Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Wendell Phillips

American Orator, Abolitionist, Reformer, Advocate for Native Americans and Lawyer

"I will utter what I believe today, if it should contradict all I said yesterday."

"Power is ever stealing from the many to the few."

"It is but the littleness of man that seeth no greatness in trifles."

"It is only liquid currents of thought that move men and the world."

"Responsibility educates, and politics is but another name for God’s way of teaching the masses ethics, under the responsibility of great present interests."

"Responsibility educates."

"The best education in the world is that got by struggling to get a living."

"The heart beats louder and the soul hears quicker in silence and solitude."

"The heart is the best logician."

"Truth is one forever absolute, but opinion is truth filtered through the moods, the blood, the disposition of the spectator."

"To be as good as our fathers, we must be better. Imitation is not discipleship. When someone sent a cracked plate to China to have a set made, every piece in the new set had a crack in it. "

"Brains and character rule the world. The most distinguished Frenchman of the last century said: “Men succeed less by their talents than their character.” There were scores of men a hundred years ago who had more intellect than Washington. He outlives and overrides them all by the influence of his character."

"We read history through our prejudices."

"What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better."

"Education is the only interest worthy the deep, controlling anxiety of the thoughtful man."

"Whether in chains or in laurels, liberty knows nothing but victory."

"Difference of religion breeds more quarrels than difference of politics."

"On a single winged word hath hung the destiny of nations."

"Society - the only field where the sexes have ever met on terms of equality, the arena where character is formed and studied, the cradle and the realm of public opinion, the crucible of ideas, the world’s university, at once a school and a theater, the spur and the crown of ambition, the tribunal which unmasks pretension and stamps real merit, the power that gives government leave to be, and outruns the lazy Church in fixing the moral sense of the eye."

"Ours is the age of thought; hearts are stronger than swords."

"There is nothing stronger than human prejudice."

"Government exists to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection - they have many friends and few enemies."

"The masses are governed more by impulse than conviction."

"Wants awaken intellect. To gratify them disciplines intellect. The keener the want the lustier the growth."

"Every step of progress the world has made has been from scaffold to scaffold and from stake to stake."

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

"And I am not so sure this last one is true:"

"Aristocracy is always cruel"

"As health lies in labor, and there is no royal road to it but through toil, so there is no republican road to safety but in constant distrust."

"As the Greek said, “Many men know how to flatter, few men know how to praise.”"

"Baron Grimm declared that, as a rule, it was easy for little minds to attain splendid positions, because they devoted all their ability to the one object."

"Agitation prevents rebellion, keeps the peace, and secures progress. Every step she gains is gained forever. Muskets are the weapons of animals. Agitation is the atmosphere of the brains."

"Agitation is the method that plants the school by the side of the ballot box."

"Agitation is the atmosphere of the brains."

"Common sense does not ask an impossible chessboard, but takes the one before it and plays the game."

"Every man meets his Waterloo at last."

"Civil war is a momentous evil. Civil war needs momentous and solemn justification."

"Debt is the fatal disease of republics, the first thing and the mightiest to undermine government and corrupt the people."

"Boredom, after all, is a form of criticism"

"Example acquires tenfold authority when it speaks from the grave."

"Defeat is nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better."

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The hand entrusted with power becomes the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermtited agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity."

"Do not take the yardstick of your ignorance to measure what the ancients knew, and call everything which you do not know lies. Do not call things untrue because they are marvelous, but give them a fair consideration."

"Exigencies create the necessary ability to meet and conquer them."

"Give to the masses nothing to do, and they will topple down thrones and cut throats; give them the government here, and they will make pulpits useless, and colleges an impertinence."

"Experience is a safe light to walk by, and he is not a rash man who expects to succeed in future from the same means which have secured it in times past."

"Government arrogates to itself that it alone forms men. Everybody knows that government never began anything. It is the whole world that thinks and governs."

"Government is a necessary evil, like other go-carts and crutches. Our need of it shows exactly how far we are still children. All governing over much kills the self-help and energy of the governed."

"Government began in tyranny and force, began in the feudalism of the soldier and bigotry of the priest; and the ideas of justice and humanity have been fighting their way, like a thunderstorm, against the organized selfishness of human nature."

"God gives manhood but one clue to success, utter and exact justice; that, he guarantees, shall be always expediency."