Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"The best principles, if pushed to excess, degenerate into fatal vices. Generosity is nearly allied to extravagance; charity itself may lead to ruin; and the sternness of justice is but one step removed from the severity of oppression."

"There is no unmixed good in human affairs; the best principles, if pushed to excess, degenerate into fatal vices. Generosity is nearly allied to extravagance; charity itself may lead to ruin; the sternness of justice is but one step removed from the severity of oppression. It is the same in the political world; the tranquillity of despotism resembles the stagnation of the Dead Sea; the fever of innovation the tempests of the ocean It would seem as if, at particular periods, from causes inscrutable to human wisdom, a universal frenzy seizes mankind; reason, experience, prudence, are alike blinded; and the very classes who are to perish in the storm are the first to raise its fury."

"I cannot teach you the ten principles of service. But a little child and a thief can show you what they are. From the child you can learn three things: He is merry for no particular reason; never for a moment is he idle; when he needs something, he demands it vigorously. The thief can instruct you in seven things: He does his service by night; if he does not finish what he has set out to do, in one night, he devotes the next night to it; he and those who work with him love one another; he risks his life for small gains; what he takes has so little value for him that he gives it up for a very small coin; he endures blows and hardship, and it matters nothing to him; he likes his trade and would not exchange it for any other."

"Great ideals and principles do not live from generation to generation just because they are right, nor even because they have been carefully legislated. Ideals and principles continue from generation to generation only when they are built into the hearts of the children as they grow up."

"All the principles which religion teaches, and all the habits which it forms, are favorable to strength of mind. It will be found that whatever purifies fortifies also the heart."

"That discipline which corrects the eagerness of worldly passions, which fortifies the heart with virtuous principles, which enlightens the mind with useful knowledge, and furnishes to it matter of enjoyment from within itself, is of more consequence to real felicity than all the provisions which we can make of the goods of fortune."

"The voice of the Devil. All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following errors: 1. That man has two real existing principles; vis; a body and a soul. 2. That energy, called evil, is alone from body, and that reason, called good, is alone from the soul. 3. That God will torment man in eternity for the following energies. But the following contraries to these are true: 1. Man has no body distinct from his soul; for that called body is a portion of soul discerned by the five senses, the chief inlets of the soul in this age. 2. Energy is the only life, and is from the body; and reason is bound or outward circumference of energy. 3. Energy is eternal delight."

"You may dispute principles, not experiences."

"When Americans are morally divided, it is appropriate that our laws reflect that fact... Our popular institutions, the legislative and executive branches, were structured to provide safety to achieve compromise when we are divided, to slow change, to dilute absolutisms... They are designed, in short, to do the very things that abstract generalizations about moral principles and the just society tend to bring into contempt."

"In the wildest anarchy of man’s insurgent appetites and sins there is still a reclaiming voice, a voice which, even when in practice disregarded, it is impossible not to own; and to which, at the very moment that we refuse our obedience, we find that we cannot refuse the homage of what ourselves do feel and acknowledge to be the best, the highest principles of our nature."

"War will never yield but to the principles of universal justice and love."

"Skepticism has never founded empires, established principles, or changed the world's heart. The great doers in history have always been men of faith."

"Our inheritance of well-founded, slowly conceived codes of honor, morals and manners, the passionate convictions which so many hundreds of millions share together of the principles of freedom and justice, are far more precious to us than anything which scientific discoveries could bestow."

"Dangerous principles impose upon our understanding, emasculate our spirits, and spoil our temper."

"Principles become modified in practice by facts."

"Moral principles that exalt themselves by degrading human nature are in effect committing suicide."

"Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active, and elaborate technique of inquiry... Pure reasoning as a means of arriving at truth is like the spider who spins a web out of himself. The web is orderly and elaborate, but is s only a trap."

"How many of us are waiting for the opportunity to do some great thing for the betterment of our community, forgetting that the solution of the problem requires only the active intelligent fulfillment of individual civic duty. The only things which are wrong about our Government are the things which are wrong with you and me. Democracy is never a thing done; it is and always will be a goal to be achieved. It means action, not passive acquiescence in things as they are; it requires alertness to duty, a dynamic faith, a willingness to give for the good of all. It can live only as a result of loyalty and devotion to its principles expressed by daily needs."

"A life without religion is a life without principles, and a life without principles is like a ship without a rudder."

"Two principles govern the moral and intellectual world. One is perpetual progress, the other the necessary limitations to that progress. If the former alone prevailed, there would be nothing steadfast and durable on earth, and the whole of social life would be the sport of winds and waves. If the alter had exclusive sway, or even if it obtained a mischievous preponderancy, every thing would petrify or rot. The best ages of the world are those in which these two principles are the most equally balanced. In such ages every enlightened man ought to adopt both principles, and with one hand develop what he can, with the other restrain and uphold what he ought."

"Prejudices are the principles of people we dislike."

"War is nothing less than a temporary repeal of the principles of virtue. It is a system out of which almost all the virtues are excluded, and in which nearly all the vices are included."

"The principles we live by, in business and in social life, are the most important part of happiness. We need to be careful, upon achieving happiness, not to lose the virtues which have produced it."

"A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles."

"It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: the same events follow the same causes. Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: these passions, mixed in various degrees, and distributed through society, have been from the beginning of the world, and still are, the source of all the actions and enterprises, which have ever been observed among mankind."

"Men are not blamed for such actions as they perform ignorantly and casually, whatever may be the consequences. Why? but because the principles of these actions are only momentary, and terminate in them alone. Men are less blamed for such actions as they perform hastily and unpremeditatedly than for such as proceed from deliberation. For what reason? but because a hasty temper, though a constant cause or principle in the mind, operates only by intervals, and infects not the whole character. Again, repentance wipes off every crime, if attended with a reformation of life and manners. How is this to be accounted for? but by asserting that actions render a person criminal merely a they are proofs of criminal principles in the mind."

"The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while they see objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counterpoising argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the principles, to which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence for those who entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance perplexes their understanding, checks their passion, and suspends their action."

"An honor-seeker is not really interested in self-improvement. He is only interested in gaining approval from others. Hence, he will disregard any fault he has if he knows that others will not notice it. On the other hand, a person who is able to forego his honor is able to focus on truth. His only thought is to do the right thing and he is willing to sacrifice his honor for his principles. Such a person will eventually receive honor, for he will constantly work on improving himself."

"We frequently fall into error and folly, not because the true principles of action are not known, but because for a time they are not remembered; he may, therefore, justly be numbered among the benefactors of mankind who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences that may early be impressed on the memory, and taught by frequent recollection to occur habitually to the mind."

"When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of highest virtues."

"Justice is immortal, eternal, and immutable, like God Himself; and the development of law is only then a progress when it is directed towards those principles which always like Him, are eternal; and whenever prejudice of error succeeds in establishing in customary law any doctrine contrary to eternal justice."

"Our inward values and judgments are based on pleasure, not on any great, tremendous principles, but just on pleasure... The active principle of our life is pleasure."

"Principles do not mainly influence even the principled; we talk on principle, but we act on interest."

"Principles can always be used toward evil ends, so maybe if these principles never existed, the bad person wouldn't be able to do so much harm."

"One may be better than his reputation, but never better than his principles."

"Madmen... do not appear to me to have lost the faculty of reasoning, but having joined together some ideas very wrongly, they mistake them for truths; and they err as men do that argue right from wrong principles. For, by the violence of their imaginations, having taken their fancies for realities, they make right deductions from them."

"Moral principles require reasoning and discourse, to discover the certainty of their truths; they lie not open as natural characters engraven on the mind."

"Great revolutions are the work rather of principles than of bayonets, and are achieved first in the moral, and afterwards in the material sphere."

"Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles."

"'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

"The great comprehensive truths, written in letters of living light on every page of our history, are these: Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom; freedom, none but virtue; virtue, none but knowledge; and neither freedom nor virtue has any vigor or immortal hope except the principles of the Christian faith..."

"The thing that must survive you is not just the record of your practice, but the principles that are the basis of your practice."

"The shortest and surest way of arriving at real knowledge is to unlearn the lessons we have been taught, to remount the first principles, and take nobody's word about them."

"Principles last forever; but special rules pass away with the things and conditions to which they refer."

"Our principles are the springs of our actions; our actions, the springs of our happiness or misery. Too much care, therefore, cannot be taken in forming our principles."

"Life, moral or physical, is not a completed fact, but a continual process, depending for its movement upon two contrary forces, the force of resistance and that of expression. Dividing these forces into two mutually opposing principles does not help us, for the truth dwells not in the opposition but in its continual reconciliation."

"Religion finds the love of happiness and the principles of duty separated in us; and its mission - its masterpiece is, to reunite them."

"If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon bronze, time will efface it; if we build temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal souls, if we imbue them with just principles of action, with fear of wrong and love of right, we engrave on those tables something which no time can obliterate, and which will brighten and brighten through all eternity."

"We are too much inclined to underrate the power of moral influence, the influence of public opinion, and the influence of the principles to which great men - the lights of the world, and of the present age - have given their sanction."