Hoyt & Roberts, comps. Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations. 1922.


The declaration that our People are hostile to a government made by themselves, for themselves, and conducted by themselves, is an insult.
John Adams—Address to the citizens of Westmoreland Co., Virginia. Answered July 11, 1798. See also Thomas Cooper—Some information respecting America. (1794). In Report of a Meeting of the Mass. Historical Society by Samuel A. Green, May 9, 1901.

***The manners of women are the surest criterion by which to determine whether a republican government is practicable in a nation or not.
John Adams—Diary. June 2, 1778. Charles Francis Adams’ Life of Adams. Vol. III. P. 171.

Yesterday the greatest question was decided which was ever debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, that those United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.
John Adams—Letter to Mrs. Adams. July 3, 1776.

Not stones, nor wood, nor the art of artisans make a state; but where men are who know how to take care of themselves, these are cities and walls.
Attributed to Alcæus by Aristides—Orations. Vol. II. (Jebb’s edition. Austin’s trans.)

States are great engines moving slowly.
Bacon—Advancement of Learning. Bk. II.

Adeo ut omnes imperii virga sive bacillum vere superius inflexum sit.
So that every wand or staff of empire is forsooth curved at top.
Bacon—De Sapientia Veterum. (1609). 6. Pan, sive Natura. Sometimes translated, “All sceptres are crooked atop.” Referring to the shepherd’s crook of Pan, and implying that government needs to be roundabout in method.

It [Calvinism] established a religion without a prelate, a government without a king.
George Bancroft—History of the United States. Vol. III. Ch. VI.

Oh, we are weary pilgrims; to this wilderness we bring
A Church without a bishop, a State without a King.
Anon.—Puritan’s Mistake. (1844).

Yet if thou didst but know how little wit governs this mighty universe.
Mrs. A. Behn—Comedy of The Round Heads. Act I. Sc. 2.

“Whatever is, is not,” is the maxim of the anarchist, as often as anything comes across him in the shape of a law which he happens not to like.
Richard Bentley—Declaration of Rights.

England is the mother of parliaments.
John Bright—Speech at Birmingham, Jan. 18, 1865. See Thorold Rogers’ ed. of Bright’s Speeches. Vol. II. P. 112. Appeared in London Times, Jan. 19, 1865.

I am for Peace, for Retrenchment, and for Reform,—thirty years ago the great watchwords of the great Liberal Party.
John Bright. Speech at Birmingham Town Hall, April 28, 1859. Attributed to Joseph Hume by Sir Charles Dilke in the Morning Herald, Aug. 2, 1899. Probably said by William IV to Earl Gray, in an interview, Nov. 17, 1830. Found in H. B.’s Cartoons, No. 93, pub. Nov. 26, 1830. Also in a letter of Princess Lieven, Nov., 1830. See Warren’s Ten Thousand a Year. (Inscribed on the banner of Tittlebat Titmouse.) Referred to in Molesworth’s Hist. of the Reform Bill of 1832. P. 98.

Well, will anybody deny now that the Government at Washington, as regards its own people, is the strongest government in the world at this hour? And for this simple reason, that it is based on the will, and the good will, of an instructed people.
John Bright—Speech at Rochdale. Nov. 24, 1863.

So then because some towns in England are not represented, America is to have no representative at all. They are “our children”; put when children ask for bread we are not to give a stone.
Burke—Speech on American Taxation. Vol. II. P. 74.

And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.
Burke—Thoughts and Details on Scarcity. Vol. V. P. 156.

When bad men combine, the good must associate.
Burke—Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent.

Support a compatriot against a native, however the former may blunder or plunder.
R. F. Burton—Explorations of the Highroads of Brazil. I. P. 11. (About 1869).

Nothing’s more dull and negligent
Than an old, lazy government,
That knows no interest of state,
But such as serves a present strait.
Butler—Miscellaneous Thoughts. L. 159.

A thousand years scarce serve to form a state;
An hour may lay it in the dust.
Byron—Childe Harold. Canto II. St. 84.

A power has arisen up in the Government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks.
John C. Calhoun—In the U. S. Senate. May 28, 1836. “Cohesive power of public plunder.” As quoted by Grover Cleveland.

Consider in fact, a body of six hundred and fifty-eight miscellaneous persons, set to consult about “business,” with twenty-seven millions, mostly fools, assiduously listening to them, and checking and criticising them. Was there ever, since the world began, will there ever be till the world end, any “business” accomplished in these circumstances?
Carlyle—Latter Day Pamphlets. Parliaments. (Referring to the relation of the Parliament to the British people. June 1, 1850.)

There are but two ways of paying debt—increase of industry in raising income, increase of thrift in laying out.
Carlyle—Past and Present. Government. Ch. X.

And the first thing I would do in my government, I would have nobody to control me, I would be absolute; and who but I: now, he that is absolute, can do what he likes; he that can do what he likes, can take his pleasure; he that can take his pleasure, can be content; and he that can be content, has no more to desire; so the matter’s over.
Cervantes—Don Quixote. Pt. I. Bk. IV. ch. XXIII.

There was a State without kings or nobles; there was a church without a bishop; there was a people governed by grave magistrates which it had elected, and equal laws which it had framed.
Rufus Choate—Speech before the New England Society. December 22, 1843.

Who’s in or out, who moves this grand machine,
Nor stirs my curiosity nor spleen:
Secrets of state no more I wish to know
Than secret movements of a puppet show:
Let but the puppets move, I’ve my desire,
Unseen the hand which guides the master wire.
Churchill—Night. L. 257.

They have proved themselves offensive partisans and unscrupulous manipulators of local party management.
Grover Cleveland—Letter to George William Curtis. Dec. 25, 1884.

Though the people support the government the government should not support the people.
Grover Cleveland—Veto of Texas Seed-bill. Feb. 16, 1887.

I have considered the pension list of the republic a roll of honor.
Grover Cleveland—Veto of Mary Ann Dougherty’s Pension. July 5, 1888.

The communism of combined wealth and capital, the outgrowth of overweening cupidity and selfishness which assiduously undermines the justice and integrity of free institutions, is not less dangerous than the communism of oppressed poverty and toil which, exasperated by injustice and discontent, attacks with wild disorder the citadel of misrule.
Grover Cleveland—Annual Message. (1888).

Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving how not to do it.
Dickens—Little Dorrit. Bk. III. Ch. X.

The country has, I think, made up its mind to close this career of plundering and blundering.
Benj. Disraeli—Letter to Lord Grey de Welton. Oct., 1873.

The divine right of kings may have been a plea for feeble tyrants, but the divine right of government is the keystone of human progress, and without it governments sink into police, and a nation is degraded into a mob.
Benj. Disraeli—Lothair. General Preface. (1870).

A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.
Benj. Disraeli—Speech. March 17, 1845.

Individualities may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation.
Benj. Disraeli—Speech at Manchester. (1866).

Resolv’d to ruin or to rule the state.
Dryden—Absalom and Achitophel. Pt. I. L. 174.

For where’s the State beneath the Firmament,
That doth excell the Bees for Government?
Du Bartas—Divine Weekes and Workes. First Week. Fifth Day. Pt. I.

Shall we judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely.
Emerson—Conduct of Life. Considerations by the Way.

Fellow-citizens: Clouds and darkness are around Him; His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds; justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne; mercy and truth shall go before His face! Fellow citizens! God reigns and the Government at Washington lives.
James A. Garfield—Address. April, 1865. From the balcony of the New York Custom House to a crowd, excited by the news of President Lincoln’s assassination.

When constabulary duty’s to be done
A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.
W. S. Gilbert—Pirates of Penzance.

Welche Regierung die beste sei? Diejenige die uns lehrt uns selbst zu regieren.
What government is the best? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.
Goethe—Sprüche in Prosa. III.

For just experience tells, in every soil,
That those who think must govern those that toil.
Goldsmith—The Traveller. L. 372.

Perish commerce. Let the constitution live!
George Hardinge. Debate on the Traitorous Correspondence Bill. March 22, 1793. Quoted by William Windham.

Unnecessary taxation is unjust taxation.
Abram S. Hewitt—Democratic Platform. 1884.

No sooner does he hear any of his brothers mention reform or retrenchment, than up he jumps.
Washington Irving—The Sketch Book. John Bull. (1820).

There was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was petticoat government.
Washington Irving—Rip Van Winkle.

Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfill. The knowledge of character possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect.
Thomas Jefferson—Letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven. July 12, 1801. Paraphrased by John B. McMaster in his History of the People of the United States. II. 586. One sentence will undoubtedly be remembered till our republic ceases to exist. ‘No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying,’ he observed, ‘as to put the right man in the right place.’

The trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth.
Samuel Johnson—Life of Milton.

Excise, a hateful tax levied upon commodities.
Samuel Johnson—Definition of Excise in his Dictionary.

What constitutes a state?
. . . . . .
Men who their duties know,
But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.
. . . . . .
And sovereign law, that state’s collected will,
O’er thrones and globes elate,
Sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill.
Sir William Jones—Ode in Imitation of Alcæus.

The Americans equally detest the pageantry of a king and the supercilious hypocrisy of a bishop.
Junius—Letter XXXV. Dec. 19, 1769.

Salus populi suprema lex.
The safety of the State is the highest law.
Justinian—Twelve Tables.

This end (Robespierre’s theories) was the representative sovereignty of all the citizens concentrated in an election as extensive as the people themselves, and acting by the people, and for the people in an elective council, which should be all the government.
Lamartine—History of the Girondists. Vol. III. P. 104. Bohn’s ed. 1850.

Misera contribuens plebs.
The poor taxpaying people.
Law of the Hungarian Diet of 1751. Article 37.

The Congress of Vienna does not walk, but it dances.
Prince de Ligne.

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms, by no means excluding females.
Abraham Lincoln. Written in 1836.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.
Abraham Lincoln—Speech. June 17, 1858. See W. O. Stoddard’s Life of Lincoln.

If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view, justify revolution—certainly would if such a right were a vital one.
Abraham Lincoln—First Inaugural Address. March 4, 1861.

That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln—Speech at Gettysburg. 1863. The phrase “of the people, for the people and by the people” is not original with Lincoln. There is a tradition that the phrase, “The Bible shall be for the government of the people, for the people and by the people,” appears in the preface of the Wyclif Bible of 1384, or in the Hereford Bible, or in a pamphlet of the period treating of that version. See Notes and Queries, Feb. 12, 1916. P. 127. Albert Mathews, of Boston, examined the reprint of 1850 of the Wyclif Bible, and finds no reference to it. There is a preface to the Old and the New Testament, and a prologue to each book, probably written by John Purvey.

All your strength is in your union,
All your danger is in discord.
Longfellow—The Song of Hiawatha. I. L. 112.

L’état!—c’est moi!
The state!—it is I!
Attributed to Louis XIV of France. Dulaure—History of Paris. P. 387. See Chéruel—Histoire de l’Administration Monarchique en France. II. 32.

That is the best government which desires to make the people happy, and knows how to make them happy.
Macaulay—On Mitford’s History of Greece, 1824.

The Commons, faithful to their system, remained in a wise and masterly inactivity.
Sir James Mackintosh—Vindiciæ Gatticæ. Sec. I.

The government of the Union, then, is emphatically and truly a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them and for their benefit.
Chief Justice Marshall. Case of McCulloch vs. Maryland. 1819. 4. Wheaton. 316.

The all-men power; government over all, by all, and for the sake of all.
Chief Justice Marshall. Pamphlet. The Relation of Slavery to a Republican Form of Government. Speech delivered at the New England Anti-Slavery Convention, May 26, 1858. Pamphlet used by Lincoln when preparing speeches. This phrase was underlined by him.

To make a bank, was a great plot of state;
Invent a shovel, and be a magistrate.
Andrew Marvell—The Character of Holland.

States are not made, nor patched; they grow:
Grow slow through centuries of pain,
And grow correctly in the main;
But only grow by certain laws,
Of certain bits in certain jaws.
Masefield—Everlasting Mercy. St. 60.

Hope nothing from foreign governments. They will never be really willing to aid you until you have shown that you are strong enough to conquer without them.
Mazzini—Life and Writings. Young Italy.

If the prince of a State love benevolence, he will have no opponent in all the empire.
Mencius—Works. Bk. IV. Pt. I. Ch. 7.

Unearned increment.
John Stuart Mill—Political Economy. Bk. V. Ch. II. Sec. 5. Phrase used in the land agitation of 1870–71. Undoubtedly original with Mill.

La corruption de chaque gouvernement commence presque toujours par celle des principes.
The deterioration of a government begins almost always by the decay of its principles.
Montesquieu—De l’Esprit. VIII. Ch. I.

Les républiques finissent par le luxe; les monarchies, par la pauvreté.
Republics end through luxury; monarchies through poverty.
Montesquieu—De l’Esprit. VII. Ch. IV.

Nescis, mi fili, quantilla sapientia regitur mundus.
Learn, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.
Attributed to Axel von Oxenstierna. Buchmann—Geflügelte Wörte, attributes it as likely to Pope Julius III, also to Orselaer, tutor to the sons of a Markgraf of Baden. Lord Chatham claims it for Pope Alexander VI, Jules or Leo, in Letter to Lord Shelburne, Jan. 25, 1775. Conrad von Bennington, Dutch Statesman, also given credit. Quoted by Dr. Arbuthnot—Letter to Swift, 1732–3.

There is what I call the American idea.***This idea demands, as the proximate organization thereof, a democracy,—that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government of the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness’ sake I will call it the idea of Freedom.
Theodore Parker—Speech at the N. E. Anti-Slavery Convention. Boston, May 29, 1850.

First there is the democratic idea: that all men are endowed by their creator with certain natural rights; that these rights are alienable only by the possessor thereof; that they are equal in men; that government is to organize these natural, unalienable and equal rights into institutions designed for the good of the governed, and therefore government is to be of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people. Here government is development, not exploitation.
Theodore Parker—Speech in Boston. May 31, 1854.

Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.
Theodore Parker. Sermon. Delivered at Music Hall, Boston, July 4, 1858. On the Effect of Slavery on the American People. P. 5. (Read and underlined by Lincoln.)

Slavery is in flagrant violation of the institutions of America—direct government—over all the people, by all the people, for all the people.
Theodore Parker. Sermon. Delivered at Music Hall, Boston. July 4, 1858. P. 14. (Read and underlined by Lincoln.)

In principatu commutando civium
Nil præter domini nomen mutant pauperes.
In a change of government the poor change nothing but the name of their masters.
Phædrus—Fables. I. 15. 1.

Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.
Pitt (The Elder)—Speech on America.

Themistocles said, “The Athenians govern the Greeks; I govern the Athenians; you, my wife, govern me; your son governs you.”
Plutarch—Life of Cato the Censor.

The government will take the fairest of names, but the worst of realities—mob rule.
Polybius. VI. 57.

The right divine of kings to govern wrong.
Pope—Dunciad. Bk. IV. L. 188. (In quotation marks, but probably his own.)

For forms of government let fools contest;
Whate’er is best administer’d is best.
Pope—Essay on Man. Ep. III. L. 303.

He shall rule them with a rod of iron.
Revelations. II. 27.

The labor unions shall have a square deal, and the corporations shall have a square deal, and in addition, all private citizens shall have a square deal.

Le despotisme tempéré par l’assassinat, c’est notre magna charta.
Despotism tempered by assassination, that is our Magna Charta.
A Russian Noble to Count Münster on the assassination of Paul I., Emperor of Russia. (1800).

Say to the seceded States—Wayward sisters, depart in peace!
Winfield Scott—Letter to W. H. Seward. March 3, 1861.

The Pope sends for him … and (says he) “We will be merry as we were before, for thou little thinkest what a little foolery governs the whole world.”
John Selden—Table Talk. Pope.

Invisa numquam imperia retinentur diu.
A hated government does not last long.
Seneca—Phœnissæ. VI. 60.

For government, through high and low and lower,
Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,
Congreeing in a full and natural close,
Like music.
Henry V. Act I. Sc. 2. L. 190.

How, in one house,
Should many people, under two commands,
Hold amity? ’Tis hard; almost impossible.
King Lear. Act II. Sc. 4. L. 243.

Why, this it is, when men are rul’d by women.
Richard III. Act I. Sc. 1. L. 62.

What a man that would be had he a particle of gall or the least knowledge of the value of red tape. As Curran said of Grattan, “he would have governed the world.”
Sydney Smith. Of Sir John Mackintosh. Lady Holland’s Memoir. P. 245. (Ed. 4.)

Men who prefer any load of infamy, however great, to any pressure of taxation, however light.
Sydney Smith—On American Debts.

The schoolboy whips his taxed top, the beardless youth manages his taxed horse, with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying Englishman, pouring his medicine, which has paid seven per cent., flings himself back on his chintz bed, which has paid twenty-two per cent., and expires in the arms of an apothecary who has paid a license of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death.
Sydney Smith—Review of Seybert’s Annals. United States.

Ill can he rule the great that cannot reach the small.
Spenser—Faerie Queene, Bk. V. Canto II. St. 51.

Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset.
In the opinion of all men he would have been regarded as capable of governing, if he had never governed.
Tacitus—Annales. I. 49.

In the parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
Tennyson—Locksley Hall. L. 129.

Et errat longe mea quidem sententia
Qui imperium credit gravius esse aut stabilius,
Vi quod fit, quam illud quod amicitia adjungitur.
It is a great error, in my opinion, to believe that a government is more firm or assured when it is supported by force, than when founded on affection.
Terence—Adelphi. I. 1. 40.

We preach Democracy in vain while Tory and Conservative can point to the opposite side of the Atlantic and say: “There are Nineteen millions of the human race free absolutely, every man heir to the throne, governing themselves—the government of all, by all, for all; but instead of being a consistent republic it is one widespread confederacy of free men for the enslavement of a nation of another complexion.”
George Thompson, M.P. Speech, 1851.

Hæ tibi erunt artes, pacisque imponere morem
Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.
This shall be thy work: to impose conditions of peace, to spare the lowly, and to overthrow the proud.
Vergil—Æneid. VI. 852.

Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.
Washington—Speech to the Constitutional Convention. (1787).

A National debt is a National blessing.
Attributed to Daniel Webster. Repudiated by him. See Speech. Jan. 26, 1830.

The people’s government made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.
Daniel Webster—Second Speech on Foot’s Resolution. Jan. 26, 1830.

When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood!
Daniel Webster—Second Speech on Foot’s Resolution. Jan. 26, 1830.

He touched the dead corpse of Public Credit, and it sprung upon its feet.
Daniel Webster—Speech on Hamilton. March 10, 1831.

We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel on the watch-tower of liberty.
Daniel Webster. To the Senate. May 7, 1834.

[He would do his duty as he saw it] without regard to scraps of paper called constitutions.
King William to the Prussian Diet disregarding the refusal of the Representatives to grant appropriations. Harper’s Weekly, March 26, 1887. Article on Emperor William I, of Germany.

No man ever saw the people of whom he forms a part. No man ever saw a government. I live in the midst of the Government of the United States, but I never saw the Government of the United States. Its personnel extends through all the nations, and across the seas, and into every corner of the world in the persons of the representatives of the United States in foreign capitals and in foreign centres of commerce.
Woodrow Wilson—Speech at Pittsburgh. Jan. 29, 1916.

Wherever magistrates were appointed from among those who complied with the injunctions of the laws, he (Socrates) considered the government to be an aristocracy.
Xenophon—Memorabilia of Socrates. Bk. IV. Ch. VI.