American Politician, 19th President of the United States who oversaw the end of Reconstruction
"Abolish plutocracy if you would abolish poverty. As millionaires increase, pauperism grows. The more millionaires, the more paupers."
"All appointments hurt. Five friends are made cold or hostile for every appointment; no new friends are made. All patronage is perilous to men of real ability or merit. It aids only those who lack other claims to public support."
"As knowledge spreads, wealth spreads. To diffuse knowledge is to diffuse wealth. To give all an equal chance to acquire knowledge is the best and surest way to give all an equal chance to acquire property."
"As to Mr. Lincoln’s name and fame and memory, — all is safe. His firmness, moderation, goodness of heart; his quaint humor, his perfect honesty and directness of purpose; his logic his modesty his sound judgment, and great wisdom; the contrast between his obscure beginnings and the greatness of his subsequent position and achievements; his tragic death, giving him almost the crown of martyrdom, elevate him to a place in history second to none other of ancient or modern times. His success in his great office, his hold upon the confidence and affections of his countrymen, we shall all say are only second to Washington’s; we shall probably feel and think that they are not second even to his."
"Coming in, I was denounced as a fraud by all the extreme men of the opposing party, and as an ingrate and a traitor by the same class of men in my own party. Going out, I have the good will, blessings, and approval of the best people of all parties and sections."
"Constitutional statutes ... which embody the settled public opinion of the people who enacted them and whom they are to govern — can always be enforced. But if they embody only the sentiments of a bare majority, pronounced under the influence of a temporary excitement, they will, if strenuously opposed, always fail of their object; nay, they are likely to injure the cause they are framed to advance."
"Disunion and civil war are at hand; and yet I fear disunion and war less than compromise. We can recover from them. The free States alone, if we must go on alone, will make a glorious nation."
"Do not let your bachelor ways crystallize so that you can’t soften them when you come to have a wife and a family of your own."
"Every age has its temptations, its weaknesses, its dangers. Ours is in the line of the snobbish and the sordid."
"Every good cause gained a victory when the Union troops were triumphant. Our final victory was the triumph of religion, of virtue, of knowledge.... During those four years, whatever our motives, whatever our lives, we were fighting on God’s side. We were doing His work. What would this country have been if we had failed?"
"Fighting battles is like courting girls: those who make the most pretensions and are boldest usually win."
"For honest merit to succeed amid the tricks and intrigues which are now so lamentably common, I know is difficult; but the honor of success is increased by the obstacles which are to be surmounted. Let me triumph as a man or not at all."
"General education is the best preventive of the evils now most dreaded. In the civilized countries of the world, the question is how to distribute most generally and equally the property of the world. As a rule, where education is most general the distribution of property is most general.... As knowledge spreads, wealth spreads. To diffuse knowledge is to diffuse wealth. To give all an equal chance to acquire knowledge is the best and surest way to give all an equal chance to acquire property."
"I am heartily tired of this life of bondage, responsibility, and toil. I wish it was at an end.... We are both physically very healthy.... Our tempers are cheerful. We are social and popular. But it is one of our greatest comforts that the pledge not to take a second term relieves us from considering it. That was a lucky thing. It is a reform — or rather a precedent for a reform, which will be valuable."
"I am less disposed to think of a West Point education as requisite for this business than I was at first. Good sense and energy are the qualities required."
"I am loaded down to the guards with educational, benevolent, and other miscellaneous public work, I must not attempt to do more. I cannot without neglecting imperative duties."
"I am not liked as a President by the politicians in office, in the press, or in Congress. But I am content to abide the judgment the sober second thought of the people."
"I feel the desire to be with you all the time. Oh, an occasional absence of a week or two is a good thing to give one the happiness of meeting again, but this living apart is in all ways bad. We have had our share of separate life during the four years of war. There is nothing in the small ambition of Congressional life, or in the gratified vanity which it sometimes affords, to compensate for separation from you. We must manage to live together hereafter. I can’t stand this, and will not."
"I have a talent for silence and brevity. I can keep silent when it seems best to do so, and when I speak I can, and do usually, quit when I am done. This talent, or these two talents, I have cultivated. Silence and concise, brief speaking have got me some laurels, and, I suspect, lost me some. No odds. Do what is natural to you, and you are sure to get all the recognition you are entitled to."
"I hope you will be benefitted by your churchgoing. Where the habit does not Christianize, it generally civilizes. That is reason enough for supporting churches, if there were no higher."
"I never enjoyed any business or mode of life as much as I do this. I really feel badly when I think of several of my intimate friends who are compelled to stay at home. These marches and campaigns in the hills of western Virginia will always be among the pleasantest things I can remember. I know we are in frequent perils, that we may never return and all that, but the feeling that I am where I ought to be is a full compensation for all that is sinister, leaving me free to enjoy as if on a pleasure tour."
"I regard the inflation acts as wrong in all ways. Personally I am one of the noble army of debtors, and can stand it if others can. But it is a wretched business."
"I still feel just as I told you, that I shall come safely out of this war. I felt so the other day when danger was near. I certainly enjoyed the excitement of fighting our way out of Giles to the Narrows as much as any excitement I ever experienced. I had a good deal of anxiety the first hour or two on account of my command, but not a particle on my own account. After that, and after I saw that we were getting on well, it was really jolly. We all joked and laughed and cheered constantly."
"In avoiding the appearance of evil, I am not sure but I have sometimes unnecessarily deprived myself and others of innocent enjoyments."
"Is there anything in which the people of this age and country differ more from those of other lands and former times than in this — their ability to preserve order and protect rights without the aid of government? ... We are realizing the paradox, that country is governed best which is governed least. I no longer fear lynch law. Let the people be intelligent and good, and I am not sure but their impulsive, instinctive verdicts and sentences and executions, unchecked by the rules and technicalities of law, are more likely to be according to substantial justice than the decisions of courts and juries."
"It is the desire of the good people of the whole country that sectionalism as a factor in our politics should disappear."
"It will be the duty of the Executive, with sufficient appropriations for the purpose, to prosecute unsparingly all who have been engaged in depriving citizens of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution."
"Law without education is a dead letter. With education the needed law follows without effort and, of course, with power to execute itself; indeed, it seems to execute itself."
"Let every man, every corporation, and especially let every village, town, and city, every county and State, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times."
"Let me assure my countrymen of the Southern States that it is my earnest desire to regard and promote their truest interest — the interests of the white and of the colored people both and equally — and to put forth my best efforts in behalf of a civil policy which will forever wipe out in our political affairs the color line and the distinction between North and South, to the end that we may have not merely a united North or a united South, but a united country."
"My only objection to the arrangements there is the two-in-a-bed system. It is bad.... But let your words and conduct be perfectly pure — such as your mother might know without bringing a blush to your cheek.... If not already mentioned, do not tell your mother of the doubling in bed."
"My policy is trust, peace, and to put aside the bayonet. I do not think the wise policy is to decide contested elections in the States by the use of the national army."
"My speaking is irregular. Sometimes quite good, sometimes not, but generally will do... I am too far along in experience and years both for this business. I do not go into [it] with the zest of old times. Races, baseball, and politics are for the youngsters."
"Nobody ever left the presidency with less regret, less disappointment, fewer heart burnings, or any general content with the result of his term (in his own heart, I mean) than I do. Full of difficulty and trouble at first, I now find myself on smooth waters and under bright skies."
"Opposition and calumny are often the brightest tribute that vice and folly can pay to virtue and wisdom."
"Partisanship should be kept out of the pulpit... The blindest of partisans are preachers. All politicians expect and find more candor, fairness, and truth in politicians than in partisan preachers. They are not replied to — no chance to reply to them.... The balance wheel of free institutions is free discussion. The pulpit allows no free discussion."
"Perhaps the happiest moment of my life was then, when I saw that our line didn’t break and that the enemy’s did."
"One of its [James A. Garfield’s assassination] lessons, perhaps its most important lesson, is the folly, the wickedness, and the danger of the extreme and bitter partisanship which so largely prevails in our country. This partisan bitterness is greatly aggravated by that system of appointments and removals which deals with public offices as rewards for services rendered to political parties or to party leaders. Hence crowds of importunate place-hunters of whose dregs Guiteau is the type. The required reform [of the civil service] will be accomplished whenever the people imperatively demand it, not only of their Executive, but also of their legislative officers. With it, the class to which the assassin belongs will lose their occupation, and the temptation to try to administer government by assassination will be taken away."
"Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office-seeking. Men of good character and impulses are betrayed by it into all sorts of meanness."
"Strikes and boycotting are akin to war, and can be justified only on grounds analogous to those which justify war, viz., intolerable injustice and oppression."
"The bold enterprises are the successful ones. Take counsel of hopes rather than of fears to win in this business."
"Personally I do not resort to force — not even the force of law — to advance moral reforms. I prefer education, argument, persuasion, and above all the influence of example — of fashion. Until these resources are exhausted I would not think of force."
"The [Loyal] legion has taken the place of the club — the famous Cincinnati Literary Club — in my affections.... The military circles are interested in the same things with myself, and so we endure, if not enjoy, each other."
"The debt was the most sacred obligation incurred during the war. It was by no means the largest in amount. We do not haggle with those who lent us money. We should not with those who gave health and blood and life. If doors are opened to fraud, contrive to close them. But don’t deny the obligation, or scold at its performance."