“What, gracious God, is man! that there should be such inconsistency & perfidiousness in his conduct?” – George Washington, “Letter to David Humphreys”, December 26, 1786
“Human freedom stands out as an apparent fact of our consciousness, while it is also, I conceive, a highly probable deduction of analogy from the nature of that portion of the mind whose scientific constitution we are able to investigate. But whether accepted as a fact reposing on consciousness, or as a conclusion sanctioned by the reason, it must be so interpreted as not to conflict with an established result of observation, viz.: that phænomena, in the production of which large masses of men are concerned, do actually exhibit a very remarkable degree of regularity, enabling us to collect in each succeeding age the elements upon which the estimate of its state and progress, so far as manifested in outward results, must depend.” – George Boole, The Laws of Thought
“It is the business of science not to create laws, but to discover them. We do not originate the constitution of our own minds, greatly as it may be in our power to modify their character. And as the laws of the human intellect do not depend upon our will, so the forms of the science, of which they constitute the basis, are in all essential regards independent of individual choice.” – George Boole, The Laws of Thought
“Nothing is so mistaken as the supposition, that a person is to extricate himself from a difficulty, by intrigue, by chicanery, by dissimulation, by trimming, by an untruth, by an injustice. This increases the difficulties ten fold; and those who pursue these methods, get themselves so involved at length, that they can turn no way but their infamy becomes more exposed. It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Peter Carr”, August 19, 1785
“Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” – Chief Justice Earl Warren, “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (No. 1), May 17, 1954”
“It is to be regretted, I confess, that Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow—but the people will be right at last.” – George Washington, “Letter to Marquis de Lafayette”, July 25, 1785 (emphases in original)
“While not only every personal artifice is employed by a few heated and inconsiderate spirits, to practise upon the passions of the people, but the public papers are made the channel of the most inflammatory and pernicious doctrines, tending to the subversion of all private security and genuine liberty; it would be culpable in those who understand and value the true interests of the community to be silent spectators. It is, however, a common observation, that men, bent upon mischief, are more active in the pursuit of their object, than those who aim at doing good.” – Alexander Hamilton, “A Letter from Phocion to the Considerate Citizens of New-York on the Politics of the Day”
“In the various Enumerations of the moral Virtues I had met with in my Reading, I found the Catalogue more or less numerous, as different Writers included more or fewer Ideas under the same Name. Temperance, for Example, was by some confin’d to Eating & Drinking, while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other Pleasure, Appetite, Inclination, or Passion, bodily or mental, even to our Avarice & Ambition. I propos’d to myself, for the sake of Clearness, to use rather more Names with fewer Ideas; and I included under Thirteen Names of Virtues all that at that time occurr’d to me as necessary or desirable, and annex’d to each a short Precept, which fully express’d the Extent I gave to its Meaning.—
These Names of Virtues with their Precepts were
Eat not to Dulness
Drink not to Elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or your self. Avoid trifling Conversation.
Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.
Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no Expence but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
Lose no Time.—Be always employ’d in something useful.—Cut off all unecessary Actions.—
Use no hurtful Deceit.
Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak; speak accordingly.
Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.
Avoid Extreams. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Cloaths, or Habitation.—
Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dulness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another’s Peace or Reputation.—
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.—
– Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography
“Let us preserve our reputation by performing our engagements; our credit by fulfilling our contracts; and friends by gratitude and kindness; for we know not how soon we may again have occasion for all of them.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to Samuel Mather”, May 12, 1784
“Ambition and avarice are each of them strong Passions, and when they are united in the same Persons, and have the same Objects in view for their Gratification, they are too strong for Public Spirit and Love of Country, and are apt to produce the most violent Factions and Contentions.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to William Strahan”, February 16, 1784
“Industry and constant Employment are great Preservatives of the Morals and Virtue of a Nation.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Information for Those Who Would Remove to America”
“A country whose buildings are of wood, can never increase in its improvements to any considerable degree. Their duration is highly estimated at 50 years. Every half century then our country becomes a tabula rasa, whereon we have to set out anew, as in the first moment of seating it. Whereas when buildings are of durable materials, every new edifice is an actual and permanent acquisition to the state, adding to its value as well as to its ornament.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
“The only public buildings worthy mention are the Capitol, the Palace, the College, and the Hospital for Lunatics.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
“The private buildings are very rarely constructed of stone or brick; much the greatest proportion being of scantling and boards, plastered with lime. It is impossible to devise things more ugly, uncomfortable, and happily more perishable.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
“The poor, unable to support themselves, are maintained by an assessment on the titheable persons in their parish. This assessment is levied and administered by twelve persons in each parish, called vestrymen, originally chosen by the housekeepers of the parish, but afterwards filling vacancies in their own body by their own choice. These are usually the most discreet farmers, so distributed throughout their parish, that every part of it may be under the immediate eye of some one of them. They are well acquainted with the details and œconomy of private life, and they find sufficient inducements to execute their charge well, in their philanthropy, in the approbation of their neighbours, and the distinction which that gives them. The poor who have neither property, friends, nor strength to labour, are boarded in the houses of good farmers, to whom a stipulated sum is annually paid. To those who are able to help themselves a little, or have friends from whom they derive some succours, inadequate however to their full maintenance, supplementary aids are given, which enable them to live comfortably in their own houses, or in the houses of their friends. Vagabonds, without visible property or vocation, are placed in workhouses, where they are well cloathed, fed, lodged, and made to labour. Nearly the same method of providing for the poor prevails through all our states; and from Savannah to Portsmouth you will seldom meet a beggar. In the larger towns indeed they sometimes present themselves. These are usually foreigners, who have never obtained a settlement in any parish.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
“The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold on us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
“In Great-Britain it is said their constitution relies on the house of commons for honesty, and the lords for wisdom; which would be a rational reliance if honesty were to be bought with money, and if wisdom were hereditary.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
“Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word consider how it is spelt, and if you do not remember it, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Martha Jefferson”, November 28, 1783
“How far men, who labour under the pressure of accumulated distress, and are irritated by a belief that they are treated with neglect, ingratitude, and injustice in the extreme, might be worked upon by designing men, is worthy of very serious consideration.” – George Washington, “Letter to Lund Washington”, March 19, 1783
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. Let your heart feel for the affliction, and distresses of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse; remembering always, the estimation of the Widows mite. But, that it is not every one who asketh, that deserveth charity; all however are worthy of the enquiry, or the deserving may suffer. Do not conceive that fine Cloaths make fine Men, any more than fine feathers make fine Birds. A plain genteel dress is more admired and obtains more credit than lace and embroidery in the Eyes of the judicious and sensible.” – George Washington, “Letter to Bushrod Washington”, January 15, 1783 (emphases in original)
“I want my poems to have edges. To be more like a photograph than a movie. 35mm, a rule of dimensions: what is and is not in the shot. If you want to include more in the image than will fit, you have to change where you stand. Either that or change the world: Move the saltshaker in front of the woman. Ask her to scoot closer to the light. In the poem, I can pretend the saltshaker was there, or neglect mention of it. The woman can keep moving. I’m writing her in one way, but this is not how it is, she’s already out of the light, and though I call her back, she’s gone. The room is a room and goes around me in every direction, populated with objects I can’t hope to include. I move close to the saltshaker and find that it’s filled with tiny stones. This isn’t true, but I live in the lawless room of the stanza. Every image I write is a lie. I feel guilty and proud.” – Victoria Kornick, “Migraine Season”
“A Suedish Minister having assembled the Chiefs of the Sasquehanah Indians, made a Sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical Facts on which our Religion is founded, such as the Fall of our first Parents by Eating an Apple, the Coming of Christ to repair the Mischief, his Miracles and Suffering, &c. When he had finished, an Indian Orator stood up to thank him. What you have told us, says he, is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat Apples. It is better to make them all into Cyder. We are much obliged by your Kindness in coming so far to tell us those things which you have heard from your Mothers. In Return I will tell you some of those we have heard from ours. In the Beginning our Fathers had only the Flesh of Animals to subsist on, and if their Hunting was unsuccessful, they were starving. Two of our young Hunters having killed a Deer, made a Fire in the Woods to broil some Parts of it. When they were about to satisfy their Hunger, they beheld a beautiful young Woman descend from the Clouds, and seat herself on that Hill which you see yonder among the blue Mountains. They said to each other, it is a Spirit which perhaps has smelt our broiling Venison, & wishes to eat of it: let us offer some to her. They presented her with the Tongue: She was pleased with the Taste of it, & said, your Kindness shall be rewarded. Come to this Place after thirteen Moons, and you shall find something that will be of great Benefit in nourishing you and your Children to the latest Generations. They did so, and to their Surprise found Plants they had never seen before, but which from that ancient time have been constantly cultivated among us to our great Advantage. Where her right Hand had touched the Ground, they found Maize; where her left hand had touch’d it, they found Kidney-beans; and where her Backside had sat on it, they found Tobacco. The good Missionary disgusted with this idle Tale, said, what I delivered to you were sacred Truths; but what you tell me is mere Fable, Fiction & Falsehood. The Indian offended, reply’d, my Brother, it seems your Friends have not done you Justice in your Education; they have not well instructed you in the Rules of common Civility. You saw that we who understand and practice those Rules, believed all your Stories; why do you refuse to believe ours?” – Benjamin Franklin, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”
“Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the Perfection of Civility; they think the same of theirs. Perhaps if we could examine the manners of different Nations with Impartiality, we should find no People so rude as to be without any Rules of Politeness; nor any so polite as not to have some remains of Rudeness. The Indian Men, when young, are Hunters and Warriors; when old, Counsellors; for all their Government is by the Counsel or Advice of the Sages; there is no Force, there are no Prisons, no Officers to compel Obedience, or inflict Punishment. Hence they generally study Oratory; the best Speaker having the most Influence. The Indian Women till the Ground, dress the Food, nurse and bring up the Children, and preserve and hand down to Posterity the Memory of Public Transactions. These Employments of Men and Women are accounted natural and honorable. Having few Artificial Wants, they have abundance of Leisure for Improvement by Conversation. Our laborious manner of Life compared with theirs, they esteem slavish and base; and the Learning on which we value ourselves; they regard as frivolous and useless.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”
“Wherever a discretionary power is lodged in any set of men over the property of their neighbours, they will abuse it. Their passions, prejudices, dislikes, will have the principal lead in measuring the abilities of those over whom their power extends; and assessors will ever be a set of petty tyrants, too unskilful, if honest, to be possessed of so delicate a trust, and too seldom honest to give them the excuse of want of skill.” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Continentalist No. VI”
“It is impossible to devise any specific tax, that will operate equally on the whole community. It must be the province of the legislature to hold the scales with a judicious hand and ballance one by another. The rich must be made to pay for their luxuries, which is the only proper way of taxing their superior wealth.” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Continentalist No. VI”
“Experience will teach us, that no government costs so much as a bad one.” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Continentalist No. VI”
“We may destroy our civilization, but we cannot escape it. We may savor a soured remorse at the growth of civilization, but that will yield us no large or lasting reward. There is no turning back: our only way is a radical struggle for the City of the Just.” – Irving Howe, “The City in Literature”
“I have come to be convinced that it is only the unbending observance of custom that sustains life in an urban circumstance.” – Gordon Lish, What I Know So Far
“The suspicion of the city and all it represents seems to run so deeply in our culture that it would be impossible to eradicate it, even if anyone were naive enough to wish to. In its sophisticated variants it is a suspicion necessary for sanity, if only because modern civilization cannot yield very much to its demands. And perhaps, for all we know, it is a suspicion emblematic of some ineradicable tragedy in the human condition: the knowledge that makes us cherish innocence makes innocence unattainable.” – Irving Howe, “The City in Literature”
“The suspicion of artifice and cultivation, the belief in the superior moral and therapeutic uses of the ‘natural,’ the fear that corruption must follow upon a high civilization—such motifs appear to be strongly ingrained in Western Christianity and the civilization carrying it. There are Sodom and Gomorrah. There is the whore of Babylon. There is the story of Joseph and his brothers, charmingly anticipating a central motif within modern fiction: Joseph, who must leave the pastoral setting of his family because he is too smart to spend his life with sheep, prepares for a series of tests, ventures into the court of Egypt, and then, beyond temptation, returns to his fathers. And there is the story of Jesus, shepherd of his flock. Western culture bears, then, a deeply-grounded tradition that sees the city as a place both inimical and threatening. It bears, also, another tradition, both linked and opposed, sacred and secular: we need only remember St. Augustine’s City of God or Aristotle’s view that ‘Men come together in the city in order to live, they remain there in order to live the good life.’ ” – Irving Howe, “The City in Literature”