Henry Adams

(Henry Brooks Adams)

Quotes
Quote Topics Cited
[Describing Theodore Roosevelt:] ... pure act. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
… the most dramatic moment in the early politics of the Union. Miscellaneous
A friend in power is a friend lost. Power ;Friendship
A great soldier might be a baby politician. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
A Senator is like a begonia, showy but useless. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
A teacher effects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
A third rate nonentity whose only recommendation is that he is obnoxious to no one. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
All experience is an arch, to build upon.
Although the Senate is much given to admiring in its members a superiority less obvious or quite invisible to outsiders, one Senator seldom proclaims his own inferiority to another, and still more seldom likes to be told of it. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Argument [is] useless against a people in a passion, convinced of their own injuries. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Between New England and the Middle [Atlantic] states was a gap like that between Scotland and England. Miscellaneous
Both parties are impossibly corrupt and the public thoroughly indifferent. Corruption
Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man. Nature ;Human Nature
Corporations gorged with profit ... menace the stability of society. Business, Commerce & Finance
Curtailment of expense could be effected only on the principle that as the government did nothing well, it might as well do nothing. Budgets & Budgeting
Democracies in history always suffered from the necessity of uniting with much of the best in human nature a mass of ignorance and brutality lying at the bottom of all societies. Equality & Equal Opportunity
Experience forced on men’s minds the conviction that what had ever been must ever be. History
Government of the people, by the people, for the benefit of the Senators. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
In conspiracies, men who know what they wanted commonly ended by controlling the men who did not. Leaders & Leadership
It's always the good men who do the most harm in the world. Human Nature
Knowledge of human nature is the beginning and end of political education. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Nature ;Human Nature
Man has mounted science, and is now run away with. I firmly believe that before many centuries more, science will be the master of men. The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control. Someday science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide, by blowing up the world. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Mere opposition to foreign war rarely injured public men, except while the war-fever lasted …. But opposition became unpardonable when it took a form which could have no apparent objective except national ruin. War & Peace
Modern politics is, at bottom, a struggle not of men but of forces. The men become every year more and more creatures of force, masses about central powerhouses. The conflict is no longer between the men, but between the motors that drive men [i.e. governments], and the men who succumb to their own motive forces. Power
Nations like individuals, when driven to choose between desperate courses, might at times be compelled to take the chance of destruction, often destroying themselves or suffering irreparable harm. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Newspaper-men as a rule had no great respect for the lower House; Senators had less; and Cabinet officers had none at all. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
No acid ever worked more mechanically on a vegetable fiber than the white man acted on the Indian. As the line of American settlements approached, the nearest Indian tribes withered away. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
No American ever dies in the country in which he was born. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
No man means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
No man, however strong, can serve ten years as schoolmaster, priest, or Senator, and remain fit for anything else. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
No merely legislative body could control a single, concentrated Executive …. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Not only shall we be able to cruise in space, … Space Exploration
Nothing [is] more uncertain than the moral sensitivities of a political body. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
Of all spells that could be cast on a nation, that of believing itself invincible was perhaps the one most profitable broken … Power
One never expected from a Congressman more than good intentions and public spirit. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Philosophy … consists chiefly in suggesting unintelligible answers to insoluble problems. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Politics are a very unsatisfactory game. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Power is poison. Its effects on Presidents had always been tragic; chiefly as an almost insane excitement at first, and a worse reaction afterwards; but also because no mind is so well balanced as to bar the strain of seizing unlimited force without habit or knowledge of it; and finding it disputed with him by hungry packs of wolves and hounds whose lives depend on snatching the carrion. Power
Practical politics consists in ignoring facts. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Practical politics, being commonly an affair of compromise and relative truth,—a human attempt to modify the severity of Nature's processes … Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Rarely in American history has any particular Congress been held in high esteem … Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Reform would be difficult, for Indian warriors thought death less irksome than daily labor; and men who did not fear death were not easily driven to toil. Minorities & Women
She had got to the bottom of this business of democratic government and found out that it was nothing more than government of any other kind. Democracies & Republics
Shy in manner, seeming cold; awkward in attitude, and with little in his bearing that suggested command Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Society is immoral and immortal; it can afford to commit any kind of folly, and indulge in any kind of vice; it cannot be killed and the fragments that survive can always laugh at the dead. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
The attempt to treat politics as a branch of the profession of law [has] the disadvantage of refining issues to a point which no large society could comprehend. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The cynical impudence with which the reformers have tried to manufacture an ideal statesman out of the late shady politician beats anything in novel-writing. They are making popular capital. They lie and maneuver just like candidates for office. The independents and reformers are as bad as the late lamented, and for the same reason. It pays.[ Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The doctrine of states’ rights was itself a sound and true doctrine; as a starting point of American history and constitutional law there is no other which will bear a moment’s examination . . . its prostitution to the base uses of the slave power was one of those unfortunate enlargements which often perturb and mislead history Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
The effect of power and publicity on all men is an aggravation of self, a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim's sympathies. Power
The expressions of newspapers, like those of orators, could not be accepted without allowance, for they aimed at producing some desired effect, and said either more or less than the truth. Media, Journalism & The Press
The influence of banking mania on State legislatures could not fail to be corrupting. Corruption
The political field is amusing though somewhat saddening to the believer in human perfectibility. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The President [Madison] could no more prevent white settlers from selling liquor to the Indians than he could prevent the Wabash from flowing. Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs
The progress of evolution, from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.... Grant should have lived in a cave and worn skins. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
The rule that feeble and incompetent governments acquire strength by exercise, especially in war, has been well understood. Management & Managing Government
The Secretary of State exists only to recognize the existence of a world which Congress would rather ignore ... Since the first day the Senate existed, it has always intrigued against the Secretary of State ... Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The Secretary of State has always stood as much alone as the historian. Required to look far ahead and around him, he measures forces unknown to party managers, and has found Congress more or less hostile since Congress first sat. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The Southerner has no mind; he has temperament. He was not a scholar; he had no intellectual training; he could not analyze an idea, and he could not even conceive of even admitting two; but in life, one could get along very well without ideas, if one only had the social instincts. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
The spectacle of American politics resembles that of swarms of insects changing from worms to wings. They must get the wings or die. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
The success of any executive measure must now be bought by the use of political patronage in influencing the action of legislators. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
The Union and the Fathers belonged to no party, and might be used to advantage by orators of every section. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Theodore [Roosevelt] is never sober. Only he is drunk with himself and not with rum. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Theodore betrays his friends for his own ambition. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
There are two things that seem to be at the bottom of our constitutions; one is a continual tendency towards politics; the other is family pride; and it is strange how these two feelings run through all of us. Human Nature
They know enough who know how to learn. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
To the New England mind, roads, schools, clothes, and a clean face were connected as part of the law of order or divine system. Bad roads meant bad morals. The moral of this Virginia road was clear, and the boy fully learned it. Slavery was wicked, and slavery was the cause of this road’s badness which amounted to [a] social crime. Development & Growth ;Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
We ... deceive ourselves in believing that competition can secure for the public fair treatment in such cases. Business, Commerce & Finance
When a majority could benefit only its enemies by telling the truth, history shows that honorable men often preferred to tell what is untrue. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
When one nation is agreed in the policy of fighting another, any pretext will answer. War & Peace
When the day comes when it will be considered as disgraceful to be seen in a caucus as to be seen in a gambling house or brothel, then my interest will wake up again and legitimate politics will get a new birth. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
When we look at the history of the American Presidency, we are forced to conclude that Darwin had it backwards. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
With the use of religious and patriotic formulas, statesmen may sleep amidst the wreck of nations. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
Words are slippery and thoughts are vicious. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
You can't use tact with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog! You must take a stick and hit him on the snout! Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Young man, I have lived in this house many years and have seen the occupants of the White House across the square come and go, and nothing you minor officials or the occupant of that house can do will affect the history of the world for long. History
A man must now swallow more belief than he can digest.
Absolute liberty is absence of restraint; responsibility is restraint; therefore, the ideally free individual is responsible to himself.
Accident counts for as much in companionship as in marriage. Families, Children & Parenting
American society is a sort of flat, fresh-water pond which absorbs silently, without reaction, anything which is thrown into it. Society
At best, the renewal of broken relations is a nervous matter.
Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit. Life ;History
Every man who has at last succeeded, after long effort, in calling up the divinity which lies hidden in a woman's heart, is startled to find that he must obey the God he summoned. Religion & God
Everyone carries his own inch rule of taste, and amuses himself by applying it, triumphantly, wherever he travels. Travel
Friends are born, not made. Friendship
He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I am an anarchist in politics and an impressionist in art as well as a symbolist in literature. Not that I understand what these terms mean, but I take them to be all merely synonyms of pessimist. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I have written too much history to have faith in it; and if anyone thinks I'm wrong, I am inclined to agree with him. History ;Religion & God
I tell you the solemn truth, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so difficult to accept for a working proposition as any one of the axioms of physics. Truth
Intimates are predestined.
It is always good men who do the most harm in the world.
It is impossible to underrate human intelligence - beginning with one's own.
Man is an imperceptible atom always trying to become one with God. Religion & God
Morality is a private and costly luxury.
No man likes to have his intelligence or good faith questioned, especially if he has doubts about it himself. Religion & God
Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, three are hardly possible. Friendship needs a certain parallelism of life, a community of thought, a rivalry of aim. Life ;Friendship
Only on the edge of the grave can man conclude anything.
Philosophy: Unintelligible answers to insoluble problems.
Politics, as a practise, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Politics... have always been the systematic organization of hatreds. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Power is poison. Its effect on Presidents had always been tragic. Power
Power when wielded by abnormal energy is the most serious of facts. Power
Simplicity is the most deceitful mistress that ever betrayed man.
Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race can commit suicide by blowing up the world. Power ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Susceptibility to the highest forces is the highest genius.
Thank God, I never was cheerful. I come from the happy stock of the Mathers, who, as you remember, passed sweet mornings reflecting on the goodness of God and the damnation of infants. Religion & God
The American President resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek.
The difference is slight, to the influence of an author, whether he is read by five hundred readers, or by five hundred thousand; if he can select the five hundred, he reaches the five hundred thousand.
The effect of power and publicity on all men is the aggravation of self, a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim's sympathies. Power
The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled. Life
The press is the hired agent of a monied system, and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where their interests are involved. One can trust nobody and nothing. Trust
The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant was alone evidence to upset Darwin.
The proper study of mankind is woman.
The woman who is known only through a man is known wrong.
There is no such thing as an underestimate of average intelligence.
We combat obstacles in order to get repose, and when got, the repose is insupportable.
Young men have a passion for regarding their elders as senile.