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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Peter the Great

  • [Peter I., Czar of Russia; born at Moscow, June 10, 1672; ascended the throne, 1682; visited Western Europe, and worked as a ship-carpenter in Holland, 1697; introduced reforms into Russia on his return; defeated Charles XII., 1700; founded St. Petersburg, 1703; engaged in war with Turkey; visited European countries, 1716; died 1726.]
  • I built St. Petersburg as a window to let in the light of Europe.

  • Charles XII. of Sweden said of Peter’s new capital, “Let him build his wooden houses: we will soon come and burn them.”
  • Peter exclaimed before Richelieu’s monument, during his visit to Paris in 1717, “Ah, great man! if thou wert still alive, I would give thee one half of my kingdom to teach me to govern the other!” A Frenchman standing by remarked, that if Richelieu had the one half, he would take and keep the other.
  • While in London, he attended a meeting of Quakers, and observed at the close of the service, “How happy must be a community instituted on their principles!”
  • During his visit to Westminster Hall, he asked who the busy people in black gowns and wigs were; and, being told they were lawyers, exclaimed, “Lawyers! I have but two in my dominions, and I believe that I shall hang one of them the moment I get home!”
  • Having violently assailed, in a fit of passion, Le Fort, his friend and the author of many administrative reforms, Peter bitterly exclaimed, “It is my great desire to reform my subjects, and yet I am ashamed to confess that I am unable to reform myself.”
  • When asked why he built ships when he had no ports, he replied, “My ships shall make ports for themselves.”
  • Seeing in Paris a courtier dressed every day in a different suit of clothes, he remarked, “That gentleman seems to be much dissatisfied with his tailor.”
  • His opinion of his great enemy, Charles XII. of Sweden, may be inferred from his saying, “One word from my brother Charles is worth a hundred treaties.”