Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr.

American Supreme Court Justice, Attorney and Author

Author Quotes

Courts are apt to err by sticking too closely to the words of a law where those words import a policy that goes beyond them.

The power to tax is not the power to destroy while this Court sits.

Eloquence may set fire to reason.

A page of history is worth a volume of logic.

Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife.

The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.

One of the eternal conflicts out of which life is made up is that between the effort of every man to get the most he can for his services, and that of society, disguised under the name of capital, to get his services for the least possible return.

Free competition is worth more to society than it costs.

I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy — I don't disparage envy but I don't accept it as legitimately my master.

If I were dying, my last words would be, Have faith and pursue the unknown end.

The chief end of a man is to frame general ideas — and... no general idea is worth a damn.

The common law is not a brooding omnipresence in the sky, but the articulate voice of some sovereign or quasi sovereign that can be identified; although some decisions with which I have disagreed seem to me to have forgotten the fact.

The mode by which the inevitable comes to pass is effort.

The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books.

The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.

Man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.

Most people will go to their graves with their music still in them.

Half the pleasure of life consists of the opportunities one has neglected.

The aim of the law is not to punish sins, but is to prevent certain external results.

Every calling is great when greatly pursued.

It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes life worth living.

Don't flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come in relation with a person, the more necessary tact and courtesy become.

A man's mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions."

Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future.

Author Picture
First Name
Oliver Wendell
Last Name
Holmes, Jr.
Birth Date
Death Date

American Supreme Court Justice, Attorney and Author