Lesser-Known Quotations


Clement Attlee (1883-1967):

“Charity is a cold, grey, loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes.”


Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969):

On Senator Joe McCarthy –  “I will not get into a pissing competition with that skunk.” 


Winston Churchill (1874-1965):

“We have always found the Irish to be a bit odd. They refuse to be English”                             


Richard Tawney (1880-1962):

“Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows. It is possible that equality is to be contrasted, not with liberty, but only with a particular interpretation of it.”                            


Mark Twain (1835-1910):

“When the rich rob the poor, you can be certain it is business.”                                                    


General James Wolfe (1727-59) :

To a fellow-English officer on how to deploy Scottish troops against the French –  “How best can we use the common enemy?”                                                              


Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) :

Speaking in Torquay in 1990 – “We English, who are a marvellous people, are really very generous to Scotland… Someone has to speak up for we English, we’re the most underestimated people in the United Kingdom.”                                                                          


Boris Johnson (1964-):

Writing in The Spectator in 2002 – “The continent (Africa) may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge  anymore.”          


Max Weinreich (1894-1969):

“A language is a dialect which owns an army and a navy.”


Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-68):

“We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.”


Tony Blair (1953-):

On leaving office in 2007, and despite heaping scorn on the idea of Scottish independence as divisive nationalism –  “I have been very lucky and very blessed. This country is a blessed nation. We [the British] are special, the world knows it, in our innermost thoughts, we know it. This is the greatest nation on earth.”


Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924): 

US President 1912-20, regarded historically as a progressive liberal, speaking to a delegation of black professionals visiting the White House –  “Segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.”                


Iain Macwhirter :

Writing in The Herald, 8 August 2015 –  “Martin Luther King said he had dream, not that he had a fully costed plan to incrementally improve the democratic rights of minority groups in a way that would not antagonise the white Anglo-Saxon establishment.”


Winston Churchill (1874-1965):

Addressing the 1947 Conservative Party Conference –  “The trade unions are a long-established and essential part of our national life. We take our stand by these pillars of our British society as it has gradually developed and evolved itself, of the right of individual labouring men to adjust their wages and conditions by collective bargaining, including the right to strike.”


J. William Fulbright (1905-95):

Chairman, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1959-74 and an early supporter of the Vietnam War who turned against it –  “Like medieval theologians we had a philosophy that explained everything to us in advance, and everything that did not fit could be readily identified as a fraud or a lie or an illusion… The perniciousness of the anti-Communist ideology of the Truman Doctrine arises not from any patent falsehood but from its distortion and simplification of reality, from its universalization and its elevation to the status of a revealed truth.”


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832):

“It is bad governments, not bad people, who cause revolutions.”


Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006):

On why elections are a bad thing –  “Don’t forget that in the history of the world, there was an election in which Christ and Barabbas were being judged, and the people chose Barabbas.”


Charles Bukowski (1920-1994):

“The problem with the world today is that the intelligent are full of self-doubt while the fools are full of confidence.”


Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-):

On US encouragement of the Afghan-Soviet War 1979-89 –  “[This was] a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire… What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and
the end of the Cold War?”


Samuel Johnson (1709-1784):

On patronage of the arts by the rich –  “A patron is one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in water and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882):

“All history is a record of the power of minorities, and of minorities of one.”


Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910):

“Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.”


Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980):

“Man is the being whose plan it is to become God.”


Seneca (4 BC-65 AD):

“What  narrow innocence it is for one to be good only according to the law.”


Edmund Burke (1729-1797):

“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”


Elbert Green Hubbard (1856-1915):

“Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes.”

“A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in the experience.”


Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973):

On Affirmative Action (following his Civil Rights Legislation) –  “You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying, ‘Now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.’ You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair… This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity—not just legal equity but human ability—not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.”

On why he kept J. Edgar Hoover as FBI Director –  “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”


George Santayana (1863-1952):

“The highest form of vanity is love of fame.”

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”