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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1447
AUTHOR: Daniel O. Hastings (1874–1966)
QUOTATION: More power than any good man should want, and more power than any other kind of man ought to have.
ATTRIBUTION: Senator DANIEL O. HASTINGS, remark in the Senate on the power to be given President Franklin D. Roosevelt by the proposed work-relief program, March 23, 1935. Hastings said the bill as passed by the House was remarkable in two ways. “First, the huge amount involved, it being probably the largest appropriation ever made by any legislative body. Second, the amount was not only shocking to the average American citizen, but what was more alarming was the fact that its expenditure was left entirely in the discretion of the Executive.”—Congressional Record, vol. 79, p. 4353.

Hastings’s remark repeats the sound of words made famous in an exchange in the Senate between Senators Lucius Q. C. Lamar of Mississippi and Roscoe Conkling of New York. Conkling, whose arrogance made him unpopular, was humiliated by Lamar, who was considered one of the coolest, most courteous members of the Senate. Lamar’s reputation for self-control gave his words an added sting. Conkling said that if Lamar charged him with falsehood outside the Senate, he would denounce him as a blackguard, a coward, and a liar.

Lamar responded: “Mr. President, I have only to say that the Senator from New York understood me correctly. I did mean to say just precisely the words, and all that they imported. I beg pardon of the Senate for the unparliamentary language. It was very harsh; it was very severe; it was such as no good man would deserve, and no brave man would wear.” Though Conkling had served notice that he would attend to the insult at some other time, he never did, and his prestige was lost. He resigned from the Senate two years later.—Congressional Record, June 18, 1879, vol. 9, p. 2144. Also see Wirt Armistead Cate, Lucius Q. C. Lamar, pp. 348–58 (1932, reprinted 1969).