Tyranny is a despotic or autocratic form of government, in which the exercise of power is concentrated in one individual without being impeded by constitutional safeguards. Its modern form is dictatorship.
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- The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shall not covet," and "Thou shall not steal," are not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.
- John Adams, Ch. 1 Marchamont Nedham : The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth Examined, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government (1787).
- The fundamental article of my political creed is, that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor; equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical.
- Ὁ λόγος δηλοῖ ὅτι οἷα ἡ πρόθεσίς ἐστιν ἀδικεῖν, παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς οὐδὲ δικαία ἀπολογία ἰσχύει.
- Aesop The Wolf and the Lamb from Aesop's Fables (c. 620-560 BC).
- The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.
- as translated by George Fyler Townsend (1887)
- Any excuse will serve a tyrant.
- as translated by Joseph Jacobs (1894)
- The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.
- The tyrant now
Trusts not to men: nightly within his chamber
The watch-dog guards his couch, the only friend
He now dare trust.
- Joanna Baillie, Ethwald (1802), Part II, Act V, scene 3.
- Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.
- Jorge Luis Borges, Statement to the Argentine Society of Letters (c.1946).
- Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from principle.
- You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier.
- A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it.
- Tyranny over a man is not tyranny: it is rebellion, for man is royal.
- Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.
- Captain James T. Kirk: Khan Noonien Singh ... was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring.
- Mr. Spock: Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is ...
- Captain James T. Kirk: Mr. Spock, we humans have a streak of barbarism in us. Appalling, but there, nevertheless.
- Scott: There were no massacres under his rule.
- Mr. Spock: And as little freedom.
- Dr. McCoy: No wars until he was attacked.
- Mr. Spock: Gentlemen ... [All but Spock laugh]
- Captain James T. Kirk: Mr. Spock, you misunderstand us. We can be against him and admire him all at the same time.
- Mr. Spock: Illogical.
- Captain James T. Kirk: Totally.
- Star Trek: The Original Series Space Seed teleplay by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber, story by Carey Wilber.
- Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- Nature has left this tincture in the blood,
That all men wou'd be tyrants if they cou'd.
- Daniel Defoe The History of the Kentish Petition, Addenda, line 11; cited from The Shortest Way with Dissenters, and Other Pamphlets (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974) p. 100.
- If it was possible for men who exercise their reason, to believe that the divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these Colonies might at least require from the Parliament of Great Britain some evidence, that this dreadful authority over them has been granted to that body. But a reverence for our great Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect upon the subject, that Government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end.
- Of all the tyrannies on human kind
The worst is that which persecutes the mind.
- John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther (1687), Pt. I line 239-240
- Under dictatorship, the people in prison are always superior to the people who put them there.
- Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes.
- Dictatorship—A system of government where everything that is not forbidden is obligatory.
- Mirza Mohammad Hussain, Islam Versus Socialism, Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf (1970) p. 167. Originally published in 1947.
- Fear not the tyrant; fear the tyrant's wake.
- Tom Heehler The Well-Spoken Thesaurus (Sourcebooks, 2011).
- Down with the power of the despot, wherever his stronghold may be.
- Jesse Hutchinson, "The Liberty Ball"
- I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush (September 23, 1800); in Andrew A. Lipscomb, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1903), vol. 10, p. 175. Carved at the base of the dome, interior of the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.
- Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Du Pont de Nemours (April 24, 1816).
- Britannia fertilis provincia tyrannorum.
- Britain, a province fertile in tyrants.
- St. Jerome, Epistola 133.9; translation from Arthur Wade-Evans The Emergence of England and Wales (Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1959) p. 119.
- Est ergo tyranni et principis hæc differentia sola, quod hic legi obtemperat, et ejus arbitrio populum regit, cujus se credit ministrum.
- I consider that in no government power can be abused long. Mankind will not bear it. If a sovereign oppresses his people to a great degree, they will rise and cut off his head. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us safe under every form of government.
- Tyranny cannot defeat the power of ideas.
- Helen Keller, as quoted in the Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (13 April 2003).
- Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
- C. S. Lewis, in "God in the Dock" (1948).
- As soon as the prince sets himself up above law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, unking himself by acting out of and beyond that sphere which the constitution allows him to move in; and in such cases he has no more right to be obeyed than any inferior officer who acts beyond his commission.
- Jonathan Mayhew A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers (1750); cited from John Wingate Thornton (ed.) The Pulpit of the American Revolution (New York: Sheldon, 1860) pp. 94-5.
- Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as Individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality, is despotism, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.
- Where there have been powerful governments, societies, religions, public opinions, in short wherever there has been tyranny, there the solitary philosopher has been hated; for philosophy offers an asylum to a man into which no tyranny can force it way, the inward cave, the labyrinth of the heart.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. Hollingdale, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.3, p. 139
- Whenever kingship approaches tyranny it is near its end, for by this it becomes ripe for division, change of dynasty, or total destruction, especially in a temperate climate … where men are habitually, morally and naturally free.
- Nicole Oresme, ̆De Moneta (c. 1360), Charles Johnson's translation, The De Moneta of Nicholas Oresme, and English Mint Documents (London, 1956), Ch. 25: "That a Tyrant cannot be lasting."
- Do you realise, for instance, that no one in England under 26 now has a vote and that so far as one can see the great mass of people of that age don’t give a damn for this? Secondly there is the fact that the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history2 etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side. Indeed the statement that we haven’t a Fascist movement in England largely means that the young, at this moment, look for their fuhrer elsewhere. One can’t be sure that that won’t change, nor can one be sure that the common people won’t think ten years hence as the intellectuals do now. I hope 3 they won’t, I even trust they won’t, but if so it will be at the cost of a struggle. If one simply proclaims that all is for the best and doesn’t point to the sinister symptoms, one is merely helping to bring totalitarianism nearer.
- Tyrants in the course of time must eventually be overthrown because of the continual opposition of the oppressed. It is an unchanging Law, a constant rule, the penalty is certain, albeit that it is very slow coming to fruition.
- Francesco Mario Pagano, Saggi Politici (1783), cited from Carlo Pisacane's La Rivoluzione, Troubador, 2010, p. 160.
- All hereditary government is in its nature tyranny. An heritable crown, or an heritable throne, or by what other fanciful name such things may be called, have no other significant explanation than that mankind are heritable property. To inherit a government, is to inherit the people, as if they were flocks and herds.
- THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
- La tyrannie est toujours mieux organisée que la liberté.
- Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends tyranny begins!
- Tyranny is not a matter of minor theft and violence, but of wholesale plunder, sacred and profane, private or public. If you are caught committing such crimes in detail you are punished and disgraced; sacrilege, kidnapping, burglary, fraud, theft are the names we give to such petty forms of wrongdoing. But when a man succeeds in robbing the whole body of citizens and reducing them to slavery, they forget these ugly names and call him happy and fortunate, as do all others who hear of his unmitigated wrongdoing.
- Strangely, it is always America that is described as degenerate and 'fascist', while it is solely in Europe that actual dictatorships and totalitarian regimes spring up.
- O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
- For how can tyrants safely govern home,
Unless abroad they purchase great alliance?
- This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues,
Was once thought honest.
- Bleed, bleed, poor country!
Great Tyranny! lay thou thy basis sure,
For goodness dares not check thee!
- O nation miserable,
With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd
When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again?
- 'Tis time to fear, when tyrants seem to kiss.
- I knew him tyrannous, and tyrants' fears
Decrease not, but grow faster than the years.
- For what is he they follow? truly, gentlemen,
A bloody tyrant, and a homicide:
One rais'd in blood, and one in blood establish'd;
One that made means to come by what he hath,
And slaughter'd those that were the means to help him;
A base foul stone, made precious by the foil
Of England's chair, where he is falsely set;
One that hath ever been God's enemy.
- The medieval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Muhammadanism in the darkest colours. They were in fact trained both to hate the man Muhammad and his religion. To them Muhammad was Anti-Christ. I have studied him — the wonderful man, and in my opinion far from being an Anti-Christ he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much-needed peace and happiness.
- George Bernard Shaw, as quoted in The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936
- The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.
- Wole Soyinka The Man Died (New York: Harper & Row, 1972) p. 13.
- Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.
- From an anonymous tribute to John Bradshaw, current in America by 1773; cited from Charles Symmons The Life of John Milton (London: Whittaker,  1822) p. 229.
- Sometimes wrongly said to be inscribed on Bradshaw's gravestone.
- Les despotes eux-mêmes ne nient pas que la liberté ne soit excellente; seulement ils ne la veulent que pour eux-mêmes, et ils soutiennent que tous les autres en sont tout à fait indignes.
- Despots themselves don't deny that freedom is a wonderful thing, they only want to limit it to themselves; they argue that everyone else is unworthy of it.
- Alexis de Tocqueville L'Ancien régime et la révolution (Paris: Michel L évy Frères,  1859) p. 21; François Furet and Françoise Mélonio (eds.), Alan S. Kahan (trans.) The Old Regime and the Revolution vol. 1, p. 88.
- Remember, I have not appointed you as commanders and tyrants over the people. I have sent you as leaders instead, so that the people may follow your example. Give the Muslims their rights and do not beat them lest they become abused. Do not praise them unduly, lest they fall into the error of conceit. Do not keep your doors shut in their faces, lest the more powerful of them eat up the weaker ones. And do not behave as if you were superior to them, for that is tyranny over them.
- Umar as quoted in Omar the Great : The Second Caliph Of Islam (1962) by Muhammad Shibli Numani, Vol. 2, p. 33
- The English monster, the center of mischief, a shame to the British Chronicle, a pattern for tyranny, murder and hypocrisie, whose bloody Tyranny will quite drown the name of Nero, Caligula, Domitian, having at last attained the height of his Ambition, for Five years space he wallowed in the blood of many Gallant and Heroick Persons.
- William Winstanley, Loyal Martyrology as quoted in Conflicts with Oblivion (1935) by Wilbur Cortez Abbott, p. 159.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 825.
- A king ruleth as he ought, a tyrant as he lists, a king to the profit of all, a tyrant only to please a few.
- Th' oppressive, sturdy, man-destroying villains,
Who ravag'd kingdoms, and laid empires waste,
And in a cruel wantonness of power,
Thinn'd states of half their people, and gave up
To want the rest.
- Robert Blair, The Grave, line 9.
Absolves all faith; and who invades our rights,
Howe'er his own commence, can never be
But an usurper.
- Henry Brooke, Gustavus Vasa, Act IV, scene 1.
- Think'st thou there is no tyranny but that
Of blood and chains? The despotism of vice—
The weakness and the wickedness of luxury—
The negligence—the apathy—the evils
Of sensual sloth—produce ten thousand tyrants,
Whose delegated cruelty surpasses
The worst acts of one energetic master,
However harsh and hard in his own bearing.
- Lord Byron, Sardanapalus, Act I, scene 2.
Is far the worst of treasons. Dost thou deem
None rebels except subjects? The prince who
Neglects or violates his trust is more
A brigand than the robber-chief.
- Lord Byron, The Two Foscari, Act II, scene 1.
- N'est-on jamais tyran qu'avec un diadème?
- Is there no tyrant but the crowned one?
- Joseph Chénier, Caius Gracchus.
- Tyran, descends du trône et fais place à ton maître.
- Tyrant, step from the throne, and give place to thy master.
- Pierre Corneille, Heraclius, I, 2.
- Tremblez, tyrans, vous êtes immortels.
- Tremble, ye tyrants, for ye can not die.
- Jacques Delille, L'Immortalité de l'Âme.
- There is nothing more hostile to a city than a tyrant, under whom in the first and chiefest place, there are not laws in common, but one man, keeping the law himself to himself, has the sway, and this is no longer equal.
- Euripides, Suppliants, 429. Oxford translation (revised by Buckley).
- Il n'appartient, qu'aux tyrans d'être toujours en crainte.
- None but tyrants have any business to be afraid.
- Hardouin de Péréfixe. Attributed to Henry IV.
- 'Twixt kings and tyrants there's this difference known:
Kings seek their subjects' good, tyrants their owne.
- Robert Herrick, Kings and Tyrants.
- Men are still men. The despot's wickedness
Comes of ill teaching, and of power's excess,—
Comes of the purple he from childhood wears,
Slaves would be tyrants if the chance were theirs.
- Victor Hugo, The Vanished City.
- Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
- Thomas Jefferson, found among his papers after his death.
- Quid violentius aure tyranni?
- What is more cruel than a tyrant's ear?
- Juvenal, Satires, IV. 86.
- Les habiles tyrans ne sont jamais punis.
- Clever tyrants are never punished.
- Voltaire, Mérope, V. 5.
- A company of tyrants is inaccessible to all seductions.
- Voltaire, A Philosophical Dictionary, Tyranny.
- The sovereign is called a tyrant who knows no laws but his caprice.
- Voltaire, A Philosophical Dictionary, Tyranny.