- Revolutions are not made; they come. A revolution is as natural a growth as an oak. It comes out of the past. Its foundations are laid far back.
- Speech (8 January 1852).[specific citation needed]
- The best use of laws is to teach men to trample bad laws under their feet.
- Speech (12 April 1852).[specific citation needed]
- Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
- What the Puritans gave the world was not thought, but action.
- Speech (21 December 1855).[specific citation needed]
- Every man meets his Waterloo at last.
- Whether in chains or in laurels, Liberty knows nothing but victories.
- Truth is one forever absolute, but opinion is truth filtered through the moods, the blood, the disposition of the spectator.
- Idols (4 October 1859).[specific citation needed]
- Difference of religion breeds more quarrels than difference of politics.
- Speech (7 November 1860).[specific citation needed]
- Revolutions never go backward.
- Speech (17 February 1861).[specific citation needed]
- He who stifles free discussion, secretly doubts whether what he professes to believe is really true.
- Oration delivered at Daniel O'Connell celebration, Boston (6 August 1870), published in Wendell Phillips: The Agitator (1890) by William Carlos Martyn, p. 563
- Take the whole range of imaginative literature, and we are all wholesale borrowers. In every matter that relates to invention, to use, or beauty or form, we are borrowers.
- Lecture: The Lost Arts, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
- Write on my gravestone: "Infidel, Traitor" — infidel to every church that compromises with wrong; traitor to every government that oppresses the people.
- As quoted in Bulletin, Vol. 8, Issues 11-18, p. 69.
Quotes about Phillips
- Mister Toombs was willing to dissolve the Union to save slavery, Mister Phillips, to save liberty; while Mister Seward, denounced and derided by both, declared that the deepest instinct of the American people was for union. Reserved rights. State rights, limited powers, the advantages of union and disunion, were the cucumbers from which we were busily engaged in distilling light, overlooking the fact of nationality in discussing the conditions of union. We were speculating upon costume. We gravely proved that the clothes were the clothes of a woman, or of a child, without seeing that whatever the clothes might be there was a full-grown man inside of them. 'The Constitution is a contract between sovereign States', shouted Mister Toombs, 'let Georgia tear it and separate'. 'The Constitution is a league with hell', calmly replied Mister Phillips, 'let New York cut off New Orleans to rot alone'. 'Oh, dear! it's a dreadful dilemma', whimpered President Buchanan. 'States have no right to secede, and the United States have no right to coerce. Oh, dear me! it's perfectly awful! I'm the most patriotic of men, but what shall I do? what shall I do?' Separate! Cut off! Secede! It was of a living body they spoke, which, pierced anywhere, quivered everywhere.
- "It's just what Wendell Phillips said," she declared. "'The Puritan's idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.'"