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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1004
AUTHOR: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82)
QUOTATION: Republics abound in young civilians who believe that the laws make the city, that grave modifications of the policy and modes of living and employments of the population, that commerce, education and religion may be voted in or out; and that any measure, though it were absurd, may be imposed on a people if only you can get sufficient voices to make it a law. But the wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand which perishes in the twisting; that the State must follow and not lead the character and progress of the citizen; that the form of government which prevails is the expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it. The law is only a memorandum.
ATTRIBUTION: RALPH WALDO EMERSON, “Politics,” Essays: Second Series (vol. 3 of The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson), pp. 199–200 (1903).