C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


Let argument bear no unmusical sound.

Ben Jonson.

Neither irony nor sarcasm is argument.

Rufus Choate.

Argument is not always truth.


Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.

Victor Hugo.

Silence is less injurious than a weak reply.


I always get the better when I argue alone.


Argument should be politic as well as logical.


In excessive altercation truth is lost.

Publius Syrus.

Keep cool; anger is not argument.

Daniel Webster.

Many can argue; not many converse.


Arguments out of a pretty mouth are unanswerable.


In argument similes are like songs in love; they much describe; they nothing prove.


Affect not little shifts and subterfuges to avoid the force of an argument.

Dr. Watts.

We are pleased with one who instantly assents to our opinions, but we love a proselyte.

Arthur Helps.

His conduct still right with his argument wrong.


Wise men argue causes, and fools decide them.


No argument can be drawn from the abuse of a thing against its use.


Be calm in arguing; for fierceness makes error a fault, and truth discourtesy.


  • A man convinced against his will
  • Is of the same opinion still.
  • Butler.

    Similes prove nothing, but yet greatly lighten and relieve the tedium of argument.


    Arguments, like children, should be like the subject that begets them.

    Thomas Decker.

    I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.

    Samuel Johnson.

    A knock-down argument; ’tis but a word and a blow.


    He that is not open to conviction is not qualified for discussion.

    Bishop Whately.

    He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that reason is weak.


    They that are more frequent to dispute be not always the best able to determine.


    The devil can quote Scripture for his purpose.


  • One single positive weighs more,
  • You know, than negatives a score.
  • Prior.

  • In argument with men a woman ever
  • Goes by the worse, whatever be her cause.
  • Milton.

    Never argue. In society nothing must be: give only results. If any person differs from you, bow, and turn the conversation.


    Insolence is not logic; epithets are the arguments of malice.

    R. G. Ingersoll.

  • Who shall decide when doctors disagree,
  • And sound casuists doubt like you and me?
  • Pope.

    Nothing is more certain than that much of the force, as well as grace, of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness.


    Gratuitous violence in argument betrays a conscious weakness of the cause, and is usually a signal of despair.


  • In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill,
  • For even tho’ vanquish’d he could argue still.
  • Goldsmith.

    The first race of mankind used to dispute, as our ordinary people do now-a-days, in a kind of wild logic, uncultivated by rule of art.


    Academical disputation gives vigor and briskness to the mind thus exercised, and relieves the languor of private study and meditation.

    Dr. Watts.

    There is no arguing with Johnson; for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.


    Argument, as usually managed, is the worst sort of conversation; as it is generally in books the worst sort of reading.


  • She hath prosperous art
  • When she will play with reason and discourse,
  • And well she can persuade.
  • Shakespeare.

    As the scale of the balance must give way to the weight that presses it down, so the mind must of necessity yield to demonstration.


    The skilful disputant well knows that he never has his enemy at more advantage than when, by allowing the premises, he shows him arguing wrong from his own principles.


    There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat.


  • Like doctors thus, when much dispute has past,
  • We find our tenets just the same at last.
  • Pope.

    No deeply rooted tendency was ever extirpated by adverse judgment. Not having originally been founded on argument, it cannot be destroyed by logic.

    C. H. Lewes.

    The soundest argument will produce no more conviction in an empty head than the most superficial declamation, as a feather and a guinea fall with equal velocity in a vacuum.


    Passionate expression and vehement assertion are no arguments, unless it be of the weakness of the cause that is defended by them, or of the man that defends it.


  • Examples I could cite you more;
  • But be contented with these four;
  • For when one’s proofs are aptly chosen
  • Four are as valid as four dozen.
  • Prior.

  • Reproachful speech from either side
  • The want of argument supplied;
  • They rail, reviled; as often ends
  • The contests of disputing friends.
  • Gay.

    An academical education, sir, bids me tell you, that it is necessary to establish the truth of your first proposition before you presume to draw inferences from it.


    Weak arguments are often thrust before my path; but although they are most unsubstantial, it is not easy to destroy them. There is not a more difficult feat known than to cut through a cushion with a sword.


    It is an excellent rule to be observed in all disputes, that men should give soft words and hard arguments; that they should not so much strive to vex as to convince each other.


    In a debate, rather pull to pieces the argument of thy antagonists than offer him any of thy own; for thus thou wilt fight him in his own country.


  • With temper calm and mild,
  • And words of soften’d tone,
  • He overthrows his neighbor’s cause,
  • And justifies his own.
  • Vicksburg Whig.

    There are some people as obtuse in recognizing an argument as they are in appreciating wit. You couldn’t drive it into their heads with a hammer.

    Douglas Jerrold.

    If thou continuest to take delight in idle argumentation, thou mayest be qualified to combat with the sophists, but never know how to love with men.


    It is in disputes as in armies; where the weaker side set up false lights, and make a great noise to make the enemy believe them more numerous and strong than they really are.


    Testimony is like an arrow shot from a long bow, the force of it depends on the strength of the hand that draws it. Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has equal force though drawn by a child.


  • Soon their crude notions with each other fought;
  • The adverse sect denied what this had taught;
  • And he at length the amplest triumph gain’d,
  • Who contradicted what the last maintain’d.
  • Prior.

    Whenever you argue with another wiser than yourself, in order that others may admire your wisdom, they will discover your ignorance. When one imagines a discourse better than yourself, although you may be fully informed, yet do not start objections.


    The first Retort Courteous; the second the Quip Modest; the third the Reply Churlish; the fourth the Reproof Valiant; the fifth the Countercheck Quarrelsome; the sixth the Lie with Circumstance; the seventh the Lie Direct.


  • He’d undertake to prove, by force
  • Of argument, a man’s no horse.
  • He’d prove a buzzard is no fowl,
  • And that a lord may be an owl,
  • A calf an alderman, a goose a justice,
  • And rooks, committeemen or trustees.
  • Butler.

    I never love those salamanders that are never well but when they are in the fire of contentions. I will rather suffer a thousand wrongs than offer one. I have always found that to strive with a superior is injurious; with an equal, doubtful; with an inferior, sordid and base; with any, full of unquietness.

    Bishop Hall.

    When we would show any one that he is mistaken, our best course is to observe on what side he considers the subject,—for his view of it is generally right on this side,—and admit to him that he is right so far. He will be satisfied with this acknowledgment, that he was not wrong in his judgment, but only inadvertent in not looking at the whole case.


    Treating your adversary with respect is giving him an advantage to which he is not entitled. The greatest part of men cannot judge of reasoning, and are impressed by character; so that, if you allow your adversary a respectable character, they will think that, though you differ from him, you may be in the wrong. Treating your adversary with respect is striking soft in a battle.

    Dr. Johnson.

  • Be calm in argument; for fierceness makes
  • Error a fault, and truth discourtesy.
  • Why should I feel another man’s mistakes
  • More than his sicknesses or poverty?
  • In love I should: but anger is not love,
  • Nor wisdom neither; therefore gently move.
  • Calmness is great advantage; he that lets
  • Another chafe may warm him at his fire,
  • Mark all his wand’rings and enjoy his frets,
  • As cunning fencers suffer heat to tire.
  • Herbert.

    Where we desire to be informed ’tis good to contest with men above ourselves, but to confirm and establish our opinions, ’tis best to argue with judgments below our own, that the frequent spoils and victories over their reasons may settle in ourselves an esteem and confirmed opinion of our own.

    Sir Thos. Browne.

    Some men at the approach of a dispute neigh like horses. Unless there be an argument, they think nothing is doing. Some talkers excel in the precision with which they formulate their thoughts, so that you get from them somewhat to remember; others lay criticism asleep by a charm. Especially women use words that are not words,—as steps in a dance are not steps,—but reproduce the genius of that they speak of; as the sound of some bells makes us think of the bell merely, whilst the church chimes in the distance bring the church and its serious memories before us.