Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “D” Quotes
On Power


Clarence S. Darrow (1857-1938)
American Defense Attorney

“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.”

“You can only be free if I am free.”

“The lowest standards of ethics of which a right-thinking man can possibly conceive is taught to the common soldier whose trade is to shoot his fellow men. In youth he may have learned the command, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but the ruler takes the boy just as he enters manhood and teaches him that his highest duty is to shoot a bullet through his neighbor’s heart — and this, unmoved by passion or feeling or hatred, and without the least regard to right or wrong, but simply because his ruler gives the word.”

“Common experience shows how much rarer is moral courage than physical bravery. A thousand men will march to the mouth of the cannon where one man will dare espouse an unpopular cause . . . True courage and manhood come from the consciousness of the right attitude toward the world, the faith in one’s purpose, and the sufficiency of one’s own approval as a justification for one’s own acts.”

“Not only do . . . rulers keep many millions of men whose only trade is war, but these must be supported in worse than useless idleness by the labor of the poor. Still other millions are trained to war and are ever ready to answer to their master’s call, to desert their homes and trades and offer up their lives to satisfy the vain ambitions of the ruler of the state. Millions more must give their strength and lives to build forts and ships, make guns and cannon and all the modern implements of war. Apart from any moral question of the right of man to slay his fellow man, all this great burden rests upon the poor. The vast expense of war comes from the production of the land and must serve to weaken and impair its industrial strength.”

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
English Author

“I hear much of people’s calling out to punish the guilty, but very few are concerned to clear the innocent.”

Voltairine De Cleyre (1866-1912)
Essayist and Poet

“Make no laws whatever concerning speech, and speech will be free; so soon as you make a declaration on paper that speech shall be free, you will have a hundred lawyers proving that ‘Freedom does not mean abuse, nor liberty license’; and they will define and define freedom out of existence.”

“Socialism and Communism both demand a degree of joint effort and administration which would beget more regulation than is wholly consistent with ideal Anarchism; Individualism and Mutualism, resting upon property, involve a development of the private policeman not at all compatible with my notion of freedom.”

“[The founders] took their starting point for deriving a minimum of government upon the same sociological ground that the modern Anarchist derives the no-government theory; viz., that equal liberty is the political ideal.”

“To me any dependence, any thing which destroys the complete selfhood of the individual, is in the line of slavery.”

“If the believers in liberty wish the principles of liberty taught, let them never intrust that instruction to any government; for the nature of government is to become a thing apart, an institution existing for its own sake, preying upon the people, and teaching whatever will tend to keep it secure in its seat.”

“It is an American tradition that a standing army is a standing menace to liberty; in Jefferson’s presidency the army was reduced to 3,000 men. It is American tradition that we keep out of the affairs of other nations. It is American practice that we meddle with the affairs of everybody else from the West to the East Indies, from Russia to Japan; and to do it we have a standing army of 83,251 men. . . . It is American tradition that the financial affairs of a nation should be transacted on the same principles of simple honesty that an individual conducts his own business; viz., that debt is a bad thing, and a man’s first surplus earnings should be applied to his debts; that offices and office-holders should be few. It is American practice that the general government should always have millions of debt, even if a panic or a war has to be forced to prevent its being paid off; and as to the application of its income, office-holders come first. . . . It is American tradition that the judiciary shall act as a check upon the impetuosity of Legislatures, should these attempt to pass the bounds of constitutional limitation. It is American practice that the Judiciary justifies every law which trenches on the liberties of the people and nullifies every act of the Legislature by which the people seek to regain some measure of their freedom.”

“In regard to the breaking up of that vilest creation of tyranny, the standing army and navy, it is clear that so long as men desire to fight, they will have armed force in one form or another. Our fathers thought they had guarded against a standing army by providing for the voluntary militia. In our day we have lived to see this militia declared part of the regular military force of the United States, and subject to the same demands as the regulars. Within another generation we shall probably see its members in the regular pay of the general government. Since any embodiment of the fighting spirit, any military organization, inevitably follows the same line of centralization, the logic of Anarchism is that the least objectionable form of armed force is that which springs up voluntarily, like the minute-men of Massachusetts, and disbands as soon as the occasion which called it into existence is past: that the really desirable thing is that all men--not Americans only--should be at peace; and that to reach this, all peaceful persons should withdraw their support from the army, and require that all who make war shall do so at their own cost and risk; that neither pay nor pensions are to be provided for those who choose to make man-killing a trade.”

“. . . so long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.”

“The genius of our institutions dictates the scrupulous avoidance of any departure from that foreign policy commended by the history, the traditions, and the prosperity of our Republic. It is the policy of independence, favored by our position and defended by our known love of justice and by our power. . . . It is the policy of neutrality, rejecting any share in foreign broils and ambitions upon other continents and repelling their intrusion here. It is the policy of Monroe and of Washington and Jefferson--‘Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliance with none.’”

General Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)
President of France

“Politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”

“In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.”

“Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him.”

“[A] new kind of messianic impulse now swelled the American spirit . . . which concealed the instinct for domination. . . . It was true that the isolationism of the United States was, according to the President [Franklin Roosevelt], a great error now ended. But passing from one extreme to the other, it was a permanent system of intervention that he intended to institute by international law. In his opinion, a four-power directorate--America, Soviet Russia, China and Great Britain--should settle the world’s problems. . . . such an organization, according to him, would have to involve the installation of American forces on bases distributed throughout the world, some of which would be located in French territory. Roosevelt thus intended to lure the Soviets into a group that would contain their ambitions and in which America could unite its dependents. Among the ‘four,’ he knew, in fact, that Chiang Kai-shek’s China needed his cooperation and that the British, in danger of losing their dominions, would yield to his policy. . . . the support offered by Washington and the existence of American bases would give rise to new sovereignties in Africa, Asia and Australasia, which would increase the number of states under an obligation to the United States.” [from The Complete War Memoirs of Charles de Gaulle, and as quoted in Decline and Rise of Europe, by John Lucacs, pp. 208-209]

Demonax (2nd Century C.E.)
Greek Philosopher

“Probably all laws are useless; for good men do not want laws at all, and bad men are made no better by them.”

James Steuart Denham (1712-1780)
Scottish Political Economist

“Arbitrary power can never be delegatedl for if it be arbitrary, it may be turned against the monarch, as well as against the subject.” [An Inquiry into the Priniples of Political Economy 1767:Vol.1, 164-165]

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)
French Philosopher and Encyclopedist

“Watch out for the follow who talks about pitting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control.”

“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969)
U.S. Senator

“A billion here and a billion there, and soon you’re talking about real money.”

Sam Donaldson (1934-)
American Journalist

“The press . . . traditionally sides with authority and the establishment.”

John Dos Passos (1896-1970)
American Author

“Individuality is freedom lived.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
Russian Novelist

“What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead.”

William O. Douglas (1898-1980)
Associate Justice, U. S. Supreme Court

“The framers of the constitution knew human nature as well as we do. They too had lived in dangerous days; they too knew the suffocating influence of orthodoxy and standardized thought. They weighted the compulsions for restrained speech and thought against the abuses of liberty. They chose liberty.”

“Today’s Establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress honored by tradition, is also revolution.”

“The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms.”

“The privacy and dignity of our citizens [are] being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen--a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of a [person’s] life.”

“A people who extend civil liberties only to preferred groups start down the path either to dictatorship of the right or the left.”

“Our upside down welfare state is ‘socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor.’ The great welfare scandal of the age concerns the dole we give rich people.”

“The Pentagon has a fantastic budget that enables it to dream of putting down the much-needed revolutions which will arise in Peru, in the Philippines, and in other benighted countries.”

“As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air-however slight-lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

“The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of the people.”

“Power tends to develop into a government in itself. Power that controls the economy should be in the hands of elected representatives of the people instead of a industrial oligarchy.”

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us all.”

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895)
American Abolitionist

“Let us render the tyrant no aid; let us not hold the light by which he can trace the footprints of our flying brother.”

“Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.”

“I know no class of my fellowmen, however just, enlightened, and humane, which can be wisely and safely trusted absolutely with the liberties of any other class.”

“When a great truth once gets abroad in the world, no power on earth can imprison it, or prescribe its limits, or suppress it. It is bound to go on till it becomes the thought of the world.”

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.”

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

“. . . [T]he Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny. . . . The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.”

“Find out just what the people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Hugh Downs (1921-)
American Journalist

“This country is a one-party country. Half of it is called Republican and half is called Democrat. It doesn’t make any difference. All the really good ideas belong to the Libertarians.”

Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862)
French Philosopher, Journalist and Economist

“In a well ordered state, the government ought to be nothing more than an aid to production, a commission charged and paid for by producers to look after the safety of their persons and property while they work and to guard them against all parasites.”

“What! You see men violently torn away from their country, from their family, from their habits, from their affections; packed like animals, chained together in irons, in horrible prisons; in this state, and nearly deprived of air and of food, they are forced to undertake a voyage of several months; sold to colonists sometimes more barbarous than their ravishers; condemned to work all their lives harder than our galley-slaves, without any wages but whip blows, without consolation except contempt, without hope (other) than of a quick death, and you ask if humanity suffers from this kind of unhappiness! What! the laws divine and human proscribe slavery in metropolitan France, and you doubt if it ought to be allowed in the colonies! Our laws punish the Frenchman who voluntarily alienates his liberty, and you do not know if it ought to support the burden of ending it among Africans.” [Le Censeur, vol. 2, pp 156-9]

“I have protested with all the energy which I could muster. I did it because all honest men are obliged to prevent, by all the means which the law puts at their disposal, any criminal act against the guarantees on which depend public security, because those who do not do so appear to me to be a bad citizen whose laxity weakens the common good, finally because it is by doing so that one can put a brake on the licence of power and maintain some order in civil society.” [Mignet, “Dunoyer,” Journal des économistes, pp. 169-70]

“Taken by naked force to appear before the incorrect judges, will I now agree to pay the costs of this violent act and to be paid to be prosecuted? No, monsieur. You will order whatever appears to you to be the most convenient in this matter. Articles 4 and 12 of the decree of 18 June 1811, relating to the movement of prisoners allows you to have them conducted on foot, by horse, in a public carriage, or in a private carriage [charrette]. You choose which method, monsieur. As for me, I prefer none of them. I reject them all equally. By whatever means you take me to Rennes I am taken there by a horrible abuse of power against which I protest with all my might. After that I am in your hands. Dispose of me as you will. You can consider me as a body without a will, materia circa quam. May it please god that I reject none of the rigours you will impose on me. The greater they are, the more instructive they will be. We will see by how much you make me suffer how far our criminal laws can be used for private persecutions. Perhaps the excess of evil will be the cause of its own remedy.” [Mignet, “Dunoyer,” Journal des économistes, pp. 168-9]

“He [Napoleon] wished in France that there be only soldiers, and he sought that all the work of the nation have for its ulterior end, war. He wished them to ravish from man his faculty to act wholly and entirely by his own will in order to make him the instrument of his will. He wished then to reduce the French and Europe to the last degree of servitude. Also he scorned fundamentally the human species; man was in his eyes only a vile cattle destined to be devoured in order to enslave new victims. But this extravagant colonist ended by ruining and losing his plantation in his wish to extend the number of the slaves that worked for him.” [Le Censeur, vol. 4, pp. 223-6]

“Forbid a man this premier quality (the right to labour freely), he is forbidden the principle which constitutes man, and which is so necessary to his existence that, when he is deprived of it, he declines, he is effaced; he is no more than a machine moved by an impulsion which is not his own.” [Le Censeur, vol. 4, p. 214]

“We [Charles Dunoyer and Charles Comte] both felt a strong and powerfully motivated aversion for military power which seemed to us to be animated by no grand principle [idée] but only a concern for advancement in the public service. From top to bottom it appeared only to be the putting into practice of all the self-seeking and ambitious passions which the revolution had awakened. In our eyes this quite material domination was worthy of the utmost contempt. We were especially irritated by the state of suffocation into which all individual existence had fallen. Whatever value one might have it was impossible to count for anything outside of the established domination, a domination which had absorbed everything, that each day got worse and more widespread, a domination which was incessantly victorious abroad and which came back to impose on the country all the burdens which it had imposed on the conquered nations of Europe.” [Journal des économistes, pp. 163-4]

John Dryden (1631-1700)

“Self-defence is Nature’s eldest law.”

“War is the trade of kings.”