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Favorite Quotations


The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotation.

Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1848)

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82)

You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.

Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948)

Learning is, in too many cases, but a foil to common sense; a substitute for true knowledge. Books are less often made use of as "spectacles" to look at nature with, than as blinds to keep out its strong light and shifting scenery from weak eyes and indolent dispositions ...

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), English essayist. "On the Ignorance of the Learned,"
in Edinburgh Magazine, July 1818; reprinted in Table Talk, 1821

Strange as it may seem, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and formal education positively fortifies it.

Stephen Vizinczey (b. 1933), Hungarian novelist, critic. "Europe's Inner Demons," review of Norman Cohn, An Inquiry Inspired by the Great Witch-Hunt, in The Sunday Telegraph, London, March 2, 1975

Erudition. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842–1914), U.S. author, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.

Eric Hoffer (1902-83), U.S. philosopher. Reflections on the Human Condition, aph. 88, 1973

Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, leter to James Smith, 1822

Self-defence is Nature's eldest law.

John Dryden (1631-1700), English poet, dramatist, critic, Absalom and Achitophel

...The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty.

St. George Tucker (1752-1827), American jurist, Blackstone's Commentaries, Book 1, Appendix, Philadelphia, 1803

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philospher and economist,On Liberty, Chapter 1, 1859

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17, 1782

A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high virtues of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter, September 20, 1810

The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent, or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to John Cartwright, 1824

Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 20, 1820

[T]he States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore...never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to Judge William Johnson, June 12, 1823

It is an established rule of construction, where a phrase will bear either of two meanings to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which will render all the others useless. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given to them. It was intended to lace them up straitly with in the enumerated powers, and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, Opinion on a National Bank, February 15, 1791

On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823

The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution.

Joseph Story (1779-1845), U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

Daniel Webster (1782-1852), American statesman, lawyer and orator

One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to George Washington, June 19, 1796

Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.

Cesare Bonesana, marchese di Beccaria (1738-1794), Italian criminologist, Essay on Crimes and Punishments, quoted by Thomas Jefferson in The Commonplace Book

[T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their, own sphere of action, but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804

At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, October 31, 1823

The truth is, that, even with the most secure tenure of office, during good behavior, the danger is not, that the judges will be too firm in resisting public opinion, and in defence of private rights or public liberties; but, that they will be ready to yield themselves to the passions, and politics, and prejudices of the day.

Joseph Story (1779-1845), U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

But to prohibit the citizen from wearing or carrying a war arm, except upon his own premises or when on a journey traveling through the country with baggage, or when acting as or in aid of an officer, is an unwarranted restriction upon his constitutional right to keep and bear arms. If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege.

Wilson v. State, 33 Ark. 557, 560, 34 Am. Rep. 52 (1878)

The right of the whole people, young and old, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, and not such merely as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in upon, in the smallest degree; and all this for the important end to be attained, the rearing up and qualifying a well-regulated militia, so vitally necessary to a free state.

Nunn v. State, 1 Kelly 243 (Ga. 1846)

The right existed at the adoption of the constitution; it had then no limits short of the moral power of the citizens to exercise it, and it in fact consisted in nothing else but in the liberty of the citizens to bear arms. Diminish that liberty, therefore, and you necessarily restrain the right; and such is the diminution and restraint, which the act in question most indisputably imports, by prohibiting the citizens wearing weapons in a manner which was lawful to wear them when the constitution was adopted. In truth, the right of the citizens to bear arms, has been as directly assailed by the provisions of the act, as though they were forbid carrying guns on their shoulders, swords in scabbards, or when in conflict with an enemy, were not allowed the use of bayonets; and if the act be consistent with the constitution, it cannot be incompatible with that instrument for the legislature, by successive enactments, to entirely cut off the exercise of the right of the citizens to bear arms. For, in principle, there is no difference between a law prohibiting the wearing concealed arms, and a law forbidding the wearing such as are exposed; and if the former be unconstitutional, the latter must be so likewise.

Bliss v. Commonwealth, 12 Ky. (2 Litt.) 90, 13 Am. Dec. 251 (1822)

It is true that the invention of guns with a carrying range of probably 100 miles, submarines, deadly gasses, and of aeroplanes carrying bombs and other modern devices have much reduced the importance of the pistol in warfare except at close range. But the ordinary private citizen, whose right to carry arms cannot be infringed upon, is not likely to purchase these expensive and most modern devices just named. To him the rifle, the musket, the shotgun, and the pistol are about the only arms which he could be expected to "bear," and his right to do this is that which is guaranteed by the Constitution. To deprive him of bearing any of these arms is to infringe upon the right guaranteed to him by the Constitution.

State v. Kerner, 181 N.C. 574 (1921)

The next amendment is "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offence to keep arms, and by substituting a regular army in the stead of a resort to the militia. The friends of a free government cannot be too watchful, to overcome the tendency of the public mind to sacrifice, for the sake of mere private convenience, this powerful check upon the designs of ambitious men.

The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them. And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt, and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights.

Joseph Story (1779-1845), U.S. Supreme Court Justice, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, 1842

[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, - who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia.

George Mason (1725-1792), speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 14, 1778

There is something so far-fetched and so extravagant in the idea of danger to liberty from the militia that one is at a loss whether to treat it with gravity or with raillery; whether to consider it as a mere trial of skill, like the paradoxes of rhetoricians; as a disingenuous artifice to instil prejudices at any price; or as the serious.

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), Federalist No. 29, 10 January 1788

[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it.

"Federal Farmer," Antifederalist Letter, No.18, January 25, 1787

...All too many of the other great tragedies of history -- Stalin's atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few -- were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 5997-99. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed -- where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten. Despite the panel's mighty struggle to erase these words, they remain, and the people themselves can read what they say plainly enough:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The sheer ponderousness of the panel's opinion -- the mountain of verbiage it must deploy to explain away these fourteen short words of constitutional text -- refutes its thesis far more convincingly than anything I might say. The panel's labored effort to smother the Second Amendment by sheer body weight has all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it -- and is just as likely to succeed.

Judge Alex Kozinski, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc: Silveira v. Lockyer, May 6, 2003

The whole of that Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals...[I]t establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.

Albert Gallatin, (1761–1849), American financier and public official, letter to Alexander Adddison, October 7, 1789

There is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution. The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let the people alone; it does not require the federal government or the state to provide services, even so elementary a service as maintaining law and order.

Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616 (7th Cir. 1982)

845. Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for failure to establish a police department or otherwise to provide police protection service or, if police protection service is provided, for failure to provide sufficient police protection service...

846. Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for injury caused by the failure to make an arrest or by the failure to retain an arrested person in custody.

California Government Code

The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men.

Arizona Constitution, Article 2, Section 26 (enacted 1912)
Washington Constitution, Article 1, Section 24 (enacted 1889)

As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.

James Madison (1751-1836), U.S. President, essay in the National Gazette, March 27, 1792

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.

Noah Webster (1758-1843), An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, October 10, 1787

Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved always to be possible.

Hubert H. Humphrey (1911-1978), U.S. Senator and Vice President, GUNS Magazine, February 1960

The Second Amendment states that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed," period. There is no mention of magazine size, rate of fire or to what extent these arms may resemble assault rifles. All rifles were assault rifles in those days. Furthermore, if the gun laws that Massachusetts has now had been in force in 1776, we'd all be Canadians, and you know what kind of weather Canada has.

P. J. O'Rourke (b. 1947), U.S. journalist, Parliament of Whores, 1991

When the federal assault-weapons ban expired last September, its fans claimed that gun crimes and police killings would surge. Sarah Brady, one of the nation's leading gun-control advocates, warned, "Our streets are going to be filled with AK-47s and Uzis."

Well, over eight months have gone by and the only casualty has been gun-controllers' credibility. Letting the law expire only showed its uselessness.

John R. Lott, Jr., "Gun Banners Who Can't Shoot Straight," New York Post, June 3, 2005

Englishmen never will be slaves: they are free to do whatever the Government and public opinion allow them to do.

George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Irish playwright and critic, spoken by the Devil, in Man and Superman, 1905

It could take a hundred years, or as little as a generation, to rediscover the freedom our Founders hammered into the U.S. Constitution. Much of our freedom has already been lost, but the rediscovery cannot even begin to emerge until the weight of government oppression grows too heavy to bear. Early Americans felt the weight of King George's oppression, until they could bear it no more. Then, they acted.

Not all of the early Americans had reached the tipping point in 1776. In fact, many, if not most of the people, preferred to suffer oppression by the king rather than pay the cost of freedom. Many, if not most, of the people in America today prefer to suffer governmental oppression rather than pay the cost of freedom. So far, governmental oppression is not too heavy; people can still do almost anything they wish – if they can get a permit.

Henry Lamb, "Freedom Isn't Free," World Net Daily, January 21, 2006

Still, 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 live as slaves.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874–1965), British Prime Minister, The Gathering Storm (vol. 1 of The Second World War), p. 348, 1948

I used to issue leaflets asking people to enlist as recruits. One of the arguments I had used was distasteful to the Commissioner: 'Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle class render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.' The Commissioner referred to this and said that he appreciated my presence in the conference in spite of the differences between us. And I had to justify my standpoint as courteously as I could.

Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader (1869-1948), The Story of my Experiments with Truth - An Autobiography, 1927

A universal peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts.

James Madison, (1751-1836), U.S. president, essay in the National Gazette, February 2, 1792

The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral.

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), American statesman, Federalist, No. 11

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, - is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philospher and economist, "The Contest in America," Dissertations and Discussions, vol. 1, p. 26 (1868), first published in Fraser’s Magazine, February 1862

Qui desiderat pacem, bellum praeparat
(Let him who desires peace prepare for war, more commonly rendered as
Si vis pacem, para bellum)

Flavius Vegetius Renatus (circa 360-400), Epitoma Rei Militari, circa 390

When you disarm your subjects you offend them by showing that either from cowardliness or lack of faith, you distrust them; and either conclusion will induce them to hate you.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), The Prince, 1514

Successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. The decisive consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular - not whether it will work well and prove itself but whether the active talking constituents like it immediately. Politicians rationalize this servitude by saying that in a democracy public men are the servants of the people.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), U.S. journalist, The Public Philosophy, ch. 2, sct. 4, 1955

Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water until he had learnt to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859), British historian, Whig politician, Critical and Historical Essays (1843), "Milton," Edinburgh Review, Aug. 1825

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.

Sir Alexander Fraser Tytler (1742-1813), Scottish jurist and historian, Collection of Lectures at Edinburgh University, 1801

Taxes should be continued by annual or biennial reenactments, because a constant hold, by the nation, of the strings of the public purse is a salutary restraint from which an honest government ought not wish, nor a corrupt one to be permitted, to be free.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), letter to John Wayles Eppes, 24 June 1813

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright and critic, Everybody’s Political What’s What?, chapter 30, p. 256, 1944

It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence.

Eric Hoffer (1902–1983), U.S. philosopher. The Passionate State of Mind, aph. 41, 1955

The principle feature of contemporary American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things - war and hunger and date rape - liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things. People who care a lot are naturally superior to we who don't care any more than we have to. By virtue of this superiority the caring have a moral right to lead the nation. It's a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don't have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal. Kidnapping the moral high ground also serves to inflate liberal ranks. People who are, in fact, just kindhearted are told that because they care, they must be liberals, too.

P. J. O'Rourke (b. 1947), U.S. journalist. Give War a Chance, Introduction, 1992

Conservative. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842–1914), U.S. author, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm-- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-English poet, playwright, critic and editor, The Cocktail Party, 1949

The world is a dangerous place to live - not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), theoretical physicist

It was when "reporters" became "journalists" and when "objectivity" gave way to "searching for truth," that an aura of distrust and fear arose around the New Journalist.

Georgie Anne Geyer (b. 1935), U.S. author, columnist. "Whatever Happened to Lois Lane?" The Los Angeles Times, February 4, 1979

One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called "weasel words." When a weasel sucks eggs the meat is sucked out of the egg. If you use a "weasel word" after another there is nothing left of the other.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. President, speech, May 31, 1916, St. Louis, MO

If people had been as mealy-mouthed in centuries past as they are today, Ivan the Terrible would have been called Ivan the Inappropriate.

Thomas Sowell (b. 1930), U.S. economist and writer, "Random Thoughts," January 2007

The wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand, which perishes in the twisting.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher, Essays, "Politics," Second Series, 1844

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

Thomas B. Reed (1839-1902), Speaker of the House, 51st, 54th and 55th U.S. Congresses, 1886

Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), theoretical physicist

After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.

William Burroughs (b. 1914), taped conversation (published in Grand Street, no. 37)

We should establish shooting galleries in all the large public and military schools, should maintain national target ranges in different parts of the country, and should in every way encourage the formation of rifle clubs throughout all parts of the land. The little Republic of Switzerland offers us an excellent example in all matters connected with building up an efficient citizen soldiery.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. President, Sixth Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1906

Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence.

Joseph Story (1779-1845), U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

I don't know that there's going to be much hue and cry for more gun control because it doesn't appear to be the kind of situation where more gun laws would make a difference.

Bob Walker, President, Handgun Control Inc., on the 1998 Capitol shootings by a former mental patient

The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts.

Edmund Burke (1729-97), Irish philosopher, statesman, letter, April 3, 1777, to the Sheriffs of Bristol

They that can give up essential liberty to gain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of "emergency." It was the tactic of Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini. In the collectivist sweep over a dozen minor countries of Europe, it was the cry of men striving to get on horseback. And "emergency" became the justification of the subsequent steps. This technique of creating emergency is the greatest achievement that demagoguery attains.

Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964), U.S. President

If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969), U.S. President, speech to luncheon clubs, Galveston TX, December 8, 1949, The New York Times, December 9, 1949, p. 23

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) Anglo-American political theorist and writer, "Dissertation on First Principles of Government," The Writings of Thomas Paine

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. President, letter to Archibald Stewart, December 23, 1791

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. President, letter, January 10, 1917

I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.

Bob Dylan (b. 1941), U.S. singer, songwriter. Interview in booklet accompanying the Biograph album set, 1985

If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows not fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened. The courageous man is the man who forces himself, in spite of his fear, to carry on.

George S. Patton, Jr. (1885–1945), U.S. general

Well, in the first place an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization. That's a personal evaluation only. But gunfighting has a strong biological use. We do not have enough things that kill off the weak and the stupid these days. But to stay alive as an armed citizen a man has to be either quick with his wits or with his hands, preferably both. It's a good thing.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), spoken by Mordan Claude in Beyond This Horizon, 1942

"Did you really think we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken...There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any 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. Who wants a nation of law abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law breakers - and then you cash in on guilt..."

Ayn Rand (1905-1982), spoken by Dr. Floyd Ferris in Atlas Shrugged, 1957

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; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 62, 1788

The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.

Raymond Chandler (1888–1959), spoken by Sewell Endicott, in The Long Goodbye, 1953

As a result of "evolving standards" and "nuanced" judicial decisions, we no longer have clear-cut rights. We have a ticket to a crapshoot in a courtroom. That ticket is worth a lot more to those with slick lawyers than to ordinary citizens.

Thomas Sowell (b. 1930), U.S. economist and writer, "Random Thoughts," August 2005

Trial. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors. In order to effect this purpose it is necessary to supply a contrast in the person of one who is called the defendant, the prisoner or the accused. If the contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made to undergo such an affliction as will give the virtuous gentlemen a comfortable sense of their immunity, added to that of their worth...

Appeal. In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842–1914), U.S. author, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

If he who breaks the law is not punished, he who obeys it is cheated. This, and this alone, is why lawbreakers ought to be punished: to authenticate as good, and to encourage as useful, law-abiding behavior. The aim of criminal law cannot be correction or deterrence; it can only be the maintenance of the legal order.

Thomas Szasz (b. 1920), U.S. psychiatrist. “Punishment,” The Second Sin, 1973

Men are not governed by justice, but by law or persuasion. When they refuse to be governed by law or persuasion, they have to be governed by force or fraud, or both.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright and critic, spoken by Lord Summerhays, in Misalliance, 1910

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), U.S. psychologist

There is always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong.

Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956), U.S. editor, author and critic, “The Divine Afflatus,” New York Evening Mail, November 16, 1917

I don't know the secret of success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

William H. "Bill" Cosby, Jr. (b. 1937), U.S. humorist, actor

The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society except their constant criticisms can feel both intellectually and morally superior.

Thomas Sowell (b. 1930), U.S. economist and writer, "Random Thoughts," June 2006

I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don't believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn't want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn't know how to return the treatment.

Malcolm X (1925-1965), speech, December 12, 1964, New York City

The Gadsden Flag

Probably the first official American flag, the Gadsden flag was presented to Commodore Esek Hopkins, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy, by Colonel Christopher Gadsden in 1775. Gadsden was South Carolina's representative to the Continental Congress and he also presented a copy of the flag to his own state's legislature. This flag probably preceded the First Navy Jack, which features an uncoiled rattlesnake on a background of thirteen stripes with the same motto. (More details are available at the Founding Fathers site.)

The Arizona Flag

The Arizona flag not only predates statehood, it is linked to the territory's and the state's tradition of the right to keep and bear arms. It was designed by Col. Charles W. Harris, territorial adjutant-general, for display by the territorial rifle team at the 1911 National Rifle Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio. The 1910 team had complained that they were the only team that had not had a flag to fly at that year's matches. The original flag, carried by the team, was sewn by Nan D. Hayden. The design incorporates red and yellow, the colors of the Spanish conquistadores; blue and yellow, the Arizona colors; and a copper star, in honor of the territory's position as the nation's leading producer of copper. A flag of this design was presented by a group of citizens to the captain and crew of the USS Arizona when that battleship was commissioned in 1916. On February 17, 1917, five years and three days after Arizona's admission to the Union, it was adopted as the state flag, over the governor's veto.

The Gonzales Flag

Apparently the first flag of the Texas Revolution, this flag was designed and painted by Cynthia Burns and Evaline DeWitt and was allegedly used at the battle of Gonzales in October 1835. It is claimed that it was the Texans' reply to a request to give up a cannon which it had borrowed from a Mexican garrison to defend itself from Indians. A single shot in early October 1835 kept the Mexicans from retaking the cannon. This flag may have been carried by Stephen F. Austin's volunteer army to the siege of Bexar. It is unknown if the early Texans had in mind "Molon Labe," the reply of Leonidas of Sparta to Xerxes of Persia, when asked to have his troops lay down their arms in exchange for their lives.