Walter Bagehot

Walter
Bagehot
1826
1877

English Economist, Critic, Businessman, Essayist, Social Darwinist and Journalist who wrote extensively about Literature, Government and Economic Affairs

Author Quotes

A constitutional statesman is in general a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities.

Business is really more agreeable than pleasure: it interests the whole mind . . . but it does not look as if it did.

In excited states of the public mind they have scarcely a discretion at all; the tendency of the public perturbation determines what shall and what shall not be dealt with. But, upon the other hand, in quiet times statesmen have great power; when there is no fire lighted, they can settle what fire shall be lit. And as the new suffrage is happily to be tried in a quiet time, the responsibility of our statesmen is great because their power is great too.

Of all nations in the world the English are perhaps the least a nation of pure philosophers.

The Ethiop gods have Ethiop lips, Bronze cheeks, and woolly hair; The Grecian gods are like the Greeks, As keen-eyed, cold and fair.

Under a cabinet constitution at a sudden emergency this people can choose a ruler for the occasion. It is quite possible and even likely that he would not be ruler before the occasion. The great qualities, the imperious will, the rapid energy, the eager nature fit for a great crisis are not required — are impediments — in common times. A Lord Liverpool is better in everyday politics than a Chatham — a Louis Philippe far better than a Napoleon. By the structure of the world we want, at the sudden occurrence of a grave tempest, to change the helmsman — to replace the pilot of the calm by the pilot of the storm.

A democratic despotism is like a theocracy: it assumes its own correctness.

But the mass of the old electors did not analyze very much: they liked to have one of their betters to represent them; if he was rich they respected him much; and if he was a lord, they liked him the better. The issue put before these electors was, which of two rich people will you choose? And each of those rich people was put forward by great parties whose notions were the notions of the rich — whose plans were their plans. The electors only selected one or two wealthy men to carry out the schemes of one or two wealthy associations.

In my youth I hoped to do great things; now I shall be satisfied to get through without scandal.

Open-mindedness should not be fostered because, as Scripture teaches, Truth is great and will prevail, nor because, as Milton suggests, Truth will always win in a free and open encounter. It should be fostered for its own sake.

The great difficulty which history records is not that of the first step, but that of the second step. What is most evident is not the difficulty of getting a fixed law, but getting out of a fixed law; not of cementing (as upon a former occasion I phrased it) a cake of custom, but of breaking the cake of custom; not of making the first preservative habit, but of breaking through it, and reaching something better.

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.

A family on the throne is an interesting idea. It brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life.

Civilized ages inherit the human nature which was victorious in barbarous ages, and that nature is, in many respects, not at all suited to civilized circumstances.

In the faculty of writing nonsense, stupidity is no match for genius.

Our law very often reminds one of those outskirts of cities where you cannot for a long time tell how the streets come to wind about in so capricious and serpent-like a manner. At last it strikes you that they grew up, house by house, on the devious tracks of the old green lanes; and if you follow on to the existing fields, you may often find the change half complete.

The greatest enjoyment possible to man was that which this philosophy promises its votaries—the pleasure of being always right, and always reasoning—without ever being bound to look at anything.

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.

A highly developed moral nature joined to an undeveloped intellectual nature, an undeveloped artistic nature, and a very limited religious nature, is of necessity repulsive. It represents a bit of human nature — a good bit, of course, but a bit only — in disproportionate, unnatural and revolting prominence.

Conquest is the missionary of valor, and the hard impact of military virtues beats meanness out of the world.

It has been said that England invented the phrase, 'Her Majesty's Opposition'; that it was the first government which made a criticism of administration as much a part of the polity as administration itself. This critical opposition is the consequence of cabinet government.

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.

The greatest mistake is trying to be more agreeable than you can be.

We must not let daylight in upon the magic.

A man’s mother is his misfortune, but his wife is his fault.

Author Picture
First Name
Walter
Last Name
Bagehot
Birth Date
1826
Death Date
1877
Bio

English Economist, Critic, Businessman, Essayist, Social Darwinist and Journalist who wrote extensively about Literature, Government and Economic Affairs