Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

William Ewart Gladstone

English Statesman, Four-time British Prime Minister

"Justice delayed, is justice denied."

"No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes."

"To comprehend a man's life, it is necessary to know not merely what he does, but also what he purposely leaves undone. There is a limit to the work that can be got out of a human body or a human brain, and he is a wise man who wastes no energy on pursuits for which he is not fitted; and he is still wiser who, from among the things that he can do well, chooses and resolutely follows the best."

"For works of the mind really great there is no old age, no decrepitude. It is inconceivable that a time should come when Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, should not ring in the ears of civilized man."

"Good laws make it easier to do right and harder to do wrong."

"It is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right."

"Justice delayed is justice denied."

"Man is to be trained chiefly by studying and knowing man."

"Mediocrity is now, as formerly, dangerous, commonly fatal, to the poet; but among even the successful writers of prose, those who rise sensibly above it are the very rarest exceptions."

"Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic."

"No ritual is too much, provided it is subsidiary to the inner work of worship; and all ritual is too much unless it ministers to that purpose."

"Nothing can be hostile to religion which is agreeable to justice."

"Selfishness does not grow in intensity as we move downward in society from class to class."

"The duties of government are paternal."

"The free expression of opinion, as experience has taught us, is the safety-valve of passion."

"The oppression of a majority is detestable and odious: the oppression of a minority is only by one degree less detestable and odious."

"The proper function of a government is to make it easy for people to do good, and difficult for them to do evil."

"The three highest titles that can be given a man are those of martyr, hero, saint."

"Vanity and pride sustain so close an alliance as to be often mistaken for each other."

"We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessing of Peace."

"Wisdom - a man's best friend."

"A long experience impresses me with the belief that selfishness does not grow in intensity as we move downward in society from class to class."

"A rational reaction against the irrational excesses and vagaries of skepticism may, I admit, readily degenerate into the rival folly of credulity. To be engaged in opposing wrong affords, under the conditions of our mental constitution, but a slender guarantee for being right."

"All the world over, I will back the masses against the classes."

"An enduring fame is one stamped by the judgment of the future, ? that future which dispels illusions, and smashes idols into dust."

"Anger is not only the prevailing sin of argument, but its greatest stumbling-block."

"As he lived, so he died ? all display, without reality or genuineness. [Of Benjamin Disraeli]"

"As the British Constitution is the most subtile organism which has proceeded from the womb and the long gestation of progressive history, so the American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off by the brain and purpose of man."

"At last, my friends, I am come amongst you. And I am come...'unmuzzled'."

"Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won't have to hunt for happiness."

"Be thorough in all you do; and remember that although ignorance often may be innocent, pretension is always despicable."

"Believe me when I tell you that thrift of time will repay you in after life, with a usury of profit beyond your most sanguine dreams; and that waste of it will make you dwindle, alike in intellectual and moral stature, beyond your darkest reckoning."

"Books are a delightful society. If you go into a room filled with books, even without taking them down from their shelves, they seem to speak to you, to welcome you."

"Books are delightful society. If you go into a room and find it full of books?even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome."

"But how is the spirit of expenditure to be exorcised? Not by preaching; I doubt if even by yours. I seriously doubt whether it will ever give place to the old spirit of economy, as long as we have the income-tax. There, or hard by, lie questions of deep practical moment."

"But let the working man be on his guard against another danger. We live at a time when there is a disposition to think that the Government ought to do this and that and that the Government ought to do everything. There are things which the Government ought to do, I have no doubt. In former periods the Government have neglected much, and possibly even now they neglect something; but there is a danger on the other side. If the Government takes into its hands that which the man ought to do for himself it will inflict upon him greater mischiefs than all the benefits he will have received or all the advantages that would accrue from them. The essence of the whole thing is that the spirit of self-reliance, the spirit of true and genuine manly independence, should be preserved in the minds of the people, in the minds of the masses of the people, in the mind of every member of the class. If he loses his self-denial, if he learns to live in a craven dependence upon wealthier people rather than upon himself, you may depend upon it he incurs mischief for which no compensation can be made."

"But, as the British Constitution is the most subtile organism which has proceeded from the womb and the long gestation of progressive history, so the American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."

"Censure and criticism never hurt anybody. If false, they can't hurt you unless you are wanting in manly character; and if true, they show a man his weak points; and forewarn him against failure and trouble."

"Decision by majorities is as much an expedient as lighting by gas."

"Duty is a power which rises with us in the morning, and goes to rest with us at night. It is coextensive with the action of our intelligence. It is the shadow which cleaves to us, go where we will, and which only leaves us when we leave the light of life."

"Economy is the first and great article (economy such as I understand it) in my financial creed. The controversy between direct and indirect taxation holds a minor, thought important place."

"Failure is success if we learn from it."

"Give time to the Evil One, and you give him all he requires."

"He is the purest figure in history. [About George Washington]"

"Here is my first principle of foreign policy: good government at home."

"I always admired Mrs. Grote's saying that politics and theology were the only two really great subjects."

"I am certain, from experience, of the immense advantage of strict account-keeping in early life. It is just like learning the grammar then, which when once learned need not be referred to afterwards."

"I am delighted to see how many young boys and girls have come forward to obtain honorable marks of recognition on this occasion, ? if any effectual good is to be done to them, it must be done by teaching and encouraging them and helping them to help themselves. All the people who pretend to take your own concerns out of your own hands and to do everything for you, I won't say they are imposters; I won't even say they are quacks; but I do say they are mistaken people. The only sound, healthy description of countenancing and assisting these institutions is that which teaches independence and self-exertion... When I say you should help yourselves ? and I would encourage every man in every rank of life to rely upon self-help more than on assistance to be got from his neigbours ? there is One who helps us all, and without whose help every effort of ours is in vain; and there is nothing that should tend more, and there is nothing that should tend more to make us see the beneficence of God Almighty than to see the beauty as well as the usefulness of these flowers, these plants, and these fruits which He causes the earth to bring forth for our comfort and advantage."

"I am inclined to say that the personal attendance and intervention of women in election proceedings, even apart from any suspicion of the wider objects of many of the promoters of the present movement, would be a practical evil not only of the gravest, but even of an intolerable character."

"I am thankful to have borne a part in the emancipating labours of the last sixty years; but entirely uncertain how, had I now to begin my life, I could face the very different problems of the next sixty years. Of one thing I am, and always have been, convinced?it is not by the State that man can be regenerated, and the terrible woes of this darkened world effectually dealt with. In some, and some very important, respects, I yearn for the impossible revival of the men and the ideas of my first twenty years, which immediately followed the first Reform Act."