Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

George Washington

American General and Leader of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, presided over the writing of the Constitution, unanimously elected first President of the United States

"I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an “honest man.”"

"I have often had occasion to remark the fortitude with which women sustain the most overwhelming reverses of fortune. Those disasters which break down the spirit of man and prostrate him in the dust seem to call forth all the energies of the softer sex, and give such intrepidity and elevation to their character that at times it approaches to sublimity."

"Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your reputation. Be not apt to relate news, if you know not the truth thereof. Speak no evil of the absent, for it is unjust. Undertake not what you cannot perform, be be careful to keep your promise. There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth, and pursue it steadily. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry and frugality are necessary to make us a great and happy nation."

"Labor to keep alive that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience."

"A freeman contending for liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth."

"The company in which you will improve most will be least expensive to you."

"The consideration that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected will always continue to prompt me to promote the progress of the former by inculcating the practice of the latter."

"To persevere in one's duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny."

"There is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness."

"A great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle (patriotism) alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward."

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."

"Mankind, when left to themselves, are unfit for their own government."

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving the peace."

"Both houses of Congress have, by their joint Committee, requested me “To recommend to the People of the United States, a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful Hearts the many Signal Favours of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Form of Government for their Safety and Happiness”... That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks for his kind Care and Protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation; for the signal and manifold Mercies, and the favourable Interpositions of his Providence in the Course & Conclusion of the late War; for the great Degree of Tranquillity, Union, and Plenty, which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational Manner in which we have been enabled to establish Constitutions of Government for our Safety and Happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious Liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general, for all the great and various Favours which he hath been pleased to confer upon us... to enable us all, whether in public or private Stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually... to promote the Knowledge and Practice of true Religion and Virtue, and the increase of Science among them and us; and generally to grant unto all mankind such a Degree of temporal Prosperity as He alone knows to be best."

"Associate with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

"Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder."

"The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government."

"Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there are pains to bring it to light."

"True friendship is a slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation."

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."

"A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true [criteria] of the attachment of his friends."

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."

"As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality."

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation."

"Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected."

"I know [patriotism] exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward."

"If any hesitate in his Words, help him not, nor Prompt him without [being asked]. Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech is ended."

"It is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest; and no prudent statesman or politician will venture to depart from it."

"The aggregate happiness of society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all government."

"It is easier… to prevent an evil than to rectify mistakes."

"If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

"My first wish is, to see this plague of mankind banished from the earth, and the sons and daughters of this world employed in more pleasing and innocent amusements, than in preparing implements, and exercising them, for the destruction of mankind."

"If they have real grievances redress them, if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it at the moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once."

"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

"Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."

"We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States."

"Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude."

"A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends, and that the most liberal professions of good will are very far from being the surest marks of it. I should be happy that my own experience had afforded fewer examples of the little dependence to be placed upon them."

"When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly."

"It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts."

"For the sake of humanity, it is devoutly to be wished that the manly employment of agriculture, and the humanizing benefit of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; that the swords might be turned into ploughshares, the spears into pruning-hooks, and, as the Scriptures express it, "the nations learn war no more.""

"Tis folly in one Nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its Independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favors from Nation to Nation. `Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard."

"`Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world."

"What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms... A free people ought to be armed."

"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent on others for essential, particularly for military, supplies."

"99% percent of failures are the ones who make excuses."

"A government is like fire, a handy servant, but a dangerous master."

"A hundred thousand men, coming one after another, cannot move a ton weight; but the united strength of 50 would transport it with ease."

"A bad war is fought with a good mind."