Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
—John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) Sixth President of the USA
It is a great blessing, says Pascal: “to be born a man of quality, since it brings a man as far forward at eighteen or twenty as another would be at fifty, which is a clear gain of thirty years.” — These thirty years are commonly wanting to the ambitious characters of democracies. — The principle of equality, which allows every man to arrive at everything, prevents all men from rapid advancement.
—Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) French Historian, Political Scientist
The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.
—William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925–2008) American TV Personality, Author
At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man walking into the little booth with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper. No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point.
—Winston Churchill (1874–1965) British Head of State, Political leader, Historian, Journalist, Author
The tendency of democracies is, in all things, to mediocrity.
—James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851) American Novelist
Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.
—Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) American Christian Theologian
Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.
—Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969) American Baptist Minister
The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population — the intelligent ones or the fools? I think we can agree it’s the fools, no matter where you go in this world, it’s the fools that form the overwhelming majority.
—Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) Norwegian Playwright
Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice, like Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they’re both just aspirin.
—Gore Vidal (1925–48) American Novelist, Essayist, Journalist, Playwright
Democracy is the menopause of Western society, the Grand Climacteric of the body social. Fascism is its middle-aged lust.
—Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007) French Sociologist, Philosopher
In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects.
—J. William Fulbright (1905–95) American Political leader, Politician
A man is judged by the company he keeps, and a company is judged by the men it keeps, and the people of Democratic nations are judged by the type and caliber of officers they elect.
—William J. H. Boetcker (1873–1962) American Presbyterian Minister
There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens.
—Leon Trotsky (1879–1940) Russian Marxist Revolutionary
The love of democracy is that of equality.
—Montesquieu (1689–1755) French Political Philosopher, Jurist
The real danger of democracy is, that the classes which have the power under it will assume all the rights and reject all the duties-that is, that they will use the political power to plunder those-who-have.
—William Graham Sumner (1840–1910) American Polymath, Academic, Historian, Sociologist, Anthropologist
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.
—Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) American Head of State
Democracy is a political method, that is to say, a certain type of institutional arrangement for arriving at political — legislative and administrative — decisions and hence incapable of being an end in itself.
—Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950) Austrian-American Political Economist, Sociologist
In this and like communities public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed; consequently he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes and decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.
—Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) American Head of State
When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong.
—Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926) American Socialist, Union Leader
Every thing that is right or natural pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, “’tis time to part.”
—Thomas Paine (1737–1809) American Nationalist, Author, Pamphleteer, Radical, Inventor
Democracy, as I understand it, requires me to sacrifice myself for the masses, not to them. Who knows not that if you would save the people, you must often oppose them?
—John C. Calhoun (1782–1850) American Head of State, Politician, Activist