Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Horace Mann

American Education Reformer

"Enslave a man and you destroy his ambition, his enterprise, his capacity. In the constitution of human nature, the desire of bettering one’s condition is the mainspring of effort. The first touch of slavery snaps this spring."

"Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge."

"If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both."

"In vain do they talk of happiness who never subdued an impulse of obedience to a principle. He who never sacrificed a present to a future good, or a personal to a general one, can speak of happiness only as the blind do of colors."

"If temperance prevails, then education can prevail; if temperance fails, then education must fail."

"Genius may conceive, but patient labor must consummate."

"Knowledge has is boundary line, where it abuts on ignorance; on the outside of that boundary line are ignorance and miracles; on the inside of it are science and no miracles."

"Manners are the root, laws only the trunk and branches. Manners are the archetypes of laws. Manners are laws in their infancy; laws are manners fully grown - or, manners are children, which, when they grow up, become laws."

"Manners easily and rapidly mature into morals."

"Reproof is a medicine like mercury or opium; if it be improperly administered, it will do harm instead of good."

"Scientific truth is marvelous, but moral truth is divine; and whoever breathes its air and walks by its light has found the lost paradise."

"The greatest service we can perform for others is to help them to help themselves."

"Temptation is a fearful word. It indicates the beginning of a possible series of infinite evils. It is the ringing of an alarm bell, whose melancholy sounds may reverberate through eternity. Like the sudden, sharp cry of “Fire!” under our windows by night, it should rouse us to instantaneous action, and brace every muscle to its highest tension."

"The object of punishment is, prevention from evil; it never can be made impulsive to good."

"The experience of the ages that are past, the hopes of the ages that are yet to come, unite their voices in an appeal to us; they implore us to think more of the character of our people than of its vast numbers; to look upon our vast natural resources, not as tempters to ostentation and pride, but as a means to be converted, by the refining alchemy of education, into mental and spiritual treasures - and thus give to the world the example of a nation whose wisdom increases with prosperity, and whose virtues are equal to its power."

"The soul of the truly benevolent man does not seem to reside much in his own body. Its life, to a great extent, is a mere reflex of the lives of others. It migrates into their bodies, and identifying its existence with their existence, finds its own happiness in increasing and prolonging their pleasures, in extinguishing or solacing their pains."

"Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person’s money as his time."

"The teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on the wrong iron."

"Virtue is an angel, but she is a blind one, and must ask Knowledge to show her the pathway that leads to her goal."

"Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person's money as his time."

"A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them. It is a wrong to his family. Children learn to read by being in the presence of books. The love of knowledge comes with reading and grows upon it. And the love of knowledge, in a young mind, is almost a warrant against the inferior excitement of passions and vices."

"When a child can be brought to tears, not from fear of punishment, but from repentance for his offense, he needs no chastisement. When the tears begin to flow from grief at one’s own conduct, be sure there is an angel nestling in the bosom."

"A teacher should, above all things, first induce a desire in the pupil for the acquisition he wishes to impart."

"[Paraphrase] The professional artist is morally suspect, even socially dangerous, conman, who from a deliberately chosen position of spiritual alienation, yet offers the ambiguous, self-serving products of his art, in expectation not only of support and remuneration, but also of social approval and even adoration as genius."

"When you introduce into our schools a spirit of emulation, you have present the keenest spur admissible to the youthful intellect."

"A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron."

"Both poetry and philosophy are prodigal of eulogy over the mind which ransoms itself by its own energy from a captivity to custom, which breaks the common bounds of empire, and cuts a Simplon over mountains of difficulty for its own purpose, whether of good or of evil."

"Deeds survive the doers."

"Education alone can conduct us to that enjoyment which is at once best in quality and infinite in quantity."

"Education, then, beyond all other devices, of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men,-the balance wheel of the social machinery. It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich: it prevents being poor. Agrarianism is the revenge of poverty against wealth."

"Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge."

"It is well when the wise and the learned discover new truths; but how much better to diffuse the truths already discovered amongst the multitudes. Every addition to true knowledge is an addition to human power; and while a philosopher is discovering one new truth, millions of truths may be propagated amongst the people ... The whole land must be watered with the streams of knowledge."

"Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men-the balance-wheel of the social machinery."

"Keep one thing forever in view - the truth; and if you do this, though it may seem to lead you away from the opinions of men, it will assuredly conduct you to the throne of God."

"Let us labor for that larger comprehension of truth, and that more thorough repudiation of error, which shall make the history of mankind a series of ascending developments."

"He who never sacrificed a present to a future good, or a personal to a general one, can speak of happiness only as the blind do of colors."

"Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for mankind."

"There is nothing so costly as ignorance."

"The object of punishment is prevention from evil; it never can be made impulsive to good."

"Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever."

"Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

"Generosity during life is a very different thing from generosity in the hour of death; one proceeds from genuine liberality and benevolence, the other from pride or fear."

"So far as I have observed in this life, ten men have failed from defect in morals where one has failed from defect in intellect."