Ambrose Bierce

(Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce)

Quote Topics Cited
[Referring to election campaigns:] The partisan strife in which the people of the country are permitted to periodically engage does not tend to the development of ugly traits of character, but merely discloses those that preexist. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
A Democrat is a progressive individual, who believes in regenerating the National Government by inaugurating a system of wholesale plunder in place of the policy which now obtains. A Republican is a conservative person, who favors leaving matters as they are. Of the two policies, that of the Democrat is safer and the more economical, but that of the Republican is the more practical at present. Liberals & Conservatives
All men are created equal. Some, it appears, are created a little more equal than others. Equality & Equal Opportunity
Alliance, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Alliance: In international politics the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply in each other's pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Ambassador: In diplomacy, an officer sent into a foreign country as the visible embodiment of his sovereign's hostility. Diplomacy & Diplomats
An Indiana Member of Congress says, "A Sunday in San Francisco will convince any one that at least two thirds of the population are composed of heathens and infidels".... But does the Indiana mind suppose that we came all the way to the Pacific to acquire faith and practice virtue? We could have done that sort of stupid business at home. Religion & God
At the last meeting of the Board of Education, Mr. Maegher called attention to the chanting of the Lord's Prayer in the public schools, which is a violation of a rule which forbids the introduction of religious matters. We are glad this subject has come up at last. The Lord's Prayer has been brought into disrespect about long enough by being snarled through the dirty noses of a hundred bad boys and preposterous girls. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Conservative: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. Liberals & Conservatives
Corporation. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. Business, Commerce & Finance
Decide: To succumb to one set of influences over another set. Policy & Policy Making
Diplomacy: The patriotic art of lying for one's country. Diplomacy & Diplomats
Discussion: A method of confirming others in their errors Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Ethnology: The science that treats of the various tribes of Man, as robbers, thieves, swindlers, dunces, lunatics, idiots and ethnologists. Discrimination & Prejudice
Here lies the body of the Republican party — Corrupt, and generally speaking, hearty. Political Parties & Machines
HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. History
History. An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools. History
If fifty dollars will purchase the vote of one Supervisor, the votes of how many supervisors will three hundred and fifty dollars purchase? Corruption
If nonsense were black, Sacramento would need gas lamps at noonday. So scurvy a crew I do not remember to have been discovered in vermiculose conspiracy outside the carcass of a dead horse. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
If some imaginative practical joker had been appointed by the malevolent gods to devise, for our sins, a system of municipal government, he would have invented something like what we have, though better. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
In American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one on the condition he leave the country. Diplomacy & Diplomats
In the U.S. Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
It is very rarely that a man of brains, honor and good manners gets into public life. In most instances the man who holds an office is a rogue, a vulgarian or an ignoramus; commonly he is all three. Detriments & Qualifications ;Public Office: Benefits
Judge Bradley says of the electoral commission: "I firmly believe that the differences of opinion were honest and arose from the different standpoints of individuals." Not a doubt of it; seven members of the commission looked at the question from a standpoint of self-interest, and eight considered it from one of personal advantage. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Let Socialists make the laws today and they would break them tomorrow. No sooner do the poor become rich than they harden their hearts to the miseries of the poor. In so far as it proposes to correct the evils of unequal fortune, Socialism aims to repeal the laws of nature. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Monkey: An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Nobody but God loves him [William Randolph Hearst] and he knows it; and God's love he values only in so far as he fancies that it may promote his amusing ambition to darken the door of the White House. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Opposition, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amok by hamstringing it. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Opposition: The party that prevents the government from running amuck by hamstringing it. Legislating & Legislative Process
Peace: A period of cheating between two periods of fighting. War & Peace ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Peace: In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting. War & Peace
Politician: An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Presidency: The greased pig in the game of American politics. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
Projectile: The final arbiter in international disputes … War & Peace
Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. Human Nature
Senate: A body of elderly gentlemen charge with high duties and misdemeanors. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
She died of galloping Christianity of the malignant California type. Discrimination & Prejudice
Stored today in the arsenals of the most enlightened Christian nations are enough bullets to kill every man, woman and child on earth. War & Peace
The Board of Education met on Tuesday evening and shamefully disappointed the hopes of the public. Not a man was called a liar, not a spitoon was cast, there was never an inkstand flung. We would like to know what these men are for, if not to furnish their quota of city amusement and contribute to the sensational literature of the town? Legislating & Legislative Process
The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling. Business, Commerce & Finance
The newest "fad" of the penologists is "indeterminate sentences".... This plan ... will work first rate if God will agree to act as the discharging officer. It is hardly likely, though, that he would accept the position: he has long been out of politics. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The passion which all Democrats seem to have for writing in Republican papers, and vice versa, is something astonishing, and it is only exceeded by their unconquerable desire to censure men of their own party. Political Parties & Machines
Truth: An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance … Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Vote: The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country. Voters, Voting & Elections
We have the highest possible regard for Mr. Freelon, the Assistant District Attorney, but if we had caused as many murder cases to be dismissed in one week as he has, we should expect somebody to affirm that we were bribed. That nobody has made that charge against Mr. Freelon is extremely creditable to our community, and very fortunate for Mr. Freelon. If it were once made somebody would be sure to believe it, and would swear that it was the only intelligible explanation of his conduct. Let us give thanks that Mr. Freelon is above suspicion, and let Mr. Freelon feel grateful that we are above suspecting him. Corruption
We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
We should like to see such legislation as would beggar the lot of them and confiscate their roads, lands, rolling stock and all that is theirs.... These men have set themselves apart—have divorced their interests from those of all other classes. They have deliberately antagonized civilization and affronted humanity. Their methods are so exceptional that they can be reached only by exceptional methods. They have presumed on our reluctance to apply them. Regulation & Deregulation
We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect. Respect ;Miscellaneous
What is a democrat? One who believes that the republicans have ruined the country. What is a republican? One who believes that the democrats would ruin the country. Political Parties & Machines
What is a platform? An elaborate, exhaustive, minute and accurate statement of a candidate's political beliefs. Does he write it? Oh No; it is published before it is known who he will be. Political Parties & Machines
When I see an idiot in high station I will add such terrors to his elevation as I can. I will put as many thorns in his crown as the leisure that I can snatch from the pressure of other pleasures will permit me to weave in; and neither the deprecation of his friends nor his own retaliatory lies shall stop the good work. Media, Journalism & The Press
When in the course of European diplomacy it becomes necessary for one people to let another dissolve the political bands which have connected them with a third, and to assume among the powers of the earth the desperate and unequal station to which the will of an International Congress condemns them, a decent respect to the cannon of their protectors requires that they should say nothing about the causes which compel them to accept the situation. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A man is known by the company he organizes.
A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms agains himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it. Failure
A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.
Ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity.
Abscond - to move in a mysterious way, commonly with the property of another.
Absence blots people out. We really have no absent friends.
Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.
Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.
Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught. Sports & Athletics
Acquaintance. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
Admiral. That part of a warship which does the talking while the figurehead does the thinking.
Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
Alien - an American sovereign in his probationary state.
All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Alliance - in international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Ambidextrous, adj.: Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left.
Ambition. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.
Amnesty, n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.
An egotist is a person of low taste - more interested in himself than in me.
Anoint, v.: To grease a king or other great functionary already sufficiently slippery.
Architect. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money. Money, Coins & Minting
Ardor, n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Bacchus, n.: A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
Backbite. To speak of a man as you find him when he can't find you.
Barometer, n.: An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.
Battle, n., A method of untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.
Beauty, n: the power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband. Power
Belladonna, n.: In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.
Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think.
Bride: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Happiness & Unhappiness
Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.
Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.
Childhood: the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth - two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age. Life
Clairvoyant, n.: A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron - namely, that he is a blockhead. Power
Compromise, n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.
Confidante: One entrusted by A with the secrets of B confided to herself by C.
Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Consul - in American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Consult: To seek approval for a course of action already decided upon.
Convent - a place of retirement for women who wish for leisure to meditate upon the sin of idleness. Women
Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility. Business, Commerce & Finance
Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.
Creditor. One of a tribe of savages dwelling beyond the Financial Straits and dreaded for their desolating incursions.
Curiosity, n. An objectionable quality of the female mind. The desire to know whether or not a woman is cursed with curiosity is one of the most active and insatiable passions of the masculine soul.
Cynic, n: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.
Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.
Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. Time
Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate. Death
Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.
Deliberation, n.: The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
Destiny: A tyrant's authority for crime and a fool's excuse for failure. Failure
Divorce: a resumption of diplomatic relations and rectification of boundaries.
Dog - a kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship.
Doubt begins only at the last frontiers of what is possible.
Doubt is the father of invention.
Duty - that which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire.
Edible - good to eat and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.
Edible, adj.: Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.
Education, n.: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me.
Eloquence, n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Enthusiasm - a distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience.
Erudition - dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.
Eulogy. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth and power, or the consideration to be dead. Power
Experience - the wisdom that enables us to recognise in an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age.
Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Religion & God
Famous, adj.: Conspicuously miserable. Fame
Fidelity - a virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
Forgetfulness - a gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience. Religion & God
Fork: An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth.
Friendless. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense. Truth
Future. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured. Time ;Happiness & Unhappiness
Genealogy, n. An account of one's descent from a man who did not particularly care to trace his own.
Genius - to know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.
Happiness: an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another. Happiness & Unhappiness
Heaven lies about us in our infancy and the world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
Historian - a broad-gauge gossip.
History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools. History
I believe we shall come to care about people less and less. The more people one knows the easier it becomes to replace them. It's one of the curses of London.
I never said all Democrats were saloonkeepers. What I said was that all saloonkeepers are Democrats.
Immortality: A toy which people cry for, And on their knees apply for, Dispute, contend and lie for, And if allowed Would be right proud Eternally to die for.
Impartial - unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy.
Impiety. Your irreverence toward my deity.
In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office. Government
Incompatibility. In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination.
Insurance - an ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.
Inventor: A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Irreligion - the principal one of the great faiths of the world.
It is evident that skepticism, while it makes no actual change in man, always makes him feel better.
Jealous, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.
Land: A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Society
Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Laziness. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.
Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Liberty: One of Imagination's most precious possessions.
Life - a spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. Life
Litigant. A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones. Hope
Litigation: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence. Intelligence, Spying, Espionage & Covert Operations
Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two. Families, Children & Parenting
Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion. Religion & God
Meekness: Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while. Patience
Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.
Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills. Nature
Optimism - the doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly.
Painting, n.: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather, and exposing them to the critic. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Patience, n. A minor form of dispair, disguised as a virtue. Patience
Patriotism. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. Citizenship & Patriotism
Perseverance - a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success. Success
Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Politeness, n: The most acceptable hypocrisy.
Positive, adj.: Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
Pray: To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Prejudice - a vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
Prescription: A physician's guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient. Health, Healthcare & Medicine
Present, n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope. Hope
Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.
Religion. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Nature ;Hope
Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Rum, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.
Sabbath - a weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. Religion & God
Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited.
Spring beckons! All things to the call respond; the trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.
Success is the one unpardonable sin against our fellows. Success
Suffrage, noun. Expression of opinion by means of a ballot. The right of suffrage (which is held to be both a privilege and a duty) means, as commonly interpreted, the right to vote for the man of another man's choice, and is highly prized.
Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.
Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them up. Life
The covers of this book are too far apart.
The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff.
The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations. History
The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name of knowledge. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy.
To be positive is to be mistaken at the top of one's voice.
Trial. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors.
Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country. Power
War is God's way of teaching Americans geography. Religion & God ;War & Peace
What this country needs what every country needs occasionally is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends. War & Peace ;Citizenship & Patriotism
When you doubt, abstain.
Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is - it is her shadow. Truth
Wit - the salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out. Humor
Witticism. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a joke.
Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be ashamed of. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Women