Press "Enter" to skip to content

The wisdom of the ages

Sidebar by Martha Quillen

Politics – October 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”

–John F. Kennedy, 1958

“Ninety men out of one hundred, when they talk of forming principles, mean no more than embracing parties, and when they talk of supporting their party, mean serving their friends, and the service of their friends implies no more than consulting self-interest. By this gradation, principles are fitted to party, party degenerates into faction, and faction is reduced to self.”

–Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, 1743

“The spirit of party serves always to distract the public councils, and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasional riot and insurrection.”

–George Washington, 1796

“On my arrival in the United States, I was struck by the degree of ability among the governed and the lack of it among the governing.”

–Alexis, Comte de Tocqueville, 1835

“Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

–H.L. Mencken, 1956

“Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.”

–George Orwell, 1950

“I learned in business that you had to be very careful when you told somebody that’s working for you to do something, because the chances are very high he’d do it. In government, you don’t have to worry about that.”

–George Shultz, 1986

“Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole.”

–Edmund Burke, 1774

“All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.”

–John Arbuthnot, 1735

On the functioning of congress: “That 150 lawyers should do business together is not to be expected.”

–Thomas Jefferson, 1821

“These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people.”

–Abraham Lincoln, 1837

“Mr. Pulteney, afterwards Earl of Bath, is reported to have said that political parties were like snakes, guided not by their heads but by their tails. Lord Melbourne does not know whether this is true of the snake, but it is certainly so of the party.”

–2nd Viscount Melbourne, 1842

“An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”

–Simon Cameron, 1860

“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

–Anonymous, quoted by Gideon Tucker, 1866

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, or for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, than for a politician to lay aside disguise.

–James Caulfield, Earl of Charlemont, 1867

“The political spirit is the great force in throwing love of truth and accurate reasoning into a secondary place.”

–John Morley, 1874

“Politics ruins the character.”

–Otto Von Bismarck, 1881

“There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”

–Mark Twain, 1894

“The government’s like a mule, it’s slow and it’s sure; it’s slow to turn, and it’s sure to turn the way you don’t want it.”

–Ellen Glasgow, 1900

“He knows nothing, and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.”

–George Bernard Shaw, 1905

“Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.”

–Ambrose Bierce, 1906

“Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him.”

–Charles De Gaulle, 1965

“It is significant that whenever the public mind is to be diverted from a great social wrong, a crusade is inaugurated against indecency, gambling, saloons, etc.”

–Emma Goldman, 1911

“A good government remains the greatest of human blessings, and no nation has ever enjoyed it.”

–William Inge, 1922

“An organized money market has many advantages. But it is not a school of social rules or of political responsibility.”

–Richard Tawney, 1926

“The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.”

–Will Rogers, 1930

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, we know now that it is bad economics.”

–Franklin Roosevelt, 1937

“‘Do you pray for the Senators, Dr. Hale?’ someone asked the chaplain. ‘No, I look at the Senators and pray for the country.'”

–Edward Everette Hale, 1940

“The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe, with a conviction based on experience, that you can fool all the people all the time.”

–Franklin P. Adams, 1944

“No matter how noble the objectives of a govern ment, if it blurs decency and kindness, cheapens human life, and breeds ill-will and suspicion — it is an evil government.

–Eric Hoffer, 1954

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.”

–Nikita Khrushchev, 1960

“You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.”

–Sam Rayburn, 1961

“I once said cynically of a politician, ‘He’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it.'”

–Oscar Levant, 1965

“If you’re in politics you’re a whore anyhow. It doesn’t make any difference who you sleep with.”

–Robert Strauss, 1978

“Nothing is illegal if one hundred businessmen decide to do it, and that’s true all over the world.”

–Andrew Young, 1977

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

–Ronald Reagan, 1986