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


Fortune and caprice govern the world.

La Rochefoucauld.

As the government is, such will be the man.


Government has been a fossil: it should be a plant.


Those who think must govern those who toil.


The end of government is the happiness of the people.


The duties of government are paternal.


States are great engines moving slowly.


The right divine of kings to govern wrong.


Republics end with luxury: monarchies with poverty.


A hated government does not last long.


Influence is not government.

George Washington.

I am the state.

Attributed to Louis XIV.

Governments have their origin in the moral identity of men.


Our domestic affections are the most salutary basis of all good government.


Resolv’d to ruin or to rule the state.


’Tis government that makes them seem divine.


Let them obey who know how to rule.


Ambassadors are the eye and ear of states.


  • For forms of government let fools contest;
  • Whate’er is best administer’d is best.
  • Pope.

    The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries.

    John Adams.

    The principal foundation of all states are good laws and good arms.


    Whatever government is not a government of laws is a despotism, let it be called what it may.

    Daniel Webster.

    If the prince of a State love benevolence, he will have no opponent in all the empire.


    All free governments are party governments.


    Government is an art above the attainment of an ordinary genius.


    A wise man neither suffers himself to be governed, nor attempts to govern others.

    La Bruyère.

    All governments are, to a certain extent, a treaty with the Devil.


    All men would be masters of others, and no man is lord of himself.


    All free governments are managed by the combined wisdom and folly of the people.

    James A. Garfield.

    If I wished to punish a province, I would have it governed by philosophers.

    Frederick the Great.

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


    Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants.


    It is better for a city to be governed by a good man than by good laws.


  • All your strength is in your union,
  • All your danger is in discord.
  • Longfellow.

    The people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.

    Daniel Webster.

    Which is the best government? That which teaches self-government.


    To govern men, you must either excel them in their accomplishments, or despise them.


    The trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth.

    Sam’l Johnson.

    Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.


    Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence.

    Thomas Paine.

    Virtue alone is not sufficient for the exercise of government; laws alone carry themselves into practice.


    Institutions may crumble and governments fall, but it is only that they may renew a better youth.

    George Bancroft.

    A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.

    Benj. Disraeli.

    We are more heavily taxed by our idleness, pride and folly than we are taxed by government.


    Ill can he rule the great that cannot reach the small.


  • A thousand years scarce serve to form a state;
  • An hour may lay it in the dust.
  • Byron.

  • For where’s the state beneath the Firmament,
  • That doth excell the Bees for Government?
  • Du Bartas.

    Though the people support the government the government should not support the people.

    Grover Cleveland.

    I have considered the pension list of the republic a roll of honor.

    Grover Cleveland.

    Let men say, we be men of good government; being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.


    Power is detested, and miserable is the life of him who wishes rather to be feared than to be loved.


    It may pass for a maxim in State, that the administration cannot be placed in too few hands, nor the legislature in too many.


    Government arrogates to itself that it alone forms men.***Everybody knows that government never began anything. It is the whole world that thinks and governs.

    Wendell Phillips.

    Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection, they have many friends and few enemies.

    Wendell Phillips.

  • How, in one house,
  • Should many people, under two commands
  • Hold amity? ’Tis hard; almost impossible.
  • Shakespeare.

    The deterioration of a government begins almost always by the decay of its principles.


    A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.

    Abraham Lincoln.

    Oh, it were better to be a poor fisherman than to meddle with the government of men!


    The freedom of a government does not depend upon the quality of its laws, but upon the power that has the right to create them.

    Thaddeus Stevens.

    When a government is arrived to that degree of corruption as to be incapable of reforming itself, it would not lose much by being new moulded.


    The aggregate happiness of society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all government.

    George Washington.

    All free governments, whatever their name, are in reality governments by public opinion; and it is on the quality of this public opinion that their prosperity depends.


    All good government must begin at home. It is useless to make good laws for bad people; what is wanted is this, to subdue the tyranny of the human heart.

    Hugh R. Haweis.

    All government is an evil, but, of the two forms of that evil, democracy or monarchy, the sounder is monarchy; the more able to do its will, democracy.

    B. R. Haydon.

    The best government is not that which renders men the happiest, but that which renders the greatest number happy.


    The proper function of a government is to make it easy for people to do good, and difficult for them to do evil.


    No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable.


    Few consider how much we are indebted to government, because few can represent how wretched mankind would be without it.


    Men who prefer any load of infamy, however great, to any pressure of taxation, however light.

    Sydney Smith.

    And having looked to government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.


    This shall be thy work: to impose conditions of peace, to spare the lowly and to overthrow the proud.


    Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few.


    In a change of government, the poor seldom change anything except the name of their master.


    A government for protecting the coarser interests of the body, business and bread only, is but a carcass, and soon falls, by its own corruption, to decay.

    A. Bronson Alcott.

    Nothing will ruin the country if the people themselves will undertake its safety; and nothing can save it if they leave that safety in any hands but their own.

    Daniel Webster.

    The culminating point of administration is to know well how much power, great or small, we ought to use in all circumstances.


    The government of man should be the monarchy of reason: it is too often the democracy of passions or the anarchy of humors.

    Benjamin Whichcote.

    Monarch, thou wishest to cover thyself with glory: be the first to submit to the laws of thy empire.


    Right is the royal ruler alone; and he who rules with least restraint comes nearest to empire.


    Self-government by the whole people is the teleologic idea. The republican form of government is the noblest and the best, as it is the latest.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    A mercantile democracy may govern long and widely; a mercantile aristocracy cannot stand.


    Government is the greatest combination for forces known to human society. It can command more men and raise more money than any and all other agencies combined.

    David Dudley Field.

    Society is well governed when the people obey the magistrates, and the magistrates the laws.


    There is no part of government which cannot better suffer derangement than the ballot. If you strike the ballot with disease, it is heart disease.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    If any ask me what a free government is, I answer that, for any particular purpose, it is what the people think so.


    Power exercised with violence has seldom been of long duration, but temper and moderation generally produce permanence in all things.


    All government, all exercise of power, no matter in what form, which is not based in love and directed by knowledge, is a tyranny.

    Mrs. Jameson.

    Our government is built upon the vote. But votes that are purchasable are quicksands, and a government built on them stands upon corruption and revolution.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.


    The surest way of governing, both in a private family and a kingdom, is for a husband and a prince sometimes to drop their prerogative.


    The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.


    The science of government is only a science of combinations, of applications, and of exceptions, according to times, places and circumstances.


    No government can be free that does not allow all its citizens to participate in the formation and execution of her laws. There are degrees of tyranny; but every other government is a despotism.

    Thaddeus Stevens.

    Every governmental institution has been a standing testimony to the harmonic destiny of society, a standing proof that the life of man is destined for peace and amity, instead of disorder and contention.

    Henry James.

    A government founded on impartial liberty, where all have a voice and a vote, irrespective of color or of sex—what is there to hinder such a government from standing firm.

    Fred. Douglass.

    The history of governments through the ages is a history red, nay, lurid. Law represents the effort of men to organize society; governments, the efforts of selfishness to overthrow liberty.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    No man undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet every one thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades—that of government.


    The administration of government, like a guardianship, ought to be directed to the good of those who confer, and not of those who receive the trust.


    A republican government in a hundred points is weaker than an autocratic government; but in this one point it is the strongest that ever existed—it has educated a race of men that are men.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses.

    John Stuart Mill.

    When Tarquin the Proud was asked what was the best mode of governing a conquered city, he replied only by beating down with his staff all the tallest poppies in his garden.


    The aggregate happiness of society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is or ought to be the end of all government.


    In the government of men, a great deal may be done by severity, more by love, but most of all by clear discernment and impartial justice, which pays no respect to persons.


    Government owes its birth to the necessity of preventing and repressing the injuries which the associated individuals had to fear from one another.

    Abbé Raynal.

    Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.


    When any of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken or weakened—which are religion, justice, counsel and treasure—men need to pray for fair weather.


    What makes a governor justly despised is viciousness and ill morals. Virtue must tip the preacher’s tongue and the ruler’s sceptre with authority.


    A statesman, we are told, should follow public opinion. Doubtless, as a coachman follows his horses; having firm hold on the reins and guiding them.


    Hereditary right should be kept sacred, not from any inalienable right in a particular family, but to avoid the consequences that usually attend the ambition of competitors.


    If friends to a government forbear their assistance, they put it in the power of a few desperate men to ruin the welfare of those who are superior to them in strength and interest.


    Government mitigates the inequality of power, and makes an innocent man, though of the lowest rank, a match for the mightiest of his fellow-subjects.


    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.


    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.


    ***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.

    Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.

    Henry Clay.

    In the early ages men ruled by strength; now they rule by brain, and so long as there is only one man in the world who can think and plan, he will stand head and shoulders above him who cannot.


  • 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.
  • Shakespeare.

    The surest way to prevent seditious (if the times do bear it) is to take away the matter of them; for if there be fuel prepared it is hard to tell whence the spark shall come that shall set it on fire.


    They that govern most make least noise. You see when they row in a barge, they that do drudgery work, slash, and puff, and sweat; but he that governs sits quietly at the stern, and scarce is seen to stir.


    In all government there must of necessity be both the law and the sword; laws without arms would give us not liberty but licentiousness, and arms without laws would produce not subjection but slavery.


    The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government becomes a consideration of convenience.


    When we have run through all forms of government, without partiality to that we were born under, we are at a loss with which to side; they are all a compound of good and evil. It is therefore most reasonable and safe to value that of our own country above all others, and to submit to it.

    La Bruyère.

    The people of the United States very deliberately framed their government with the view of remaining the masters of it, and not of being mastered by it; and they are not yet willing to abdicate in favor of any, even the most audacious conspirator against their sovereignty.

    John Bigelow.

    Government is only a necessary evil, like other go-carts and crutches. Our need of it shows exactly how far we are still children. All governing overmuch kills the self-help and energy of the governed.

    Wendell Phillips.

    The constitution of England is not a paper constitution. It is an aggregate of institutions, many of them founded merely upon prescription, some of them fortified by muniments, but all of them the fruit and experience of an ancient and illustrious people.


    The government of a nation itself is usually found to be but the reflex of the individuals composing it. The government that is head of the people will be inevitably dragged down to their level, as the government that is behind them will in the long run be dragged up.

    Samuel Smiles.

    One of the most important, but one of the most difficult things to a powerful mind is to be its own master; a pond may lay quiet in a plain, but a lake wants mountains to compass and hold it in.


    A monarchy is like a man-of-war—bad shots between wind and water hurt it exceedingly; there is danger of capsizing. But democracy is a raft. You cannot easily overturn it. It is a wet place, but it is a pretty safe one.

    Joseph Cook.

    When any one person or body of men seize into their hands the power in the last resort, there is properly no longer a government, but what Aristotle and his followers call the abuse and corruption of one.


    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.

    It seems to me a great truth that human things cannot stand on selfishness, mechanical utilities, economies and law courts; that if there be not a religious element in the relations of men, such relations are miserable, and doomed to ruin.


    Forms of government become established of themselves. They shape themselves, they are not created. We may give them strength and consistency, but we cannot call them into being. Let us rest assured that the form of government can never be a matter of choice: it is almost always a matter of necessity.


    Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power vested in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, when the rule prescribes not, and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man.

    John Locke.

    I look upon parliamentary government as the noblest government in the world, and certainly one most suited to England. But without the discipline of political connection, animated by the principle of private honor, I feel certain that a popular assembly would sink before the power or the corruption of a minister.


    Beneath a free government there is nothing but the intelligence of the people to keep the people’s peace. Order must be preserved, not by a military police or regiments of horse-guards, but by the spontaneous concert of a well-informed population, resolved that the rights which have been rescued from despotism shall not be subverted by anarchy.

    Edward Everett.

    The wonder is not that the world is so easily governed, but that so small a number of persons will suffice for the purpose. There are dead weights in political and legislative bodies as in clocks, and hundreds answer as pulleys who would never do for politicians.


    Government began in tyranny and force, began in the feudalism of the soldier and bigotry of the priest; and the ideas of justice and humanity have been fighting their way, like a thunderstorm, against the organized selfishness of human nature.

    Wendell Phillips.

    Nothing is more deceptive or more dangerous than the pretence of a desire to simplify government. The simplest governments are despotisms; the next simplest, limited monarchies; but al republics, all governments of law, must impose numerous limitations and qualifications of authority, and give many positive and many qualified rights.

    Daniel Webster.

    Refined policy ever has been the parent of confusion, and ever will be so as long as the world endures. Plain good intention, which is as easily discovered at the first view as fraud is surely detected at last, is of no mean force in the government of mankind.


    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.

    It is among the evils, and perhaps not the smallest, of democratical governments, that the people must feel before they will see. When this happens they are roused to action. Hence it is that those kinds of government are so slow.


    There is no slight danger from general ignorance; and the only choice which Providence has graciously left to a vicious government is either to fall by the people, if they are suffered to become enlightened, or with them, if they are kept enslaved and ignorant.


    An established government has an infinite advantage by that very circumstance of its being established—the bulk of mankind being governed by authority, not reason, and never attributing authority to anything that has not the recommendation of antiquity.


    It is necessary for a Senator to be thoroughly acquainted with the constitution; and this is a knowledge of the most extensive nature; a matter of science, of diligence, of reflection, without which no Senator can possibly be fit for his office.


    Of all the difficulties in a state, the temper of a true government most felicities and perpetuates it; too sudden alterations distemper it. Had Nero tuned his kingdom as be did his harp, his harmony had been more honorable, and his reign more prosperous.


    A government which takes in the consent of the greatest number of the people may justly be said to have the broadest bottom; and if it be terminated in the authority of one single person it may be said to have the narrowest top; and so makes the finest pyramid.

    Sir Wm. Temple.

    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.

  • Each petty hand
  • Can steer a ship becalm’d; but he that will
  • Govern and carry her to her ends, must know
  • His tides, his currents, how to shift his sails;
  • What she will bear in foul, what in fair weathers;
  • Where her springs are, her leaks, and how to stop ’em;
  • What strands, what shelves, what rocks do threaten her.
  • Ben Jonson.

    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.


  • 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.

    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.

    We must judge of a form of government by its general tendency, not by happy accidents. Every form of government has its happy accidents. Despotism has its happy accidents. Yet we are not disposed to abolish all constitutional checks, to place an absolute master over us, and to take our chances whether he may be a Caligula or a Marcus Aurelius.


    But I say to you, and to our whole country, and to all the crowned heads and aristocratic powers and feudal systems that exist, that it is to self-government—the great principle of popular representation and administration—the system that lets in all to participate in the counsels that are to assign the good or evil to all—that we may owe what we are and what we hope to be.

    Daniel Webster.

    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.

    Our government has been tried in peace, and it has been tried in war, and has proved itself fit for both. It has been assailed from without, and it has successfully resisted the shock; it has been disturbed within, and it has effectually quieted the disturbance. It can stand trial, it can stand assail, it can stand adversity, it can stand everything but the marring of its own beauty and the weakening of its own strength. It can stand everything but the effects of our own rashness and our own folly. It can stand everything but disorganization, disunion and nullification.

    Daniel Webster.

    There be three sorts of government—monarchical, aristocratical, democratical; and they are apt to fall three several ways into ruin—the first, by tyranny; the second, by ambition; the last, by tumults. A commonwealth grounded upon any one of these is not of long continuance; but, wisely mingled, each guards the other and makes that government exact.