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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

AUTHOR: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–59)
QUOTATION: Your constitution is all sail and no anchor. As I said before, when a society has entered on this downward progress, either civilisation or liberty must perish. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand; or your republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth Century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth;—with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire came from without, and that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country by your own institutions.
ATTRIBUTION: THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY, letter to Henry Stephens Randall, May 23, 1857.—The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay, ed. Thomas Pinney, vol. 6, p. 96 (1981).

“This letter, which naturally aroused great interest in the United States, was published in part as early as 1860 and has frequently been reprinted since, usually in the season of presidential elections or at other time of political crisis;… I give Harper’s Magazine [February 1877] as the place of first full publication so far as I have been able to determine. For detailed history of the letter to 1925 see H. M. Lydenberg, ‘What Did Macaulay Say about America?’ Letters, Bulletin of the New York Public Library, XXIX (July 1925), 459–81” (vol. 6, footnote 1, p. 94).

“In his Journal for 23 May TBM writes: ‘wrote an answer to a Yankee who is utterly unable to understand on what ground I can possibly dislike Jefferson’s politics’” (footnote 3, p. 94).
SUBJECTS: Constitution of the United States