We are reformers in spring and summer, in autumn and winter we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservatives at night. Reform is affirmative, conservatism negative; conservatism goes for comfort, reform for truth.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this,—that reform consists in taking a bone from a dog. Philosophy will not do it.
—John Jay Chapman (1862–1933) American Biographer, Poet, Essayist, Writer
Every reform was once a private opinion, and when it shall be a private opinion again, it will solve the problem of the age.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
In England we have come to rely upon a comfortable time-lag of fifty years or a century intervening between the perception that something ought to be done and a serious attempt to do it.
—H. G. Wells (1866–1946) English Novelist, Historian, Social Thinker
Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess, which will itself need reforming.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) English Poet, Literary Critic, Philosopher
With children use force with men reason; such is the natural order of things. The wise man requires no law.
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78) Swiss-born French Philosopher
I believe that what so saddens the reformer is not his sympathy with his fellows in distress, but, though he be the holiest son of God, is his private ail. Let this be righted, let the spring come to him, the morning rise over his couch, and he will forsake his generous companions without apology.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) American Philosopher
When error is confuted, vice reproved, and hypocrisy exposed, some are sure to complain of uncourteousness, uncharitableness, and an unchristian spirit. Such men would have been loud in their complaints, and bitter in their censure, of the prophets and apostles, and would have doubted the personal piety, and ultimate salvation, of Luther, and Knox, and Whitefield.
The true reformer will not only hate evil, but will earnestly endeavor to fill its place with good.
—Charles Simmons (1924–2017) American Editor, Novelist
No one is to blame. It is neither their fault nor ours. It is the misfortune of being born when a whole world is dying.
—Alexander Herzen (1812–70) Russian Revolutionary, Writer
If there are people who feel that God wants them to change the structures of society, that is something between them and their God. We must serve him in whatever way we are called. I am called to help the individual; to love each poor person. Not to deal with institutions. I am in no position to judge.
—Mother Teresa (1910–97) Roman Catholic Missionary, Nun
Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.
—John Milton (1608–74) English Poet, Civil Servant, Scholar, Debater
Private reproof is the best grave for private faults.
How important, often, is the pain of guilt, as a stimulant to amendment and reformation.
—John Foster Dulles (1888–1959) American Republican Public Official, Lawyer
He who reforms himself, has done more toward reforming the public, that a crowd of noisy, impotent patriots.
—Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801) Swiss Theologian, Poet
He that has energy enough in his constitution to root out a vice should go a little farther, and try to plant a virtue in its place, otherwise he will have his labor to renew; a strong soil that has produced weeds, may be made to produce wheat with far less difficulty than it would cost to make it produce nothing.
—Charles Caleb Colton (c.1780–1832) English Clergyman, Aphorist
Turn where we may, within, around, the voice of great events is proclaiming to us, Reform, that you may preserve!
—Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay (1800–59) English Historian, Essayist, Philanthropist
Why, Sir, most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–84) British Essayist
It is easier to enrich ourselves with a thousand virtues, than to correct ourselves of a single fault.
—Jean de La Bruyere (1645–96) French Satiric Moralist, Author
There is a transcendent power in example. We reform others unconsciously, when we walk uprightly.
—Sophie Swetchine (1782–1857) Russian Mystic, Writer
They say best men are moulded out of faults, and, for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad!
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British Playwright
The heart of every man lies open to the shafts of correction if the archer can take proper aim.
—Oliver Goldsmith (1730–74) Irish Novelist, Playwright, Poet
Some who will not speak against another, in the end does them harm.
Until politics are a branch of science we shall do well to regard political and social reforms as experiments rather than short-cuts to the millennium.
—J. B. S. Haldane (1892–1964) British Biologist, Geneticist
To free a person from error is to give, and not to take away.
—Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) German Philosopher
Men must be capable of imagining and executing and insisting on social change if they are to reform or even maintain civilization, and capable too of furnishing the rebellion which is sometimes necessary if society is not to perish of immobility.
—Rebecca West (1892–1983) English Author, Journalist, Literary Critic
Rebuke with soft words and hard arguments.
Every abuse ought to be reformed, unless the reform is more dangerous than the abuse itself.
—Voltaire (1694–1778) French Philosopher, Author
Reform is not pleasant, but grievous; no person can reform themselves without suffering and hard work, how much less a nation.
—Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) Scottish Historian, Essayist
Cautious, careful people always casting about to preserve their reputation or social standards never can bring about reform. Those who are really in earnest are willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.
—Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) American Civil Rights Leader