Under a Presidential government, a nation has, except at the electing moment, no influence; it has not the ballot-box before it; its virtue is gone, and it must wait till its instant of despotism again returns.
The most essential mental quality for a free people, whose liberty is to be progressive, permanent, and on a large scale, is much stupidity.
Nothing is more unpleasant than a virtuous person with a mean mind.
An element of exaggeration clings to the popular judgment: great vices are made greater, great virtues greater also; interesting incidents are made more interesting, softer legends more soft.
A severe though not unfriendly critic of our institutions said that the cure for admiring the House of Lords was to go and look at it.
Progress would not have been the rarity it is if the early food had not been the late poison.
An inability to stay quiet is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind.
A man’s mother is his misfortune, but his wife is his fault.
When great questions end, little parties begin.
The apparent rulers of the English nation are like the imposing personages of a splendid procession: it is by them the mob are influenced; it is they whom the spectators cheer. The real rulers are secreted in second-rate carriages; no one cares for them or asks after them, but they are obeyed implicitly and unconsciously by reason of the splendor of those who eclipsed and preceded them.
It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptations.
The habit of common and continuous speech is a symptom of mental deficiency. It proceeds from not knowing what is going on in other people’s minds.
There seems to be an unalterable contradiction between the human mind and its employments. How can a soul be a merchant? What relation to an immortal being have the price of linseed, the brokerage on hemp? Can an undying creature debit petty expenses and charge for carriage paid? The soul ties its shoes; the mind washes its hands in a basin. All is incongruous.
Strong beliefs win strong men, and then make them stronger.
The whole history of civilization is strewn with creeds and institutions which were invaluable at first, and deadly afterwards.
An ambassador is not simply an agent; he is also a spectacle.
We must not let daylight in upon the magic.
Life is a school of probability.
In every particular state of the world, those nations which are strongest tend to prevail over the others; and in certain marked peculiarities the strongest tend to be the best.
Topics: Nation, Nations, Nationalism, Nationality
War both needs and generates certain virtues; not the highest, but what may be called the preliminary virtues, as valor, veracity, the spirit of obedience, the habit of discipline. Any of these, and of others like them, when possessed by a nation, and no matter how generated, will give them a military advantage, and make them more likely to stay in the race of nations.
So long as war is the main business of nations, temporary despotism—despotism during the campaign—is indispensable.
One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.
The best history is but like the art of Rembrandt; it casts a vivid light on certain selected causes, on those which were best and greatest; it leaves all the rest in shadow and unseen.
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