Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
  • Born: March 8, 1841
  • Died: March 6, 1935
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Judge

112

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73

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254

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Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States in January–February 1930. Noted for his long service, concise and pithy opinions, and deference to the decisions of elected legislatures, he is one of the most widely cited United States Supreme Court justices in history, particularly for his "clear and present danger" opinion for a unanimous Court in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States, and is one of the most influential American common law judges, honored during his lifetime in Great Britain as well as the United States. Holmes retired from the court at the age of 90, making him the oldest justice in the Supreme Court's history. He also served as an Associate Justice and as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and was Weld Professor of Law at his alma mater, Harvard Law School.

Quotes About
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Quotes
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[Wiretapping is] a dirty business…. [Espionage] has been employed by every tribe and state since the beginning of history. Intelligence, Spying, Espionage & Covert Operations
… the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
… three generations of imbeciles are enough. Families, Children & Parenting
A body of law is more rational and more civilized when every rule it contains is referred articulately and definitely to an end which it subserves and when the grounds for desiring that end are stated, or are ready to be stated in words. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
A Constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory... It is made for people of fundamentally differing views … Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Social Sciences
A great man represents a strategic point in the campaign of history, and part of his greatness consists of his being there. Leaders & Leadership
A lawyer’s place is in the fray. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles. Human Nature ;Money, Coins & Minting
A page of history is worth a volume of logic History
A page of history is worth a volume of logic. History
A question like the present should he disposed of without undue delay. But a State cannot he expected to move with the celerity of a private business man; it is enough if it proceeds, in the language of the English Chancery, with all deliberate speed. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure. Environment & Environmentalism
A second-class intellect—but a first-class temperament! Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged. It is the skin of a living thought and may vary in color and context according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cock sure of many things that were not so ... Human Nature
Deep-seated preferences cannot be argued about — you cannot argue a man into liking a glass of beer — and therefore, when differences are sufficiently far reaching, we try to kill the other man rather than let him have his way. But that is perfectly consistent with admitting that, so far as appears, his grounds are just as good as ours. Human Nature
Deportation is [not] a punishment; it is simply a refusal by the government to harbor persons whom it does not want. Immigration & Emigration
Eloquence may set fire to reason. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Every idea is an incitement. Freedom & Liberty
Form your ranks and fight! Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
Free competition is worth more to society than it costs. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Capitalism
General propositions do not decide concrete cases. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Get down, you fool! Military & Veterans
Great cases like hard cases make bad law. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
I believe that the defendants had as much right to publish as the Government has to publish the Constitution. Freedom & Liberty
I have spent seventy years finding out that I am not God. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
I think it less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
I was driven years ago to the conclusion that political considerations had not hurt the character of appointments here [the supreme court].
If my fellow citizens want to go to Hell I will help them. It's my job. Democracies & Republics
If there is any matter upon which civilized countries have agreed ... it is the evil of premature and excessive child labor. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought--not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate. Constitution / Bills & Declaratiobns of Rights
If we are to look only at the words, then we inquire, not what this man meant, but what those words would mean in the mouth of a normal speaker. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
It is as it should be that the law is behind the times. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
It is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return. Citizenship & Patriotism
It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
It is the merit of the common law that it decides the case first and determines the principles afterward. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of [a work], outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. At the one extreme some works of genius would be sure to miss appreciation. Their very novelty would make them repulsive until the public had learned the new language in which their author spoke. Freedom & Liberty
It would need more than the 19th Amendment to convince me that there are no differences between men and women, or that legislation cannot take those differences into account. Minorities & Women
Law is not a science, but is essentially empirical. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Law is the prophecy of what a court will do. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Legislatures are ultimate guardians of the liberties and welfare of the people in quite as great a degree as the courts. Freedom & Liberty
Men must turn square corners when they deal with the Government. Government ;Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
One may criticize even what one reveres. Media, Journalism & The Press
Our system of morals is a body of imperfect social generalizations expressed in terms of emotion. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
Taxes are what pays for a civilized society. Taxes
The advice of elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books. Families, Children & Parenting
The aim of the law is not to punish sins, but is to prevent certain external results. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. Human Nature
The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
The criterion of constitutionality is not whether we believe the law to be for the public good. Constitution / Bills & Declaratiobns of Rights
The jury has … the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both law and facts. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The most enlightened judicial policy is to let people manage their own business in their own way. Business, Commerce & Finance
The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting “Fire!” in a theater and causing a panic. Freedom & Liberty
The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. Freedom & Liberty
The notion that a business is clothed with a public interest and has been devoted to the public use is little more than a fiction intended to beautify what is disagreeable to the sufferers. Business, Commerce & Finance
The only prize much cared for by the powerful is power. The prize of the general is not a bigger tent, but command. Power
The power to tax is not the power to destroy. Taxes
The speech at issue are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature that they present a clear and present danger that they would bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. Freedom & Liberty
The trusts are getting less than lawful rates from the railroads. Business, Commerce & Finance
The United States may give up the Post Office when it sees fit, but while it carries it on, the use of the mails is almost as much a part of free speech as the right to use our tongues. Media, Journalism & The Press
This Court always had disavowed the right to intrude its judgment upon questions of policy or morals Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
To an imagination of any scope the most far-reaching form of power is not money, it is the command of ideas. Power
To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. Human Nature
We … need education in the obvious – to learn to transcend our own convictions and to leave room for much that we hold dear to be done away with short of revolution by the orderly change of law. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
We admit that, in many places and in ordinary times, the defendants, in saying all that was said in the circular, would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. . . . The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
We are the Romans of the modern world—the great assimilating people. Immigration & Emigration
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country. Freedom & Liberty
When a legislature has intimated its will . . . that will should be recognized and obeyed. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
When twenty years ago a vague terror went over the earth and the word socialism began to be heard, I thought and still think that fear was translated into doctrines that had no proper place in the Constitution or the common law. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
When we are dealing with words that also are a constituent act, like the Constitution . . . we must realize that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation. The case before us must be considered in the light of our whole experience and not merely in what was said a hundred years ago. Constitution / Bills & Declaratiobns of Rights
While property may he regulated to a certain extent, if regulation goes too far it will he recognized as a taking. Regulation & Deregulation
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.
A new and valid idea is worth more than a regiment and fewer men can furnish the former than command the latter.
A new untruth is better than an old truth. Truth
A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used. Time
Any two philosophers can tell each other all they know in two hours.
Between two groups of people who want to make inconsistent kinds of worlds, I see no remedy but force.
Beware how you take away hope from another human being. Hope
Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.
Even for practical purposes theory generally turns out the most important thing in the end.
Every calling is great when greatly pursued.
Every idea is an incitement... eloquence may set fire to reason.
Every now and then a man's mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.
I despise making the most of one's time. Half of the pleasures of life consist of the opportunities one has neglected. Life ;Time
I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy - I don't disparage envy, but I don't accept it as legitimately my master. Respect ;Equality & Equal Opportunity
I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country. Death
If I were dying, my last words would be: Have faith and pursue the unknown end. Religion & God
If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate. Freedom & Liberty
It is very lonely sometimes, trying to play God. Religion & God
It seems to me that at this time we need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Time
Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke. Time ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it. Life
Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. Life
Most of the things we do, we do for no better reason than that our fathers have done them or our neighbors do them, and the same is true of a larger part than what we suspect of what we think.
On the whole, I am on the side of the unregenerate who affirms the worth of life as an end in itself, as against the saints who deny it. Life
People talk fundamentals and superlatives and then make some changes of detail.
The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books.
The great act of faith is when a man decides he is not God. Religion & God
The greatest act of faith is when a man understands he is not God. Religion & God
The language of judicial decision is mainly the language of logic. And the logical method and form flatter that longing for certainty and for repose which is in every human mind. But certainty generally is illusion, and repose is not the destiny of man.
The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts, but learning how to make facts live. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
The mode by which the inevitable comes to pass is effort.
The only prize much cared for by the powerful is power. Power
The rule of joy and the law of duty seem to me all one.
The rules of evidence in the main are based on experience, logic, and common sense, less hampered by history than some parts of the substantive law. History
Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. Life
To be civilized is to be potentially master of all possible ideas, and that means that one has got beyond being shocked, although one preserves one's own moral aesthetic preferences.
When in doubt, do it.
You make me chuckle when you say that you are no longer young, that you have turned twenty-four. A man is or may be young to after sixty, and not old before eighty.
Young man, the secret of my success is that an early age I discovered that I was not God. Religion & God ;Success