Quotes by Topic

Quotes on War

Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others.

— Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers #34

Even peace may be purchased at too high a price.

— Benjamin Franklin

Let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

— Dwight Eisenhower

All free men remember that in the final choice a soldier’s pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner’s chains.

— Dwight Eisenhower

The sinews of war are not gold, but good soldiers; for gold alone will not procure good soldiers, but good soldiers will always procure gold.

— Niccolò Machiavelli

The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.

— Thomas J. Jackson

Whensoever hostile aggressions…require a resort to war, we must meet our duty and convince the
world that we are just friends and brave enemies.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Andrew Jackson (3 December 1806)

It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same.

— Thomas Paine

You can have peace, or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.

— Robert Heinlein

If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

— Winston Churchill

Cry “havoc!” and let loose the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

— William Shakespeare

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

— Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.

— Thomas Paine

When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.

— Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume III : The Grand Alliance (1950)

Deos fortioribus adesse. (The gods are on the side of the stronger.)

— Tacitus, Annales (AD 117)

If ever there was a holy war, it was that which saved our liberties and gave us independence.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John W. Eppes (6 November 1813)

This bloody past suggests to us that enemies cease hostilities only when they are battered enough to acknowledge that there is no hope in victory – and thus that further resistance means only useless sacrifice.

— Victor Davis Hanson

The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.

— James Mattis

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base.

— General George S. Patton

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget ye were our countrymen.

— Samuel Adams

The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.

— Marcus Aurelius

No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.

— James Mattis

The great body of our citizens shoot less as times goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes, as well as in the military services by every means in our power. Thus, and not otherwise, may we be able to assist in preserving peace in the world… The first step – in the direction of preparation to avert war if possible, and to be fit for war if it should come – is to teach men to shoot!

— Theodore Roosevelt

What the horrors of war are, no one can imagine. They are not wounds and blood and fever, spotted and low, or dysentery, chronic and acute, cold and heat and famine. They are intoxication, drunken brutality, demoralisation and disorder on the part of the inferior … jealousies, meanness, indifference, selfish brutality on the part of the superior.

— Florence Nightingale

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

— Winston Churchill

The God of War hates those who hesitate.

— Euripides, Heraclidæ, 722.

It’s been my responsibility, my duty and very much my honor to serve as Commander in Chief of this nation’s Armed Forces these past eight years. That is the most sacred, most important ask of the Presidency. Since our nation’s founding, the primary obligation of the national government has been the common defense of these United States. But as I have sought to perform this sacred task as best I could, I have done so with the knowledge that my role in this day-to-day-to-day effort, from sunrise to sunrise, every moment of every hour of every day of every year, is a glancing one compared to yours. … But it’s not just your fellow Americans who owe you a debt. No, I believe many more do, for I believe that military service in the Armed Forces of the United States is a profound form of service to all humankind. You stand engaged in an effort to keep America safe at home, to protect our allies and interests abroad, to keep the seas and the skies free of threat. Just as America stands as an example to the world of the inestimable benefits of freedom and democracy, so too an America with the capacity to project her power for the purpose of protecting and expanding freedom and democracy abroad benefits the suffering people of the world.

— Ronald Reagan

Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit.

— James Mattis, A message to the 1st Marine Division in March 2003.

Where there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in the triumph.

— Pierre Corneille

One should never allow chaos to develop in order to avoid going to war, because one does not avoid a war but instead puts it off to his disadvantage.

— Niccolò Machiavelli

Right is more precious than peace.

— Woodrow Wilson

War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose.

— Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

War is mainly a catalogue of blunders.

— Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume III : The Grand Alliance (1950)

The only power tyrants have, is the power relinquished to them by their victims.

— Étienne de la Boétie

Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others.

— Alexander Hamilton

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.

— Margaret Thatcher

He who stays on the defensive does not make war, he endures it.

— Field Marshal Colmar Baron von der Goltz

The concentration of troops can be done fast and easy, on paper.

— Field Marshal Radomir Putnik

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

— John Adams

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined.

— George Washington

The essence of war is violence. Moderation in war is imbecility.

— British Sea Lord John Fisher

The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.

— Karl von Clausewitz

No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence.

— Woodrow Wilson

If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win.

— Thomas Sowell

War may be too much a part of history to be eliminated—ever.

— Elie Wiesel

Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum. (Therefore, whoever wishes for peace, let him prepare for war.)

— Vegetius, De Re Militari

The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

— Douglas MacArthur

Victory in war does not depend entirely on numbers or courage; only skill and discipline will ensure it.

— Flavius Vegetius

If we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.

— George Washington

War is too serious a matter to be taught by the inexperienced.

— Robert Heinlein

If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.

— Winston Churchill

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realise that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Antiquated War Offices, weak, incompetent, or arrogant Commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant Fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations – all take their seats at the Council Board on the morrow of a declaration of war. Always remember, however sure you are that you could easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think he also had a chance.

— Winston Churchill, My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930)

Love is like war; easy to begin but very hard to stop.

— H. L. Mencken

The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.

— Hyman G. Rickover

No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops, and in the long run no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: ‘Come back with your shield, or on it.’ Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.

— Robert Heinlein

Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.

— Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

In war there is no second prize for the runner-up.

— General Omar Bradley

Like a baseball game, wars are not over till they are over. Wars don’t run on a clock like football. No previous generation was so hopelessly unrealistic that this had to be explained to them.

— Thomas Sowell

The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.

— General George S. Patton

In war there is no substitute for victory.

— Douglas MacArthur

Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.

— Ernest Hemingway

A really great people, proud and high-spirited, would face all the disasters of war rather than purchase that base prosperity which is bought at the price of national honor.

— Theodore Roosevelt

The Sergeant is the Army.

— Dwight Eisenhower

We make war that we may live in peace.

— Aristotle

It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.

— William Tecumseh Sherman

Political economy has disapproved equally of monopoly and communism in the
various branches of human activity, wherever it has found them. Is it not then
strange and unreasonable that it accepts them in the industry of security?

— Gustave de Molinari, 1849

We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The Ambassador [of Tripoli] answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

— John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Letter from the commissioners (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson) to John Jay, 28 March 1786

Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.

— George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.

— James Mattis

If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

— Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume I : The Gathering Storm (1948)

Diplomats are just as essential in starting a war as soldiers are in finishing it.

— Will Rogers

If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.

— Thomas Sowell

…an imperfect plan implemented immediately and violently will always succeed better than a perfect plan.

— General George S. Patton

Silent leges inter arma. (Laws are silent in times of war.)

— Marcus Tullius Cicero, Oratio Pro Annio Milone, IV.

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.

— Calvin Coolidge

In the long run luck is given only to the efficient.

— Helmuth von Moltke

Humanize war? You might as talk about humanizing hell!

— British Admiral Jacky Fisher

What is our aim? Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; Victory how ever long and hard the road may be.

— Sir Winston Churchill

If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.

— Niccolò Machiavelli

Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.

— General George S. Patton, Jr.

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

— Dwight Eisenhower

Datos, ne quisquam seruiat, enses. (The sword was given for this, that none need live a slave.)

— Marcus Annaeus Lucanus

Some people live their entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world. Marines don’t have that problem.

— Ronald Reagan

I also think there are prices too high to pay to save the United States. Conscription is one of them. Conscription is slavery, and I don’t think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone, no matter what name it is called. We have had the draft for twenty years now; I think this is shameful. If a country can’t save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say : Let the damned thing go down the drain!

— Robert Heinlein

In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Good Will.

— Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume I : The Gathering Storm (1948)

Only the dead have seen the end of war.

— George Santayana, The Life of Reason

Miseram pacem vel bello bene mutari. (Even war is better than a wretched peace.)

— Tacitus, Annales (AD 117)

The price of freedom is the willingness to do sudden battle, anywhere, at any time, and with utter recklessness.

— Robert Heinlein, The Pupper Masters

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

— Sir Winston Churchill

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

— Winston Churchill, 26 June, 1954

No arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

— Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural address (1981)

Superior firepower is an invaluable tool when entering negotiations.

— General George S. Patton

The best form of welfare for the troops is first-class training.

— Field Marshal Rommel

With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments, where they will certainly be lost.

— William Lloyd Garrison

If you love peace more than freedom, you lose both.

— Dick Armey

A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.

— Alexander Hamilton, Letter to the Daily Advertiser (21 February 1797)

There is one source, O Athenians, of all your defeats. It is that your citizens have ceased to be soldiers.

— Demosthenes

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

— John Stuart Mill, “The Contest in America,” Fraser’s Magazine (February 1862)

Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man and not materials that counts.

— Mao Tse-tung

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

— Thomas Paine, The Crisis: Philadelphia; 12 September, 1777

Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.

— Herbert Hoover

At no time has the world been without war. Not in seven or ten or twenty thousand years.

— Alexander Solzhenitsyn, November 1916: The Red Wheel: Knot II (1984)

There is one tactical principal which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wounds, death and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.

— General George S. Patton Jr.

War is a game that is played with a smile. If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin, keep out of the way till you can.

— Winston Churchill
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Quotes on Democracy

The free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy.

— Milton Friedman, Introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of The Road to Serfdom

Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom; socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.

— Alexis de Tocqueville, Discours pronounce a l’assemblee constituante le 12 septembre 1848 sur la question du droit at travail

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

— Ayn Rand

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

— John Adams, In a letter to John Taylor on 15 April, 1814.

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

— Edmund Burke

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

— Robert Heinlein

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

— James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994)

The merit of our Constitution was, not that it promotes democracy, but checks it.

— Horatio Seymour

Men in the mass never brook the destructive discussion of their fundamental beliefs, and that impatience is naturally most evident in those societies in which men in the mass are most influential. Democracy and free speech are not facets of one gem; democracy and free speech are eternal enemies.

— H. L. Mencken, Introduction to The Antichrist

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems – of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.

— Thomas Sowell

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

Democracy can’t work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that’s all there is – so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.

— Robert Heinlein

Democracy is a poor system of government at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favor is that it is about eight times as good as any other method the human race has ever tried. Democracy’s worst fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents – a depressingly low level, but what else can you expect?

— Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

— H. L. Mencken

Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.

— Walter Williams

People who object to weapons aren’t abolishing violence, they’re begging for rule by brute force, when the biggest, strongest animals among men were always automatically ‘right.’ Guns ended that, and social democracy is a hollow farce without an armed populace to make it work.

— L. Neil Smith

All deductions having been made, democracy has done less harm, and more good, than any other form of government. It gave to human existence a zest and camaraderie that outweighed its pitfalls and defects. It gave to thought and science and enterprise the freedom essential to their operation and growth. It broke down the walls of privilege and class, and in each generation it raised up ability from every rank and place.

— Will Durant, The Lessons of History

Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.

— Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons (11 November, 1947)

Democratic institutions are quarantine mechanisms for that old pestilence, tyrannic lust. As such they are very useful and very boring.

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too Human, Section 2, Aphorism 298

It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny.

— James Fenimore Cooper

If Virtue & Knowledge are diffus’d among the People, they will never be enslav’d. This will be their great Security.

— Samuel Adams, Letter to James Warren (12 February, 1779)

The tank, the B-52, the fighter-bomber, the state controlled police and the military are the weapons of dictatorship. The rifle is the weapon of democracy. Not for nothing was the revolver called an ‘equalizer.’ Egalite implies liberte. And always will. Let us hope our weapons are never needed –but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny.

— Edward Abbey

As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

— H. L. Mencken, “Bayard vs. Lionheart” – Baltimore Evening Sun, 26 July, 1920
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Quotes on Law

If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.

— Louis D. Brandeis

Distrust all men in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Judge: a law student who marks his own papers.

— H. L. Mencken

An unjust law is no law at all.

— Saint Augustine, On Free Choice Of The Will

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter, – but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!

— William Pitt, the Elder, Speech on the Excise Bill

The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.

— Albert Einstein

The First Amendment makes confidence in the common sense of our people and in the maturity of their judgment the great postulate of our democracy.

— Justice William O. Douglas

If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means – to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal – would bring terrible retribution.

— Louis D. Brandeis

Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness.

— Calvin Coolidge

Here the great art lies, to discern in what the law is to be to restraint and punishment, and in what things persuasion only is to work.

— John Milton, 1644

Every law that was ever written opened up a new way to graft.

— Robert Heinlein, Red Planet

All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or
maintain any religious institution.

— Thomas Jefferson, Draft Constitution for Virginia (June 1776)

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

— Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957)

Unnecessary laws are but traps for money.

— Thomas Hobbes

The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of it’s enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law, and no courts are bound to enforce it.

— 16 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256

Criminals are not the victims of society; society is the victim of criminals.

— Bob Dole

Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

— Thomas Jefferson, 1801

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, in any country. If it were, the laws would lose their effect, because it can always be pretended.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to André Limozin (22 December, 1787)

The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.

— John Locke

This provision speaks for itself. Its plain object is to secure the perfect enjoyment of that great right of the common law, that a man’s house shall be his own castle, privileged against all civil and military intrusion.

— Justice Joseph Story, 1833

Natural justice is a symbol or expression of usefullness, to prevent one person from harming or being harmed by another.

— Epicurus

The clatter of arms drowns the voice of the law.

— Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Essais

He who decides a case without hearing the other side, though he decide justly, cannot be considered just.

— Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Medea

Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.

— Thomas Jefferson, Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law (1764)

The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge

— U.S. vs. Dougherty, 1972

A principal source of errors and injustice are false ideas of utility. For example: that legislator has false ideas of utility who considers particular more than general conveniences, who had rather command the sentiments of mankind than excite them, and dares say to reason, `Be thou a slave’; who would sacrifice a thousand real advantages to the fear of an imaginary or trifling inconvenience; who would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of their being burnt, and of water for fear of their being drowned; and who knows of no means of preventing evil but by destroying it.

The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator? And does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.

— Cesare Beccaria, Of Crimes and Punishments

We can never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 April, 1963)

It is not only vain, but wicked, in a legislator to frame laws in opposition to the laws of nature, and to arm them with the terrors of death. This is truly creating crimes in order to punish them.

— Thomas Jefferson, 1779

The more corrupt the state, the more laws.

— Tacitus, The Annals

The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the facts in controversy.

— John Jay

The Founding Fathers understood what happens when you give power to people with good intentions. That’s why they wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — to prevent politicians from foisting their good intentions on us. Jefferson said we must bind them down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

— Harry Browne

I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, two men are called a Law Firm, and three or more are called a Congress.

— John Adams

Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law.

— Louis D. Brandeis

There are no compacts between lions and men, and wolves and sheep have no concord.

— Homer

There is no man so good that if he submitted all his actions and thoughts to the scrutiny of the laws, he would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.

— Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Essais

The 10 Commandments contain 297 words. The Bill of Rights is stated in 463 words. Lincon’s Gettysburg Address contains 266 words. A recent federal directive to regulate the price of cabbage contains 26,911 words.

— The Atlanta Journal

Try to imagine a regulation of labor imposed by force that is not a violation of liberty; a transfer of wealth imposed by force that is not a violation of property. If you cannot reconcile these contradictions, then you must conclude that the law cannot organize labor and industry without organizing injustice.

— Frederic Bastiat, The Law

We’re not really going to get anywhere until we take the criminality out of drugs.

— George P. Schultz, McNeil-Lehrer News Hour

Useless laws weaken the necessary laws.

— Charles Louis de Secondat, De L’Esprit des Lois

Only in a police state is the job of a policeman easy.

— Orson Welles

Whenever the offense inspires less horror than the punishment, the rigor of penal law is obliged to give way to the common feelings of mankind.

— Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

It would be an absurdity for jurors to be required to accept the judge’s view of the law, against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience.

— John Adams

The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

It is not, what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice, tells me I ought to do.

— Edmund Burke

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

— Frederic Bastiat, Economic Sophisms

Every law is an evil for every law is an infraction of liberty.

— Jeremy Bentham

Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.

— Herbert Spencer, The Ethics of Social Life: Justice

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.

— Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A letter to three students in October 1967.

Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.

— John Adams

The more corrupt the Republic, the more the laws.

— Giovanni Sartori

Where the constitution is mute, we should vote about these matters rather than litigate them.

— Robert Bork

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

— Thomas Jefferson

Power is the great evil with which we are contending. We have divided power between three branches of government and erected checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. However, where is the check on the power of the judiciary? If we fail to check the power of the judiciary, I predict that we will eventually live under judicial tyranny.

— Patrick Henry

The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.

— Lao Tsu

You can’t legislate morality; We legislate little else.

— Robert Bork

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.

— John Adams

For most Americans the Constitution had become a hazy document, cited like the Bible on ceremonial occasions but forgotten in the daily transactions of life.

— Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

All bad precedents begin with justifiable measures.

— Julius Caesar

Laws are like Cobwebs, which may catch small Flies, but let Wasps and Hornets break through.

— Jonathan Swift, A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind (1707)

A law against property is a law against industry.

— Edmund Burke

When your response to everything that is wrong with the world is to say, ‘there ought to be a law,’ you are saying that you hold freedom very cheap.

— Thomas Sowell

A Bill of Rights that means what the majority wants it to mean is worthless.

— Antonin Scalia

It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.

— Calvin Coolidge

We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.

— Davy Crockett, Speech in the US House of Representatives

A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.

— Robert Frost

All that is good is not embodied in the law; and all that is evil is not proscribed by the law. A well-disciplined society needs few laws; but it needs strong mores.

— William F. Buckley

The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.

— Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (1954)

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either.

— Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Commencement address at Harvard University (7 June, 1978)

Just as it is the duty of all men to obey just laws, so it is the duty of all men to disobey unjust laws.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Francis W. Gilmer (27 June 1816)

An undefinable law is not a law, but merely a license for some men to rule others.

— Ayn Rand

Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of the government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments … Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils.? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs.

— Ludwig von Mises, Human Action

Capital punishment is our society’s recognition of the sanctity of human life.

— Orrin Hatch

Silent leges inter arma. (Laws are silent in times of war.)

— Marcus Tullius Cicero, Oratio Pro Annio Milone, IV.

After 20 years on the bench I have concluded that federal drug laws are a disaster. It is time to get the government out of drug enforcement.

— Judge Whitman Knapp, New York Times; May 14, 1993

It’s easy for people to assume that the Bill of Rights will be, as somebody once called the Constitution, a machine that runs itself. I disagree. I think eternal vigilance is the price of keeping it in working order.

— Judge Lawrence Tribe

When the fox administers justice, the chickens will always be found guilty.

— Cat Farmer

The law of self-preservation is higher than written law.

— Thomas Jefferson

It is not the business of the law to make anyone good or reverent or moral or clean or upright.

— Murray Rothbard

I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

— Martin Luther King, In a letter on 16 April, 1963.

The 4th Amendment and the personal rights it secures have a long history. At the very core stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.

— Justice Potter Stewart

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.

— Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1969

The power of the Executive to cast a man in prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government.

— Winston Churchill, 21 November, 1942

We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.

— Ronald Reagan

Pity for the guilty is treason against the innocent.

— Ayn Rand

In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

— Thomas Jefferson, The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 (16 November 1798)

Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law.

— Sophocles

The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.

— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

My body is my own, at least I have always so regarded it. If I do harm … it is I who suffers, not the state.

— Mark Twain

The Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.

— John Marshall Harlan, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Can any of you seriously say the Bill of Rights could get through Congress today? It wouldn’t even get out of committee.

— F. Lee Bailey

[The Bill of Rights is] designed to protect individuals and minorities against the tyranny of the majority, but it’s also designed to protect the people against bureaucracy, against the government.

— Judge Lawrence Tribe

The more laws, the less justice.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

— Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Where there is no law, there is no freedom.

— John Locke

Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim — when he defends himself — as a criminal.

— Frederic Bastiat, The Law

The aim of the law is not to punish sins.

— Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Written laws are like spiders’ webs, and will like them only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them.

— Anacharsis, Life of Solon

There are not enough jails, not enough policemen, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people.

— Hubert H. Humphrey

Where law ends, tyranny begins.

— William Pitt, the Elder

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That “all powers not delegated to
the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to
the people.” To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of
Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.

— Thomas Jefferson

Where there is Hunger, Law is not regarded; and where Law is not regarded, there will be Hunger.

— Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (1755)

Outside of the Constitution we have no legal authority more than private citizens, and within it we have only so much as that instrument gives us. This broad principle limits all our functions and applies to all subjects.

— President Andrew Johnson

Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.

— Edmund Burke

To live outside the law you must be honest.

— Lao Tse

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

— Winston Churchill

I’m in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my value system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.

— Milton Friedman

Law and morality may succeed for a time in holding human appetites, ambitions and propensities in check, but when opportunities arise, they will break out again from the depths of the human heart.

— Theophrastus

We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.

— Heinrich Heine

One single object…[will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation.

— Thomas Jefferson

We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land- nor, perhaps, the sun or stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. That chart is the Constitution.

— Daniel Webster

When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.

— Frederick Bastiat, The Law

The American Constitution, one of the few modern political documents drawn up by men who were forced by the sternest circumstances to think out what they really had to face, instead of chopping logic in a university classroom.

— George Bernard Shaw

Laws do not persuade just because they threaten.

— Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Ignorance of the law excuses no man; not that all men know the law, but because ’tis an excuse every man will plead, and no man can tell how to confute him.

— John Selden, Table Talk (1689)

Laws should be constructed so as to leave as little as possible to the decision of those who judge.

— Aristotle

Members of society must obey the law because they personally believe that its commands are justified.

— Judge David Bazelon

One with the law is a majority.

— Calvin Coolidge, Republican National Convention, 27 July 1920.

Judges . . . rule on the basis of law, not public opinion, and they should be totally indifferent to pressures of the times.

— Justice Warren E. Burger

If you support the war on drugs in its present form, then you’re only paying lip-service to the defense of freedom, and you don’t really grasp the concept of the sovereign individual human being.

— Neal Boortz

It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

— James Madison, The Federalist No. 62

The duty of government is to leave commerce to its own capital and credit as well as all other branches of business, protecting all in their legal pursuits, granting exclusive privileges to none.

— Andrew Jackson

We don’t seem to be able to check crime, so why not legalize it and then tax it out of business?

— Will Rogers

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me. But it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Wrong must not win by technicalities.

— Aeschylus, The Eumenides

The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone.

— Thomas Jefferson

Constitutions are checks upon the hasty action of the majority. They are the self-imposed restraints of a whole people upon a majority of them to secure sober action and a respect for the rights of the minority.

— William Howard Taft

I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.

— Thomas Jefferson

Justice is the set and constant purpose which gives every man his due.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

It [is] more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer. The reason is, because it is of more importance to the community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in the world, that all of them cannot be punished; and many times they happen in such a manner, that it is not of much consequence to the public, whether they are punished or not. But when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security. And if such a sentiment as this should take place in the mind of the subject, there would be an end to all security whatsoever.

— John Adams

We are slaves of the law in order that we may be able to be free.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

Every actual state is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.

— Daniel Webster

The privilege against self-incrimination is one of the great landmarks in man’s struggle to make himself civilized. … The Fifth is a lone sure rock in time of storm… a symbol of the ultimate moral sense of the community, upholding the best in us.

— Erwin Griswold, Dean of the Harvard Law School

Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

— Abraham Lincoln, Speech to the Illinois House of Representatives; 18 Dec. 1840

It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny.

— James Fenimore Cooper

Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.

— Thomas Jefferson

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse to rest on inference.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison December 20, 1787

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.

— Thomas Brackett Reed, 1886

The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free. They are the lovers of law and order, who observe the law when the government breaks it.

— Henry David Thoreau, Slavery in Massachusetts
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They have the usual socialist disease; they have run out of other people’s money.

— Margaret Thatcher, speech to a Conservative Party Conference (October 10, 1975)