all these advantages are dissipated and destroyed at once directly the old traditional jealousy for the honour of the country is renounced by the Government.
    • Speech in Willis's Rooms (29 June 1882), quoted in The Times (30 June 1882), p. 8
  • Depend upon it, firmness at the right moment is the real secret of a policy of peace. (Cheers.) There is little reason to doubt that if we had Ministers of the old English type all these terrible things would not have occurred. ... I...appeal to the names...of Lord Russell and Lord Palmerston, and you will be readily sensible of the policy which they...in difficulties not unlike this, pursued, because it recognised the danger at the right time; because there was no fear of employing force when force was necessary, and therefore they escaped the terrible disasters upon which the country now seems to be rushing.
    • Speech in Willis's Rooms (29 June 1882), quoted in The Times (30 June 1882), p. 8
  • It is right to be forward in the defence of the poor; no system that is not just as between rich and poor can hope to survive.
    • Speech at Edinburgh (24 November 1882), quoted in G. Cecil, The Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury. Volume III, p. 65
  • A party whose mission is to live entirely upon the discovery of grievances are apt to manufacture the element upon which they subsist.
    • Speech at Edinburgh (24 November 1882), quoted in G. Cecil, The Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury. Volume III, p. 65
  • In the present temper of the Irish people...the extension of the suffrage now would be merely to strengthen the element which opposes the connexion with England, and strikes for independence. ... You, the constituencies of England, must settle how this question is to be dealt with. (Cheers.) If you show firmness and resolution, if you remember the great traditions of the country to which you belong, if you resolve that no disputative formulae or Liberal superstitions shall induce you to barter away the greatness of your country, I believe that a final issue may be arrived at. But if you allow the play of parties to bring about imprudent concessions, if you allow the mere impotence of a divided English opinion to permit the establishment of an independence or a quasi independence in Ireland, the days of England's great pre-eminence among the nations of the earth are numbered. (Loud cheers.)
    • Speech in Birmingham (29 March 1883), quoted in The Times (30 March 1883), p. 10
  • [A] great and vital question has been raised in India. (Hear, hear.) It is...the question whether Englishmen in that part of the empire shall or shall not be placed at the mercy of native judges. ... [I]n dealing with foreign countries we have been singularly sensitive of the danger of subjecting Europeans to Oriental tribunals. In Turkey, in Egypt, on the shore of Africa, in China, in Japan, we have always pursued the same policy—to insist that an Englishman, if he has a cause to try, or if he were indicted or attacked in law by any native, should have someone of his own blood and religion...in the Court by which he was tried. ... What would your feelings be if you were in some distant and thinly-populated land, far from all English succour, and your life or honour were exposed to the decision of some tribunal consisting of a coloured man; what would your feelings of security be? (Hear, hear.) You would know that his thoughts were not your thoughts, that he could not justly estimate the circumstances or feelings in which you acted (hear, hear), and that, perhaps, his view of judicial duties was not such as Englishmen are accustomed to find in the Judges to whom their fortunes are consigned. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Birmingham (29 March 1883), quoted in The Times (30 March 1883), p. 10
  • In our belief, the great empire of England, which we have inherited from our forefathers, concerns all alike, but it concerns those most who depend most for trade and employment upon the constant prosperity of the country. (Cheers.) I do not believe that England, stripped of India, stripped of its colonies, humbled before Europe, would be a happy England for the working classes. (Cheers.) We have received from the self-denial, the heroic actions of our forefathers a great empire. We mean, if we can, to keep it (cheers), to develop it, to strengthen it, to enrich it, and that not in the interests of a class, but of all, and most of all the industrial classes of this country. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)
    • Speech in Birmingham (29 March 1883), quoted in The Times (30 March 1883), p. 10
  • As I have said, there are two points or two characteristics of the Radical programme which it is your special duty to resist. One concerns the freedom of individuals. After all, the great characteristic of this country is that it is a free country, and by a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like. That is not my notion of freedom.
    • Speech to the third annual banquet of the Kingston and District Working Men's Conservative Association (13 June 1883), quoted in The Times (14 June 1883), p. 7
  • It is patent on the face of history that the aggregates of men who form communities, like the aggregates of atoms that form living bodies, are subject to laws of progressive change – be it towards growth or towards decay.
    • Quarterly Review, 156, 1883, p. 570
  • Half a century ago, the first feeling of all Englishmen was for England. Now, the sympathies of a powerful party are instinctively given to whatever is against England. It may be Boers or Baboos, or Russians or Affghans, or only French speculators – the treatment these all receive in their controversies with England is the same: whatever else my fail them, they can always count on the sympathies of the political a party from whom during the last half century the rulers of England have been mainly chosen...It is striking, though by no means a solitary indication of how low, in the present temper of English politics, our sympathy with our own countrymen has fallen. Of course, we shall be told that a conscience of exalted sensibility, which is the special attribute of the Liberal party, has enabled them to discover, what English statesmen had never discovered before, that the cause to which our countrymen are opposed is generally the just one...For ourselves, we are rather disposed to think that patriotism has become in some breasts so very reasonable an emotion, because it is ceasing to be an emotion at all; and that these superior scruples, to which our fathers were insensible, and which always make the balance of justice lean to the side of abandoning either our territory or our countrymen, indicate that the national impulses which used to make Englishmen cling together in face of every external trouble are beginning to disappear.
    • ‘Disintegration’, Quarterly Review, no. 312; October 1883, reprinted in Paul Smith (ed.), Lord Salisbury on Politics. A Selection From His Articles in the Quarterly Review, 1860-1883 (1972), pp. 342-343
  • The terror of the Russian name has enabled them to subdue the people of Merv. The terror of the English name has disappeared since the Government retreated from Kandahar. (Cheers.) They will not learn that these tribes, these vast uncivilized multitudes, are not governed merely by the sword. They are governed by their imagination. (Hear, hear.) They are governed by their fears. They ask themselves, "Which is the Power which is strong and advancing?" and "Which is the Power which is irresolute and retreating?" They saw Russia advancing every succeeding year, they saw England giving up the advantages she had gained, and they concluded that it was for their interest to conciliate and obey Russia, and that they might safely treat England with contempt. In all these matters the Government have equally failed. (Hear, hear.) In the Transvaal and in Zululand and in Afghanistan they reversed our policy and their action is stamped with the brand of impotence, and it is impotence which they have succeeded in persuading the Asiatic is the chief characteristic of the policy of Great Britain. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester (16 April 1884), quoted in The Times (17 April 1884), p. 6
  • Constitutional institutions are splendid things, but whoever heard of any nation which was purely Mahomedan being able to enjoy them. A constitution depends upon the character of the people to whom it is applied, and there is no circumstance which influences those people more than the religion which they profess, and I will venture to say that there is no instance in the history of the world of any purely Mahomedan, or mainly Mahomedan, population flourishing under what we call popular institutions.
    • Speech in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester (16 April 1884), quoted in The Times (17 April 1884), p. 6
  • We know Mr. Gladstone is an authority...that the Soudanese are struggling for their liberty. My impression of the matter is that the Soudanese are struggling for abridging the liberty of other people in the shape of the slave trade. (Laughter and cheers.)
    • Speech in Plymouth on the Mahdist War (4 June 1884), quoted in The Times (5 June 1884), p. 6
  • ...when I am told that my ploughmen are capable citizens, it seems to me ridiculous to say that educated women are not just as capable. A good deal of the political battle of the future will be a conflict between religion and unbelief: & the women will in that controversy be on the right side.
    • Letter to Lady John Manners (14 June 1884), quoted in Paul Smith (ed.), Lord Salisbury on Politics: A Selection From His Articles in the Quarterly Review, 1860–83 (1972), p. 18, footnote
  • You only have to go on working together as you have hitherto done, not allowing yourselves to be discouraged by any temporary reverses, not believing that any evil day, when it comes, must necessarily be permanent, but trying to convince—what is truth—that in the steadiness and stability of our institutions lies the great hope of industry of the working man (hear, hear)—trying to impress upon him that any adventurous policy or change at home which sets class against class, and fills all men's minds with disquiet and mistrust, is a dangerous thing for industry, and is the most certain poison which trade and commerce can suffer under. (Hear, hear.) If you can bring these facts before the minds of the working men they will observe as time goes on that a policy which appeals to discontent does not produce internal prosperity. (Hear, hear.) They will see that a policy which neglects the Empire of England does not open to us the markets of the world. (Hear, hear.) They will see that the path of national prosperity and national dishonour are not parallel, and they will recognise with this that the party which sustained the old institutions—institutions under which England grew great—which upholds the traditions under which her name has ever been illustrious abroad—that to that party most rightly belongs, and most safely can be confided, the interests of the complicated industry and commerce on which the existence of so many millions of our countrymen depends. (Loud cheers.)
    • Speech in Glasgow (1 October 1884), quoted in The Times (2 October 1884), p. 7
  • My idea of the manner of dealing with Russia is not to extract from her promises which she will not keep (cheers), but to say to her, "There is a point to which you shall not go (cheers), and if you go we will spare neither men nor money until you go back." (Loud cheers.)
    • Speech in Wrexham (21 April 1885), quoted in The Times (22 April 1885), p. 10
  • Remember what it is for which we struggle. In the first place, it is for the maintenance of religion. You know there is an old proverb, "You may know a man by his associates," and you may notice, if you will follow the course of literature, that infidels are always Liberals.
    • Speech in Welshpool, Montgomeryshire (22 April 1885), quoted in The Times (23 April 1885), p. 8
  • He certainly agrees with your Majesty in thinking that the [Irish] Nationalists cannot be trusted: and that any bargain with them would be full of danger.
    • Letter to Queen Victoria (20 July 1885), quoted in Viscount Gladstone, After Thirty Years (1928), p. 392
  • As to religious education, which Mr. Morley desires to get rid of, it is one of our most cherished privileges. (Loud cheers.) I am not speaking for my own alone. What I claim I would extend equally to the Nonconformists of Wales or the Roman Catholics of Ireland. But I do claim that whatever Church or form of Christianity they belong to, there should be given the opportunity to educate the people in the belief of Christianity which they profess, instead of giving them a lifeless, boiled down, mechanical, unreal religious teaching which is prevalent in the Board schools.
    • Speech in Newport, Montgomeryshire (7 October 1885), quoted in The Times (8 October 1885), p. 7
  • [S]omehow or other another prospect of unlimited vestry confiscation, something like the three acres and a cow, seems to have affected the electorate of this country. ... The discussion that has taken place has pretty well convinced those who did not know it before, that small tenancies were not the source of unbounded wealth and happiness to those who had the privilege of enjoying them; and I have noticed that the offer has fallen perfectly flat on those agricultural labourers who know what they are doing. Their observation was, "Give me three or four acres? I cannot live upon that."
    • Speech in St. Stephen's Club, London (23 November 1885), quoted in The Times (24 November 1885), p. 7
  • The disease is not in Ireland. The disease is here—in Westminster. If you had pursued—if you would now pursue—any steady, unvarying, and consistent policy with regard to Ireland, you would find that the problems that that country offered to you in respect of government are not greater than the problems of government which have been successively overcome by every Government in the world. There is nothing in them of that extraordinary or extreme character that should set at defiance the resources of civilization. But it is necessary, above all things, that the play of our Party system shall not call into question the foundations upon which our polity rests. It is necessary that men should not be able to speculate on the change of Party to Party in the hope of altering the fundamental laws on which the union of the United Kingdom is based. If you have instability of purpose, if you have a policy shifting from five years to five years with each change in the wheel of political fortune, or the humour of political Parties in this country, you are drifting straight to a ruin which will engulf England and Ireland alike. Your hope is not so much in this or that particular plan or panacea for restoring order, or maintaining law, or reviving the conditions of civilized life in Ireland. Your hope is in this—that Parliament shall school itself to adopt a steady, consistent policy, and maintain it when it is once adopted. A resolution of that kind manfully carried out will restore that prosperity to which Ireland has for so long been a stranger.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (12 January 1886)
  • There are other countries in the world where your Empire is maintained by the faith which men have that those who take your side will be supported and upheld. Whenever the thought crosses you that you can safely abandon those who for centuries have taken your side in Ireland, I beseech you to think of India, I beseech you to think of the effect it will have if the suspicion can get abroad there that, should convenience once dictate such a policy, like the Loyalists of Ireland, will be flung aside like a sucked orange when their purpose has been fulfilled.
    • Speech to a Conservative Party banquet against Irish Home Rule (18 February 1886), quoted in Stephen J. Lee, Gladstone and Disraeli (2005), p. 140
  • We give our confidence to the people of England because they have always been loyal to the Queen, have always loved the law, and have always been passionately attached to the Empire. (Cheers.) Has that characterised the Irish dominant faction? ... Why they have always sought support from time to time from whatever nation happened to be in hostility to England—first the Spaniards, then the French, and now the Americans.
    • Speech to a banquet of the Merchant Taylors' Company, London (10 May 1886), quoted in The Times (11 May 1886), p. 12
  • I believe that any repeal of the Union [with Ireland] or any substantial tampering with it is fraught with danger to this country. That has always been the opinion of the Conservative party and always will remain so. It is granting a separate government and separate executive. ... The result is that the [Protestant] minority will not only have laws passed of which they disapprove, but they will have to depend on the toleration and good will of their enemies for the common privileges of civilised life and securities.
    • Speech to a banquet of the Merchant Taylors' Company, London (10 May 1886), quoted in The Times (11 May 1886), p. 12
  • The truth is that the connection of Ireland with England has been full of trouble, and I fear there is no remedy. ... It is a chronic disease, and even if it is not to be cured we have proved in the past that we can get on with it and yet carry on our Empire to a vast pitch of prosperity. What has been done in the past can be done in the future. ... [D]o not let us attempt to cure it by a measure which will put this island into a condition which never during 700 years of our history has existed—which will hand over those who have had the courage to defend us to the maltreatment of their worst enemies, and which will establish at our very doors a post—a hostile post—which will be at the pleasure of any foreign power which may sometimes be hostile to us.
    • Speech to a banquet of the Merchant Taylors' Company, London (10 May 1886), quoted in The Times (11 May 1886), p. 12
  • Mr. Parnell said the other night, that Ireland is a "nation". Well, if a nation only means a certain number of individuals collected between certain latitudes and longitudes, I admit in that sense Ireland is a nation. But if there is anything further necessary—if to make a nation you require a past united history, traditions in which you can all join, achievements of which you all are proud, interests which you share in common, and sympathies which belong to all—then emphatically Ireland is not a nation; Ireland is two nations.
    • Speech to the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations in St. James's Hall, London (15 May 1886), quoted in The Times (17 May 1886), p. 6
  • Confidence depends upon the people in whom you are to confide. You would not confide free representative institutions to the Hottentots, for instance. Nor, going higher up the scale, would you confide them to the Oriental nations whom you are governing in India—although finer specimens of human character you will hardly find than some of those who belong to these nations, but who are simply not suited to the particular kind of confidence of which I am speaking. Well, I doubt whether you could confide representative institutions to the Russians with any great security. You have done it to the Greeks, but I do not know whether the result has been absolutely what you wish. And when you come to narrow it down you will find that this which is called self-government, but which is really government by the majority, works admirably well when it is confided to people who are of Teutonic race, but that it does not work so well when people of other races are called upon to join in it.
    • Speech to the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations in St. James's Hall, London (15 May 1886), quoted in The Times (17 May 1886), p. 6
  • If they will abandon the habit of mutilating, murdering, robbing, and of preventing honest persons who are attached to England from earning their livelihood, they may be sure there will be no demand for coercion. Well, you will be told you have no alternative policy. My alternative policy is that Parliament should enable the Government of England to govern Ireland. Apply that recipe honestly, consistently, and resolutely for 20 years, and at the end of that time you will find that Ireland will be fit to accept any gifts in the way of local government or repeal of coercion laws that you may wish to give her. What she wants is government—government that does not flinch, that does not vary—government that she cannot hope to beat down by agitations at Westminster—government that does not alter in its resolutions or its temperature by the party changes which take place at Westminster.
    • Speech to the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations in St. James's Hall, London (15 May 1886), quoted in The Times (17 May 1886), p. 6. The Liberal MP John Morley responded by claiming that Salisbury was in favour of "20 years of coercion" for Ireland, which Salisbury contested.
  • There is now before us one great issue by which all others are overshadowed. We have to determine whether the great Empire that we have inherited from our forefathers and which is the glory of us all (cheers) is to exist or to be destroyed.
    • Speech in Leeds against Irish Home Rule (18 June 1886), quoted in The Times (19 June 1886), p. 12
  • We have entered upon a period of struggle. Our national fault is that too much softness has crept into our councils, and we imagine that great national dangers can be conjured by a plentiful administration of platitudes and rose-water.
    • Speech to the inaugural dinner of the National Conservative Club in Willis's Rooms (5 March 1887), quoted in The Times (7 March 1887), p. 7
  • The business which brings you here to-day is of a peculiar character, due to the very peculiar character of the Empire over which the Queen rules. It yields to none, it is perhaps superior to all in its greatness, in its extent, in the vastness of its population, in the magnificence of its wealth. But it has this peculiarity which separates it from other empires—the want of continuity. The Empire is separated into parts, and distant parts, by large stretches of ocean, and what we are really here to do is to see how far we must acquiesce in the conditions which that separation causes, how far we can obliterate them by agreement and by organization.
    • Speech to the Colonial Conference, London (4 April 1887), quoted in The Times (5 April 1887), p. 11
  • We are a Teutonic people. We hold steadily to our opinions.
    • Speech to the Conference of the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations in Oxford (23 November 1887), quoted in The Times (24 November 1887), p. 6
  • Law and order are the privilege of the poor. So far as they affect the rich they are the restraint of the rich. It is for all those who are interested in the industry and commerce of this country, not for those who are interested merely in fixed capital and the leisurely enjoyment of its fruits, to struggle to maintain the idea of the supremacy of the law.
    • Speech to the Conference of the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations in Oxford (23 November 1887), quoted in The Times (24 November 1887), p. 7
  • All these things we have to do in the midst of other nations who are striving by our side, envying our Empire, occupying our markets, encroaching upon our sphere, and whose efforts, unless we are wide-awake and united and enterprising, will end in diminishing still further our means of supporting our vast industrial population.
    • Speech in Carnarvon (10 April 1888), quoted in The Times (11 April 1888), p. 12
  • ...institutions like the House of Lords must die, like all other organic beings, when their time comes.
    • Letter to Alfred Austin (29 April 1888), from Paul Smith (ed.), Lord Salisbury on politics: a selection from his articles in the Quarterly Review, 1860–83 (1972), p. 39, footnote
  • What advantage does my noble Friend think could be derived by humanity, civilization or commerce from leaving the vast tracts of territory which he has described to be simply wandered over by naked savages or to be the hunting ground of slavers?
    • Speech in the House of Lords (6 July 1888), quoted in Michael Bentley, Lord Salisbury's World: Conservative Environments in Late-Victorian Britain (2001), p. 231
  • On general grounds I object to Parliament trying to regulate private morality in matters which only affects the person who commits the offence.
  • The fabric of our prosperity is so artificial, we have raised such a vast edifice of industry and manufacture and wealth within so narrow an area, that the progress of a hostile army through our country would shatter our prosperity with a ruin which centuries would not repair. (Hear, hear.) In proportion to the danger must be our precaution. (Cheers.) We have to protect ourselves.
    • Defending increased naval expenditure; speech in Bristol (22 April 1889), quoted in The Times (24 April 1889), p. 6
  • If you intrust independent executive and legislative power to the Government of Ireland, can you say it will never be hostile? On the contrary...you know that a very considerable proportion of the population of Ireland is unfortunately at this time, and has been for generations past, animated with the most bitter sentiments against England. Well, is there any impediment to prevent them in case of some European war, where you might be fighting for your existence, is there anything to prevent the Government of an independent Ireland...from placing those splendid harbours which lie opposite you at the disposal of a foreign fleet?
    • Speech in Bristol (22 April 1889), quoted in The Times (24 April 1889), p. 6
  • Just conceive what London would be without the Empire. It would be a collection of multitudes, without employment, without industrial hope, sinking down into misery and decay.
    • Speech to the East End Conservative Associations in Mile End, London (16 July 1889), quoted in The Times (17 July 1889), p. 9
  • If I were asked to define Conservative policy, I should say that it was the upholding of confidence.
    • Speech in Nottingham (26 November 1889), quoted in Andrew Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan (1999), p. 544

1890s[edit]

  • The elective principle—government by representation—is not an Eastern idea; it does not fit Eastern traditions or Eastern minds.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (6 March 1890), quoted in The Times (7 March 1890), p. 6
  • Representative Government answers admirably so long as all those who are represented desire much the same thing, and have interests tolerably analogous; but it is put to an intolerable strain when it rests upon a community divided into two sections, one of which is bitterly hostile to the other, and desirous of opposing it upon all occasions. We do not know how the Mahommedan and Hindoo populations if placed face to face with each other in elective representative Government would view each other; but we know, at all events, that one of the heaviest responsibilities and severest duties of the Government of India is to prevent, the outbreak of hostilities caused by the profound differences between those two communities—differences in race, traditions, history, and creed.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (6 March 1890)
  • The conflict which we have to fight is still a conflict of tariffs. In every country resolutions are being formed and plans are being worked out for limiting still further the intercourse of nations with each other and interposing new barriers of tariff... And as years go on we shall have to fight that battle. ... It is the world's conflict of the future.
    • Speech in the Mansion House, London (10 November 1890), quoted in The Times (11 November 1890), p. 4
  • Parliament is a potent engine, and its enactments must always do something, but they very seldom do what the originators of these enactments meant.
    • Statement to the Associated Chambers of Commerce (March 1891)
  • [Most legislation] will have the effect of surrounding the industry which it touches with precautions and investigations, inspections and regulations, in which it will be slowly enveloped and stifled.
    • Statement to the Associated Chambers of Commerce (March 1891)
  • That Mahomedan civilisation hangs back from the general movement of the world, and certainly from the movement of Christian nations. It will not assimilate the modern ideas which are essential to progress and essential even to preservation, and therefore for many, many years past the solicitude of statesmanship has been how are they to keep these Mahomedan communities from crumbling into dust.
    • Speech in Glasgow (20 May 1891), quoted in The Times (21 May 1891), p. 10
  • There is no danger which we have to contend with which is so serious as an exaggeration of the power, the useful power, of the interference of the State. It is not that the State may not or ought not to interfere when it can do so with advantage, but that the occasions on which it can so interfere are so lamentably few and the difficulties that lie in its way are so great. But I think that some of us are in danger of an opposite error. What we have to struggle against is the unnecessary interference of the State, and still more when that interference involves any injustice to any people, especially to any minority. All those who defend freedom are bound as their first duty to be the champions of minorities, and the danger of allowing the majority, which holds the power of the State, to interfere at its will is that the interests of the minority will be disregarded and crushed out under the omnipotent force of a popular vote. But that fear ought not to lead us to carry our doctrine further than is just. I have heard it stated — and I confess with some surprise — as an article of Conservative opinion that paternal Government — that is to say, the use of the machinery of Government for the benefit of the people — is a thing in itself detestable and wicked. I am unable to subscribe to that doctrine, either politically or historically. I do not believe it to have been a doctrine of the Conservative party at any time. On the contrary, if you look back, even to the earlier years of the present century, you will find the opposite state of things; you will find the Conservative party struggling to confer benefits — perhaps ignorantly and unwisely, but still sincerely — through the instrumentality of the State, and resisted by a severe doctrinaire resistance from the professors of Liberal opinions. When I am told that it is an essential part of Conservative opinion to resist any such benevolent action on the part of the State, I should expect Bentham to turn in his grave; it was he who first taught the doctrine that the State should never interfere, and any one less like a Conservative than Bentham it would be impossible to conceive... The Conservative party has always leaned — perhaps unduly leaned — to the use of the State, as far as it can properly be used, for the improvement of the physical, moral, and intellectual condition of our people, and I hope that that mission the Conservative party will never renounce, or allow any extravagance on the other side to frighten them from their just assertion of what has always been its true and inherent principles.
    • Speech to the United Club (15 July 1891), quoted in The Times (16 July 1891), p. 10
  • [T]he trade of Africa...is a motive for preventing territory from falling into the hands of other Powers, that those Powers will probably use the dominion which we concede to them for the purpose of crippling the trade that we otherwise should possess; and that seems to be a legitimate motive for the accession of territory which might otherwise be wanting.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (25 November 1891), quoted in Michael Bentley, Lord Salisbury's World: Conservative Environments in Late-Victorian Britain (2001), p. 226
  • We must learn this rule, which is true alike of rich and poor — that no man and no class of men ever rise to any permanent improvement in their condition of body or of mind except by relying upon their own personal efforts. The wealth with which the rich man is surrounded is constantly tempting him to forget the truth, ad you see in family after family men degenerating from the position of their fathers because they live sluggishly and enjoy what has been placed before them without appealing to their own exertions. The poor man, especially in these days, may have a similar temptation offered to him by legislation, but this same inexorable rule will work. The only true lasting benefit which the statesman can give to the poor man is so to shape matters that the greatest possible opportunity for the exercise of his own moral and intellectual qualities shall be offered to him by the law; and therefore it is that in my opinion nothing that we can do this year, and nothing that we did before, will equal in the benefit that it will confer upon the physical condition, and with the physical will follow the moral too, of the labouring classes in the rural districts, that measure for free education which we passed last year. It will have the effect of bringing education home to many a family which hitherto has not been able to enjoy it, and in that way, by developing the faculties which nature has given to them, it will be a far surer and a far more valuable aid to extricate them from any of the sufferings or hardships to which they may be exposed than the most lavish gifts of mere sustenance that the State could offer.
    • Speech to Devonshire Conservatives (January 1892), as quoted in The Marquis of Salisbury (1892), by James J. Ellis, p. 185
    • Variant: The only true lasting benefit which the statesman can give to the poor man is so to shape matters that the greatest possible liberty for the exercise of his own moral and intellectual qualities should be offered to him by law.
      • As quoted in Salisbury — Victorian Titan (1999) by Andrew Roberts
  • England is the Protestant nation of the world. (Cheers.) England has resisted more than any other country the domination of the clerical profession...and has resisted the secular domination of the clerical profession. You are going to create an ultra-clerical state under the government of Archbishops Croke and Walsh. (Hear, hear.) You are going to give the power of the majority of the state, and therefore the power of the state, to those who through long ages have always been the enemies of English influence and English power.
    • Speech in Exeter against Irish Home Rule (2 February 1892), quoted in The Times (3 February 1892), p. 6
  • You do not imagine that the adversary of centuries can be converted by the honeyed words of two or three months into a fast, benevolent, and trusty friend. ... That section of Irishmen, of the inhabitants of Ireland who are commanded by Archbishop Walsh and Mr. Healy (hisses), represent the enemy which England has contended for centuries. They represent the enemy against whom England appealed to settlers from Great Britain to come here and help her in her almost impossible task; they are the people who resisted you and threatened you and threatened the English interest again and again in 1641, in 1690, in 1798.
    • Speech in Belfast against Irish Home Rule (24 May 1893), quoted in The Times (25 May 1893), p. 6
  • [W]e may fairly protest against any artificial action which tends to lower wages, and therefore makes a living wage more difficult to obtain. This free immigration of destitute aliens is to my mind an interference of that kind. We have a right to say that our social system is for ourselves and that we will not receive a destitute population which will lower the standard of our own population and increase the burdens we have to bear.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (6 July 1894), quoted in The Times (7 July 1894), p. 8
  • Few men, whatever their creed, would now seek their geology in the books of their religion, or, on the other hand, would fancy that the laboratory or the microscope could help them to penetrate the mysteries which hang over the nature and the destiny of the soul of man. ... We live in a small, bright oasis of knowledge, surrounded on all sides by a vast, unexplored region of impenetrable mystery.
    • Speech to the British Association (6 August 1894), quoted in The Times (9 August 1894), p. 6
  • [I]n dealing with such money as you possess, I have no doubt that here in Brighton you will not differ from me that the first claim is the naval defence of England. (Loud and continued cheers.) ... It is our business to be quite sure in respect to this island-home of ours, whose inaccessibility is the source of our greatness, that no improvement of foreign fleets and no combination of foreign alliances should be able for a moment to threaten its safety.
    • Defending increased naval expenditure; speech in Brighton (19 November 1895), quoted in The Times (20 November 1895), p. 7
  • I grieve that so much of the resources of this country must be spent on what is essentially an unprofitable expenditure ... but, after all, safety, safety from a foreign foe comes first, before every other earthly blessing, and we must take care, in our responsibility to the many interests that depend upon us, in our responsibility to the generations that are to succeed to us, that no neglect of ours shall suffer that safety to be compromised.
    • Defending increased naval expenditure; speech in Brighton (19 November 1895), quoted in The Times (20 November 1895), p. 7
  • Now consider the case of the Uitlanders. They are not a minority. They are a majority, but those who differ from them in traditions and race and feeling have the government and have the rifles (cheers), and the result is that the Uitlanders get no votes and bitterly complain that they get no justice. (Cheers.) I have not investigated their grievances; I do not know whether they are correct; but I know it tells what would have been the complaint and sorrow of our Ulster people if we had handed them over to the tender mercies of Home Rule.
    • Speech to the Nonconformist Unionist Association (31 January 1896), quoted in The Times (1 February 1896), p. 10
  • [Y]ou must remember that these people, these Turks, are of the race of Genghiz and Tamerlane, that they belong to a religion, of which I would not say a word of disrespect, which has produced high civilisation and morality, but is capable of the most atrocious perversion and corruption of any religion on the face of the globe; and being Mahomedans and being Turks, with their fanaticism thoroughly aroused, they perpetrated these horrors at which Christendom has grown pale.
    • Speech to the Nonconformist Unionist Association on the Armenian Massacres (31 January 1896), quoted in The Times (1 February 1896), p. 10
  • I say that we put all our money upon the wrong horse. ... My own conviction is strong that, unless some very essential reforms in the conduct of the government are adopted, the doom of the Turkish Empire cannot be very long postponed.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (19 January 1897), expressing regret for Britain's support of the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War
  • I feel it is our duty to sustain the federated action of Europe. I think it has suffered by the somewhat absurd name which has been given to it—the Concert of Europe—and the intense importance of the fact has been buried under the bad jokes to which the word has given rise. But the federated action of Europe—if we can maintain it, if we can maintain this Legislature—is our sole hope of escaping from the constant terror and the calamity of war, the constant pressure of the burdens of an armed peace which weigh down the spirits and darken the prospects of every nation in this part of the world. ["Hear, hear!"] The federation of Europe is the only hope we have; but that federation is only to be maintained by observing the conditions on which every Legislature must depend, on which every judicial system must be based—the engagements into which it enters must be respected.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (19 March 1897)
  • You must remember what the concert of Europe is. The concert, or, as I prefer to call it, the inchoate federation of Europe, is a body which acts only when it is unanimous...remember this—that this federation of Europe is the embryo of the only possible structure of Europe which can save civilization from the desolating effects of a disastrous war. (Cheers.) You notice that on all sides the instruments of destruction, the piling up of arms, are becoming larger and larger. The powers of concentration are becoming greater, the instruments of death more active and more numerous, and are improved with every year; and each nation is bound, for its own safety's sake, to take part in this competition. These are the things which are done, so to speak, on the side of war. The one hope that we have to prevent this competition from ending in a terrible effort of mutual destruction which will be fatal to Christian civilization—the one hope we have is that the Powers may gradually be brought together, to act together in a friendly spirit on all questions of difference which may arise, until at last they shall be welded in some international constitution which shall give to the world, as a result of their great strength, a long spell of unfettered and prosperous trade and continued peace.
    • Speech at the Guildhall (9 November 1897), quoted in The Times (10 November 1897), p. 6
  • I have a strong belief that there is a danger of the public opinion of this country undergoing a reaction from the Cobdenic doctrines of 30 or 40 years ago, and believing that it is our duty to take everything we can, to fight everybody, and to make a quarrel of every dispute. That seems to me a very dangerous doctrine, not merely because it might incite other nations against us—though that is not a consideration to be neglected, for the kind of reputation we are at present enjoying on the Continent of Europe is by no means pleasant, and by no means advantageous; but there is a much more serious danger, and that is lest we should overtax our strength. However strong you may be, whether you are a man or a nation, there is a point beyond which your strength will not go. It is madness; it ends in ruin if you allow yourselves to pass beyond it.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (8 February 1898)
  • You may roughly divide the nations of the world as the living and the dying. On the one side you have great countries of enormous power growing in power every year, growing in wealth, growing in dominion, growing in the perfection of their organization. Railways have given to them the power to concentrate upon any one point the whole military force of their population and to assemble armies of a magnitude and power never dreamt of in the generations that have gone by. Science has placed in the hands of those armies weapons ever growing in their efficacy of destruction, and, therefore, adding to the power—fearfully to the power—of those who have the opportunity of using them. ... [T]he weak States are becoming weaker and the strong States are becoming stronger. It needs no specialty of prophecy to point out to you what the inevitable result of that combined process must be. ... [T]he living nations will gradually encroach on the territory of the dying, and the seeds and causes of conflict amongst civilized nations will speedily appear.
    • Speech to the Primrose League in the Albert Hall (4 May 1898), quoted in The Times (5 May 1898), p. 7

1900s[edit]

  • It is true that there had been spread about in the world the impression that we should never fight again, and that every adversary had only to press hardly and boldly upon us to be certain that we should yield. It was a gross miscalculation on their part. (Cheers.) I have no doubt that the converse is true, and now that we have shown what powers we can exercise, what qualities we can display, how really we can copy the brilliant example of those who have gone before us, that the power of England is not only illustrated by the example, but that it is safe—that the cause of peace is now more secure than it was before the strength of England was conclusively shown. (Cheers.)
    • Speech to the Nonconformist Unionist Association on the Boer War (13 May 1901), quoted in The Times (14 May 1901), p. 10
  • It is very sad, but I'm afraid America is bound to forge ahead and nothing can restore the equality between us. If we had interfered in the Confederate War it was then possible for us to reduce the power of the United States to manageable proportions. But two such chances are not given to a nation in the course of its career.
    • Letter to Lord Selborne after J.P. Morgan acquired a predominating influence in Cunard, White Star and other shipping lines (13 March 1902), quoted in Andrew Roberts, Lord Salisbury: Victorian Titan (1999), p. 50 and David Steele, 'The Place of Germany in Salisbury's Foreign Policy, 1878-1902', in Adolf M. Birke, Magnus Brechtken and Alaric Searle (eds.), An Anglo-German Dialogue: The Munich Lectures on the History of International Relations (2000), p. 67


Misattributed[edit]

  • Solitude shows us what should be; society shows us what we are.
    • Richard Cecil, as quoted in Remains of Mr. Cecil (1836) edited by Josiah Pratt, p. 59
  • It is one of the misfortunes of our political system that parties are formed more with reference to controversies that are gone by than to the controversies which these parties have actually to decide.
    • Statement of an uncredited reviewer in The Quarterly Review [London] (January 1866), p. 277

Quotes about Salisbury[edit]

  • The most formidable intellectual figure that the Conservative party has ever produced.
  • He refused to believe in the possibility of a Southern defeat. Even in [18]65 when...an instinct similar to his own, dominant in Lee and in his heroic band of followers, was alone prolonging the conflict, he would not give up hope of their ultimate victory. Thus at each successive stage the bitterness of disillusion was added to that of defeat. There were moments when the nervous strain upon him became so great as to seriously alarm his wife for his health, if not for his reason. He took to walking in his sleep, and she used to recall her alarm when, on waking one night, she saw him standing at the wide open window of a second-floor bedroom, fast asleep, but in a state of strong excitement and preparing to resist forcibly some dreamt-of intrusion of enemies—presumably Federal soldiers or revolutionary mob leaders. She recorded that never in her knowledge of him did he suffer from such extremes of depression and nervous misery as at that time.
  • Gladstone, looking at Ireland from a European point of view, had decided that Ireland should be free as were Italy and Bulgaria. Salisbury, looking at Ireland from another European point of view, had said that it was like the problem of Prussia and Poland. Gladstone, that is to say, was a self-determinationist, Salisbury the opposite. Salisbury's was the Tory point of view, and he was remembered by older Conservatives as the very best type of unsentimental, common-sense statesman.
  • He took over the Foreign Office in January 1887. ... Salisbury quickly restored Britain's prestige, earning the grudging respect even of Bismarck, who found him a wily and elusive negotiator.
    • G. R. Searle, A New England? Peace and War, 1886–1918 (2004), p. 259
  • Calm, sardonic, and pessimistic, Salisbury in many ways matched the spirit of the times. He did not, like Gladstone, assert the importance of moral principle in international life. His objective, in an increasingly dangerous world, was to protect essential British interests (the defence of the Raj against Russian incursions and the protection of the sea lanes to India through the Suez Canal and through the longer route via South Africa across the Indian Ocean), but to do so by preserving the peace and thus minimizing expenditure in the cause of domestic stability. To this difficult task Salisbury brought two great diplomatic skills. He clearly saw the interconnections between imperial issues and shifts in the European power game; and he showed a remarkable aptitude for isolating whichever foreign power happened, at any moment, to be Britain's principal enemy.
    • G. R. Searle, A New England? Peace and War, 1886–1918 (2004), p. 259
  • Into the 'progressive' strain of modern Conservatism he simply will not fit.
    • Paul Smith, Lord Salisbury on Politics: A Selection From His Articles in the Quarterly Review, 1860-1883 (1972), p. 1
  • Shortly before he died, I invited Clement Attlee to Chequers ... I asked him, parties and politics apart, whom he regarded the best prime minister qua prime minister since he first took an interest in politics. He had no hesitation – "Salisbury".

External links[edit]

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