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Quotations about History


The Wisdom of Ben Franklin

Quotes from Abraham Lincoln

Quotes from Winston Churchill

Quotations About History

Quotations of Presidents Insulting Other Presidents

Quotations Insulting Our Nation's Leaders

Quotations About Politics and Politicians


The Wit and Wisdom of Benjamin Franklin

When there's marriage without love, there will be love without marriage.

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

None but the well-bred man know how to confess a fault, or acknowledge himself in an error.

He that riseth late must trot all day.

Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander Time; for that's the stuff Life is made of.

Lost time is never found again.

Remember that time is money.

There never was a good war or a bad peace.

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

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 Quotes from Abraham Lincoln

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.

'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.

Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.

No matter how much the cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

Important principles may and must be inflexible.

My concern is not whether God is on our side; my great concern is to be on God's side.

You cannot help the poor be destroying the rich. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.

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Quotes from Winston Churchill

"I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

(Speech made to House of Commons on May 13, 1940, three days after becoming Prime Minister.)


"Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world: 'We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls.'"

(September 9, 1941)


"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour."

(Speech delivered to the House of Commons on June 18, 1940 following the collapse of France.)


Lady Astor: "Winston, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee."

Winston: "Nancy, if I were your husband I'd drink it."


"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.''

(Speech to Churchill's old school, Harrow, October 9, 1941)


"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

(Speech at the peak of the Battle of Britain on August 20, 1940.)


"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

(November 10, 1942.)

After being criticized for ending a sentence with a preposition and using a dangling participle in official documents, Churchill wrote in the margin: "This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put."


"This is a war of the unknown warriors; but let all strive without failing in faith or in duty, and the dark curse of Hitler will be lifted from our age."

(Broadcast on the BBC, July 14, 1940.)


"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

(Speech about Dunkirk given in House of Commons June 4, 1940.)


"I am prepared to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."


"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."


"Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times."


"Naturally I am biased in favor of boys learning English; I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honor, and Greek as a treat."


"I cannot forecast to you the actin of Russia. it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."


"Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."


"We would rather see London laid in ruins and ashes than that it should be tamely and abjectly enslaved."


"We are waiting for the long promised invasion. So are the fishes."

(Radio broadcast to the French people October 21, 1940)


"The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions."


"Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt…Give us the tools, and we will finish the job."

(Radio broadcast February 9, 1941)


"These are not dark days: these are great days - the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race."

(October 29, 1941)


"In Franklin Roosevelt there died the greatest American friend we have ever known - and the greatest champion of freedom who has ever brought help and comfort from the New World to the Old."

(April 17, 1945)


"Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others."

(January, 1952)


"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."


"It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations."


"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."


"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."


"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."


"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."


"To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day."


"The power of man has grown in every sphere, except over himself."


"The price of greatness is responsibility."


"It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary."


"Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry."


"If Hitler were to invade Hell, I would find occasion to make a favorable reference to the devil."


"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. "

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Famous Quotations about History


Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle;

natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend

Sir Francis Bacon

English philosopher and statesman


The history of the world is but the biography of great men.

Thomas Carlyle

Scottish historian


We cannot escape history.

Abraham Lincoln

Second Annual Message to Congress (1862)


And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us, recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions: First, were we truly men of courage...Second, were we truly men of judgment...Third, were we truly men of integrity...Finally, were we truly men of dedication.

John F. Kennedy

Inaugural address (1961)


What experience and history teach is this -- that people and governments never have learned anythingfrom history, or acted on principles deduced from it.

Friedrich Hegel

German Philospher


 History is more or less bunk.

Henry Ford (1916)



Advice to Persons About to Write History -- Don't.

Lord Acton

(English historian)



To be a successful soldier you must know history.

General George Patton

(American general)

1944 indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.

Edward Gibbon

(English historian)



Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.

Oscar Wilde

(English author)


A page of history is worth a volume of logic.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

(Supreme Court Justice)



War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading

Thomas Hardy

(English author)



America was discovered accidentally by a great seaman who was looking for something else; when discovered it was not wanted; and most of the exploration for the next fifty years was done in the hope of getting through or around it.

America was named after a man who discovered no part of the New World.

History is like that, very chancy.

Samuel Eliot Morison

American historian


History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time;

it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity


Roman orator, statesman and philosopher


The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth.

The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true.


Roman orator, statesman and philosopher


The historian is a prophet in reverse.

Friedrich Schlegel

German philosopher


 The enduring achievement of historical study is a historical sense -- and intuitive understanding -- of how things do not work.

Sir Lewis Namier

British historian


If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music...and of aviation.

Tom Stoppard

English playwright



More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

Woody Allen

American movie maker



Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.

George Bernard Shaw

English playwright



History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.

Napoleon Bonaparte

French emperor



History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

Abba Eban

Israeli statesman



History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

Winston Churchill

British Prime Minister and historian



 Things that are done, it is needless to speak about...things that are past, it is needless to blame.



 He who neglects learning in his youth,

Loses the past and is dead for the future.


Greek playwright


 What's past is prologue.

William Shakespeare

The Tempest


The best of prophets of the future is the past

George Gordon, Lord Byron

English poet



Nothing that was worthy in the past departs; no truth or goodness realized by man ever dies, or can die.

Thomas Carlyle

Scottish historian and philosopher


 All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.


Thomas Carlyle

Scottish historian and philosopher



Revolutions are not made; they come. A revolution is as natural a growth as an oak.

It comes out of the past. Its foundations are laid far back.

Wendell Philips

American orator and abolitionist



The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.

H. G. Wells

English author



 The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends.


Sir Max Beerbohm

English satirist and caricaturist



If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

Sir Winston Churchill

British Prime Minister and historian



We can only pay our debt to the past by putting the future in debt to ourselves

John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir

Scottish author and politician



I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes

Carl Sandburg

American poet



Most of the problems a President has to face have their roots in the past.

Harry Truman



Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

T. S. Eliot



Nothing changes more constantly than the past; for the past that influences our lives does not consist of what actually happened, but of what men believe happened.

Gerald White Johnson

American author



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

George Santayana

American philosopher

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(from The Book of Political Lists from the editors of George Magazine, Random Ventures, Inc., 1998)


Thomas Jefferson on
Andrew Jackson

"I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson President.
He is the most unfit man I know for such a place."



John Quincy Adams on
Andrew Jackson

"A barbarian who cannot write a sentence of grammar and can hardly spell his own name.".


Andrew Jackson on
William Henry Harrison

"Our Present Imbecile Chief."


Andrew Jackson on James Polk

"I never betrayed a friend or was guilty of the black sin of ingratitude. Mr. Polk cannot say as much."


Abraham Lincoln on
James Polk

"He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man."


John Quincy Adams on
Martin Van Buren

"His principles are all subordinate to his ambitions."


James Buchanan on
John Quincy Adams

"His disposition is as perverse and mulish as that of his father."


Thomas Jefferson on
John Adams

"He is vain, irritable, and a bad calculator of the force and probable effect of the motives which govern men."


William Henry Harrison on
John Quincy Adams

"It is said he is a disgusting man to do business. Coarse, dirty, clownish in his address and stiff and abstracted in his opinions, which are drawn from books exclusively."


James Polk on
Zachary Taylor

"General Taylor is, I have no doubt, a well-meaning old man. He is, however, uneducated, exceedingly ignorant of public affairs, and I should judge, of very ordinary capacity."


Harry Truman on
Millard Fillmore

"At a time we needed a strong man, what we got was a man that swayed with the slightest breeze."


Harry Truman on
Franklin Pierce

"He was another one that was a complete fizzle ... Pierce didn't know what was going on, and even if he had, he wouldn't of known what to do about it."


Theodore Roosevelt on Franklin Pierce

"A small politician, of low capacity and mean surroundings, proud to act as the servile tool of men worse than himself but also stronger and abler."


Ulysses Grant on
Andrew Johnson

"He is such an infernal liar."


James Garfield on
Ulysses Grant

"He has done more than any other president to degrade the character of Cabinet officers by choosing them in the model of the military staff, because of their personal relation to him and not because of their national reputation and the public needs."


Ulysses Grant on
James Garfield

"Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angleworm."


Woodrow Wilson on
Chester Arthur

"...a non-entity with side whiskers..."


Theodore Roosevelt on
Benjamin Harrison

"He is a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician."


Theodore Roosevelt on William McKinley

"McKinley has no more backbone than a chocolate eclair."


Gerald Ford on
Jimmy Carter

"Jimmy Carter wants to speak loudly and carry a fly swatter."


Harry Truman on
Richard Nixon

"He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd lie just to keep his hand in."


Dwight Eisenhower on
Lyndon Johnson

"He doesn't have the depth of mind nor the breadth of vision to carry great responsibility ... Johnson is superficial and opportunistic."


Harry Truman on
Dwight Eisenhower

"The General doesn't know any more about politics than a pig knows about Sunday."


Woodrow Wilson on
Theodore Roosevelt

"He is the most dangerous man of the age."


Theodore Roosevelt on William Howard Taft

"a flub-dub with a streak of the second-rate and the common in him."


Herbert Hoover on
Franklin D. Roosevelt

"chameleon on plaid"


Calvin Coolidge on
Herbert Hoover

"That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad."


William Howard Taft
on Woodrow Wilson

"I regard him as a ruthless hypocrite and as an opportunist, who has not convictions he would not barter at once for votes."


Theodore Roosevelt
on Woodrow Wilson

"infernal skunk in the White House"


"He is a silly doctrinaire at times and an utterly selfish and cold-blooded politician always."

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Quotations Insulting Our Nation's Leaders

The man who is the source of all the misfortunes of our country.

William Duane (journalist) on George Washington


That dark, designing, sordid, ambitious, vain, proud, arrogant and vindictive knave.

Gen. Charles Lee on George Washington


…and as to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship…and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an imposter, whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had?

Tom Paine on George Washington


He is distrustful, obstinate, excessively vain, and takes no counsel from anyone.

Thomas Jefferson on John Adams


The moral character of Jefferson was repulsive.  Continually puling about liberty, equality and the degrading curse of slavery, he brought his own children to the hammer, and money of his debaucheries.

Alexander Hamilton

…a slur upon the moral government of the world.

John Quincy Adams on Thomas Jefferson


Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of distress, the soil soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.  Where is the heart that can contemplate such a scene without shivering with horror?

The New England Courant  on the election of Thomas Jefferson, 1800


This man has no principles, public or private.  As a politician, his sole spring of action is an inordinate ambition.

Alexander Hamilton on Aaron Burr


I never thought him an honest, frank-dealing man, but considered him as a crooked gun,…whose aim or shot you could never be sure of.

Thomas Jefferson on Aaron Burr


He is, like almost all the eminent men of this country, only half-educated.  His morals, public and private, are loose.

John Quincy Adams on Henry Clay


He is certainly the basest, meanest scoundrel that ever disgraced the image of God, -- nothing too mean or low for him to condescend to.

Andrew Jackson on Henry Clay


…he is a bad man, an imposter, a creator of wicked schemes.

John C. Calhoun on Henry Clay


A rigid, fanatic, ambitious, selfishly partisan and sectional turncoat with too much genius and too little common sense, who will either die a traitor or a madman.

Henry Clay on John C. Calhoun


…the most meanly and foolishly treacherous man I ever heard of.

James Russell Lowell on Daniel Webster


The gigantic intellect, the envious temper, the ravenous ambition and the rotten heart of Daniel Webster.

John Quincy Adams


A victim of the use of water as a beverage.

Sam Houston on James K. Polk


Quite ignorant for his rank, and quite bigoted in his ignorance.

Gen. Winfield Scott on Zachary Taylor


His argument is as thin as the…soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death.

Abraham Lincoln on Stephen A. Douglas.


The President is nothing more than a well-meaning baboon…I went to the White House directly after tea where I found “the original Gorilla” about as intelligent as ever.  What a specimen to be at the head of our affairs now!

General George McClellan on Abraham Lincoln


Major-General McClellan:  I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses.  Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?

Abraham Lincoln in a telegram to Gen. George B. McClellan


My dear McClellan:

If you don’t want to use the army I should like to borrow it for a while. 

Yours respectfully,

A. Lincoln


Filthy Story-Teller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Buffoon, Usurper, Monster, Ignoramus Abe, Old Scoundrel, Perjurer, Robber, Swindler, Tyrant, Field-Butcher, Land Pirate.

Harper’s Weekly on Abraham Lincoln



Mr. Lincoln evidently knows nothing of…the higher elements of human nature…His soul seems made of leather, and incapable of any grand or noble emotion.  Compared with the mass of men, he is a line of flat prose in a beautiful and spirited lyric.  He lowers, he never elevates you…When he hits upon a policy, substantially good in itself, he contrives to belittle it, besmear it in some way to render it mean, contemptible and useless. Even wisdom from him seems but folly.

The New York Post



…We did not conceive it possible that even Mr. Lincoln would produce a paper so slipshod, so loose-joined, so puerile, not alone in literary construction, but in its ideas, its sentiments, its grasp.  He has outdone himself.  He has literally come out of the little end of his own horn.  By the side of it, mediocrity is superb.

The Chicago Times  about The Gettysburg Address


He is as ambitious as Lucifer, cold as a snake, and what he touches will not prosper.

Sam Houston on Jefferson Davis


He is a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid, old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician.

Theodore Roosevelt on Benjamin Harrison


Why, if a man were to call my dog McKinley, and the brute failed to resent to the death the…insult, I’d drown it.

William Cowper Brann on William E. McKinley


My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding, and the baby at every christening.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth on Theodore Roosevelt


…a wretched, rattle-pated boy, posing in vapid vanity and mouthing resounding rottenness.

New York Tribune on William Jennings Bryan


Mr. Wilson bores me with his Fourteen Points;  why, God Almighty has only ten.

Georges Clemenceau on Woodrow Wilson


His speeches leave the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.  Sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly a prisoner in their midst until it died of servitude and overwork.

Senator William McAdoo on Warren Harding


He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered.  It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights.  It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.  It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh.  It is rumble and bumble.  It is flap and doodle.  It is balder and dash.

H. L. Mencken on Warren Harding


…the only man woman, or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead.

e.e. cummings on Warren Harding


He looks as if he had been weaned on a pickle.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth on Calvin Coolidge


How can they tell?

Dorothy Parker on being informed that Calvin Coolidge was dead


Hoover isn’t a stuffed shirt.  But at times he can give the most convincing impersonation of a stuffed shirt you ever saw.



If he became convinced tomorrow that coming out for cannibalism would get him the votes he sorely needs, he would begin fattening a missionary in the White House backyard come Wednesday.

H. L. Mencken on Franklin D. Roosevelt


MacArthur is the type of man who thinks that when he gets to heaven, God will step down from the great white throne and bow him into his vacated seat.

Harold Ickes on Gen. Douglas MacArthur


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Quotations About Politics and Politicians

During an election campaign the air is full of speeches and vice versa.

Henry Adams


If I were to go over my life again, I would be a shoemaker rather than an American statesman.

John Adams


Anyone that wants the presidency so much that he’ll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be trusted with the office.

David Broder


Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.

G. K. Chesterton


Two cheers for democracy; one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism.  Two cheers are quite enough; there is no occasion to give three.

E. M. Forster


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

Charles de Gaulle


Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.

John F. Kennedy


One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.

Robert Kennedy


Politicians are the same all over.  They promise to build a bridge even when there’s no river.

Nikita Khrushchev


The more I see of the representatives of the people, the more I admire my dogs.

Alphonse de Lamartine


Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.



With Congress, every time they made a joke, it’s a law, and every time they make a law, it’s a joke.

Will Rogers


The most successful politician is he who says what everybody else is thinking most often and in the loudest voice.

Theodore Roosevelt


A politician should have three hats.  One for throwing in the ring, one for talking through, and one for pulling rabbits out of if elected.

Carl Sandburg


Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.

Robert Louis Stevenson


Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans.  It’s the other lousy two percents that get all the publicity.  But then – we elected them.

Lily Tomlin


Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress, but I repeat myself.

Mark Twain



I'm always interested in different quotes about history and the value of knowing the past. If you have any to add to this list, please e-mail me at

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