Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

James Bryant Conant

American Harvard College President, Chemist, Government Official

"When young, we trust ourselves too much and we trust others too little when old. Rashness is the error of youth, timid caution of age. Manhood is the isthmus between the two extremes; the ripe and fertile season of action, when alone we can hope to find the head to contrive, united with the hand to execute."

"Wealth, after all, is a relative thing, since he that has little, and wants less, is richer than he that has much but wants more."

"Words indeed are but the sings and counters of knowledge, and their currency should be strictly regulated by the capital which they represent."

"When we feel a strong desire to thrust our advice upon others, it is usually because we suspect their weakness; but we ought rather to suspect our own."

"We should pray with as much earnestness as those who expect everything from God; we should act with as much energy as those who expect everything from themselves."

"We hate some persons because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them. The friendships that succeed to such aversions are usually firm; for those qualities must be sterling that could not only gain our hearts, but conquer our prejudices."

"We hate some person because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them."

"We should act with as much energy as those who expect everything from themselves; and we should pray with as much earnestness as those who expect everything from God."

"We are more inclined to hate one another for points on which we differ, than to love one another for points on which we agree."

"We cannot think too highly of our nature, nor too humbly of ourselves."

"Virtue, without talent, is a coat of mail without a sword; it may indeed defend the wearer, but will not enable him to protect his friend."

"Vanity has no sex."

"Vanity finds in self-love so powerful an ally that it storms, as it were by a coup de main, the citadel of our heads."

"Tyrants have not yet discovered any chains that can fetter the mind."

"There is but one pursuit in life which it is in the power of all to follow, and of all to attain. It is subject to no disappointments, since he that perseveres makes every difficulty an advancement, and every conquest a victory; and this is the pursuit of virtue. Sincerely to aspire after virtue is to gain her; and zealously to labor after her ways is to receive them."

"Truth can hardly be expected to adapt herself to the crooked policy and wily sinuosities of worldly affairs; for truth, like light, travels only in straight lines."

"There is an elasticity in the human mind, capable of bearing much, but which will not show itself until a certain weight of affliction be put upon it; its powers may be compared to those vehicles whose springs are so contrived that they get on smoothly enough when loaded, but jolt confoundedly when they have nothing to bear."

"To diminish envy, let us consider not what others possess, but what they enjoy; mere riches may be the gift of lucky accident or blind chance, but happiness must be the result of prudent preference and rational design; the highest happiness then can have no other foundation than the deepest wisdom; and the happiest fool is only as happy as he knows how to be."

"This is the tax a man must pay to his virtues - they hold up a torch to his vices, and render those frailties notorious in him which would have passed without observation in another."

"There is a paradox in pride - it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from being so."

"To cure us of our immoderate love of gain, we should seriously consider how many goods there are that money will not purchase, and these the best; and how many evils there are that money will not remedy, and these the worst."

"There is a holy love and a holy rage, and our best virtues never glow so brightly as when our passions are excited in the cause. Sloth, if it has prevented many crimes, has also smothered many virtues; and the best of us are better when roused."

"There are two things that declare, as with a voice from heaven, that he that fills that eternal throne must be on the side of virtue, and that which he befriends must finally prosper and prevail. The first is that the bad are never completely happy and at ease, although possessed of everything that this world can bestow; and that the good are never completely miserable, although deprived of everything that this world can take away. The second is that we are so framed and constituted that the most vicious cannot but pay a secret though unwilling homage to virtue, inasmuch as the worst men cannot bring themselves thoroughly to esteem a bad man, although he may be their dearest friend, nor can they thoroughly despise a good man, although he may be their bitterest enemy."

"There are two ways of establishing your reputation - to be praised by honest men, and to be abused by rogues. It is best, however, to secure the former, because it will be invariably accompanied by the latter."

"There are truths which some men despise because they have not examined, and which they will not examine because they despise. There is one signal instance on record where this kind of prejudice was overcome by a miracle; but the age of miracles is past, while that of prejudice remains."

"There are too many who reserve both the principles and the practice of the Apostles; they become all things to all men, not to serve others, but themselves; and they try all things only to hold fast that which is bad."

"The proud man places himself at a distance from other men; seen through that distance, others perhaps appear little to him; but he forgets that this very distance causes him to appear equally little to others."

"The highest knowledge can be nothing more than the shortest and clearest road to truth; all the rest is pretension, not performance, mere verbiage and grandiloquence, from which we can learn nothing, but that it is the external sign of an internal deficiency."

"The greatest friend of truth is time; her greatest enemy is prejudice; and her constant companion is humility."

"The good opinion of our fellow men is the strongest, though not the purest motive to virtue."

"The whole family of pride and ignorance are incestuous and mutually beget each other."

"The enthusiast has been compared to a man walking in a fog; everything immediately around him, or in contact with him, appears sufficiently clear and luminous; but beyond the little circle of which he himself is the center, all is mist and error and confusion."

"The proportion of those who think is extremely small; yet every individual flatters himself that he is one of the number."

"The blindness of bigotry, the madness of ambition, and the miscalculations of diplomacy seek their victims principally amongst the innocent and the unoffending. The cottage is sure to suffer for every error of the court, the cabinet, or the camp. When error sits in the seat of power and of authority, and is generated in high places, it may; be compared to that torrent which originates indeed in the mountain, but commits its devastation in the vale."

"Self-denial is often the sacrifice of one sort of self-love for another."

"Small miseries, like small debts, hit us in so many places and meet us at so many turns and corners, that what they want in weight they make up in number, and render it less hazardous to stand one cannon ball than a volley of bullets."

"Reason is progressive; instinct, stationary. Five thousand years have added no improvement to the hive of the bee, nor the house of the beaver."

"Pure truth, like pure gold, has been found unfit for circulation, because men have discovered that it is far more convenient to adulterate the truth than to refine themselves. They will not advance their minds to the standard, therefore they lower the standard to their minds."

"Sincerely to aspire after virtue is to gain her, and zealously to labor after her wages is to receive them."

"Pride, like the magnet, constantly points to one object, self; but, unlike the magnet, it has no attractive pole, but at all points repel."

"Pride requires very costly food - its keeper’s happiness."

"Pride, like the magnet, constantly points to one object, self; but, unlike the magnet, it has no attractive pole, but at all points repels."

"Power, like the diamond, dazzles the beholder, and also the wearer; it dignifies meanness; it magnifies littleness; to what is contemptible, it gives authority; to what is low, exaltation."

"Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as win the strongest heads. No man is wise enough, nor good enough, to be trusted with unlimited power."

"Posthumous charities are the very essence of selfishness, when bequeathed by those who, when alive, would part with nothing."

"Our wealth is often a snare to ourselves, and always a temptation to others."

"Our minds are as different as our faces; we are all traveling to one destination - happiness; but few are going by the same road."

"Our very best friends have a tincture of jealousy even in their friendship; and when they hear us praised by others, will ascribe it to sinister and interested motives if they can."

"Patience is the support of weakness; impatience is the ruin of strength."

"Of all the passions, jealously is that which exacts the hardest service, and pays the bitterest wages. Its service is to watch the success of our enemy; its wages to be sure of it."