Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who said it?

Okay, history fans, the game for this week is - who said it? I give you the quote and you guess. To make it more interesting for me, each quote had to come from my own library, which I love with the passion of a teenager and the fidelity of Lassie. To make it more interesting for you, in most cases, it won’t be that easy to guess and are aimed to surprise.


1) “If all these people are convicted there will be too many to be punished with death. My hope is that they will send me full statements of every man’s case, that the most guilty may be marked as examples, and the less suffer long imprisonment under reprieves from time to time.”

2) “Should we ever have gained our Revolution if we had bound our hands by manacles of law, not only in the beginning but in any part of the revolutionary conflict? There are extreme cases where the laws become inadequate even to their own preservation, and where the universal resource is a dictator or martial law.”

3) “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races -- that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

4) “I have always had a clear conscience.”

5) “It is really the free world against the lying, cheating, hypocritical Russians."

6) "Tell him I long more than anything to learn how to do things wrong, how to create discrepancies, adaptations, changes to reality, so that it all becomes – well, lies if you like, but truer than literal truth.”

7) “The autocrat of Russia possesses more power than any other man in the earth; but he cannot stop a sneeze.”

8) “What I said, I said for fear of the fire. My voices have told me since that I did a very wicked thing in confessing that what I had done was not well done. They told that God, by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, gave me to know the great pity of the treason that I consented to by making that abjuration and revocation to save my life, and that I was damning myself to save my life. If I should say that God had not sent me, I should damn myself. It is true that God has sent me.”

9) “The president was not a hero or a prophet. He was not even a philosopher; but a generously intentioned man, with many of the weaknesses of other human beings, and lacking that dominating intellectual equipment, which would have been necessary to cope with the subtle and dangerous spellbinders whom a tremendous clash of forces and personalities had brought to the top as triumphant masters in the swift game of give and take, face to face in council – a game of which he had no experience at all.”

10) “Horrible thoughts, you will say, to run in the mind of a virgin girl. I admit that; but do not forget that I have not invented these ideas, only exposed them.”

11) “A certain softness of fibre in civilized races, if it were to prove progressive, might mean the development of a cultured and refined people quite unable to hold it’s own in those conflicts through which any great race can ultimately march to victory.”

12) “What I saw would have been a dream if it hadn’t been a terrible reality. Rasputin, who half an hour before lay dying in the cellar, was running quickly across the snow-covered courtyard towards the iron gate which led to the street. . . . I couldn’t believe my eyes. But a harsh cry which broke the silence of the night persuaded me. ‘Felix! Felix! I will tell everything to the Empress!’ It was him, all right, Rasputin. In a few seconds, he would reach the iron gate. . . . I fired. The night echoed with the shot. I missed. I fired again. Again I missed. I raged at myself. Rasputin neared the gate. I bit with all my force the end of my left hand to force myself to concentrate and I fired a third time. The bullet hit him in the shoulders. He stopped. I fired a fourth time and hit him probably in the head. I ran up and kicked him as hard as I could with my boot in the temple. He fell into the snow, tried to rise, but he could only grind his teeth.

13) At this he fired and called me all the ill names, puppy etc., that he could think of. All I returned was I put him in mind of his passion, desired him to govern it, and keep his temper. This made his rage worse. . . .”

14) “That is part of the cursedness of a shotgun messenger’s life – the loneliness of it. He is like a sheep dog, feared by the flock and hated by the wolves. On the stage, he is a necessary evil. Passengers and driver alike regard him with aversion. Without him and his pestilential box their lives would be 90 per cent safer and they know it. The bad men, the rustlers—the stage robbers actual and potential – hate him. They hate him because he is a guardian of property, because he stands between them and their desires, because they will have to kill them to get their hands into the coveted box.”

15) “Long ago a very serious counselor called ‘Uncle Bill’ ordered me into boxing lessons at a New England summer camp called Robinson Crusoe. I was ten. I had good foot speed and my hand-to-eye coordination was sharp enough for me to play third base for the varsity baseball team. I was not afraid of baseballs thrown near my head, nor hard smashes cracked down to third. I’d played a few years of junior prep football and there I was swept end or ran hard off tackle without experiencing fright. I had scuffed a bit, as boys will scuff, but never before Uncle Bill and Robinson Crusoe had I boxed. As I was commanded into my first formal boxing match, dread abruptly dominated me. In a manner that never entered my play in other sports, I thought over and over: ‘Willickers. I can get seriously hurt.’”

16) “I am living here in a state of great anxiety and of the greatest physical fatigue. I have no friends of any sort and want none. I haven’t even time to eat as much as I should. So you must not bother me with additional worries, for I could not bear another thing.”

17) “Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just when one must kill a mad dog.”

18) “Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.”

19) “Just as the particular will acts unceasingly against the general will, so does the government continually exert itself against the sovereign. And the more this exertion increases, the more the constitution becomes corrupt, and, as in this case there is no distinct corporate will to resist the will of the prince and so to balance it, sooner or later it is inevitable that the prince will oppress the sovereign and break the social treaty. This is the inherent and inescapable defect which, from the birth of the political body, tends relentlessly to destroy it, just as the old age and death destroy the body of a man.”

20) “What we call you to thirdly is to take an honest stance with yourselves – and I doubt you will do so – in order to discover that you are a nation without principles or manners, and that, to you, values and principles are something which you merely demand from others, not that which you yourself must adhere to.”


1) Thomas Jefferson. Was he talking about the death penalty for murderers? No. TJ wanted the death penalty for those violating economic restrictions. Whatever his virtues, he was our first and last tyrant.
2) Same guy. Same problem. Whether he was right or not that there are times a dictator might be called for, it wasn’t the right time and he certainly wasn’t the right guy. Okay, done with Jefferson. I promise.
3) Honest Abe Lincoln speaking his mind while campaigning. He hated slavery, and was personally kind to blacks, but his belief in the superiority of whites appeared to be genuine and certainly typical of his time.
4) Adolph Hitler. Good to know he could sleep nights.
5) Possibly the greatest and craziest chess player to ever live, Bobby Fischer, on his classic match up with Boris Spassky.
6) Vincent van Gogh. Makes sense if you think about his work.
7) One of my literary heroes, Mark Twain, who constantly surprises and inspires me.
8) Joan of Arc, recanting her confession. She had reason to fear the fire.
9) Maynard Keynes – possibly the most famous (not the best) economist of the 20th century, commenting on our overmatched President Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference.
10) Sigmund Freund. These days he is considered a relic, his therapy largely repudiated, but he was very important step in an uptight world trying to understand sexuality, and among his work and letters are many gems I believe will be mined for a long time.
11) Teddy Roosevelt. To read him nowadays, we are surprised by his ethnocentricity/racism, even though he was probably progressive for his time. But if you get beyond that, he was often quite prescient, very decent, and one of the most competent presidents. Nor was he stayed by ideology or party politics when something needed to be done. Thus, he is one of my very favorite presidents.
12) Rasputin’s murder, as told by one of the conspirators, describes an amazing story of Rasputin’s tremendous will to live. First they poisoned him, and when he wouldn’t die, they shot him and pronounced him dead. After he jumped up, attacked them and made to escape, they shot him again at least twice more, kicked him in the head and beat him with a club. To get rid of the body, they slid him in under the ice. Remarkably, when he was found, it turned out his lungs were filled up with water. That means he was still alive when he went under and drowned. This account reads like a novel.
13) Reverend John Flamsteed, Britain’s first Royal Astronomer, describing a run in with his nemesis, Sir Isaac Newton. Not the Newton of the apple tree, is it?
14) Wyatt Earp describing the lot of a Wells, Fargo shotgun messenger.
15) Jack Dempsey describes his introduction into the sport that made his life.
16) Michaelangelo working at the Vatican, vents his frustrations in a letter to his brother.
17) Martin Luther was revolutionary, but not known for his tolerance for those who rebelled from him.
18) General William Sherman. He’d know.
19) Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Like all philosophers, sometimes he’s right and sometimes he’s nuts. But he had a great name, didn’t he? His words above are as true now in democracies as they were at the dawn of the revolutions.
20) I was going to let you guess, but you can Google almost anything these days. It’s a lecture from our friend, Osama bin Laden.


  1. I couldn't even guess most of them. Here are the ones I tried, and some of my answers...well, you'll see:1+3) Lincoln...half right, 2) Jefferson...hard to get him past me,4) Nixon...eerie 8) Little Joanie.. I got two right 9)J. Adams, 11)Churchill,12)Flashman,15)Dempsey..okay, three right,16)J. Adams, 17)George Washington.. I know too much founding fathers on the brain.
    Fun, thank you, though I do have to call you on one...Rev. Flamsteed!?! Are you F**ken KIDDING?

  2. Yeah, these were pretty hard. I don't know who would more than a few of them. Good job on Dempsey though. I figured you might get the Lincoln and Jefferson ones.
    I didn't really expect anyone to get Rev. Flamsteed, but, it was about Newton, which was the interesting part. We are taught about a chaste and monastic Newton, but he was quite the pain when it came to his work and those he thought were in his way, Flamsteed being one of them. Not a bad effort for Bear.


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .