walter bagehot Quotes
Walter Bagehot QuotesBirth Date: 1826-02-03 (Friday, February 3rd, 1826)
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- A political country is like an American forest; you have only to cut down the old trees, and immediately new trees come up to replace them.
- But the mass of the old electors did not analyse very much: they liked to have one of their 'betters' to represent them; if he was rich they respected him much; and if he was a lord, they liked him the better. The issue put before these electors was, which of two rich people will you choose? And each of those rich people was put forward by great parties whose notions were the notions of the rich - whose plans were their plans. The electors only selected one or two wealthy men to carry out the schemes of one or two wealthy associations.
- In excited states of the public mind they have scarcely a discretion at all; the tendency of the public perturbation determines what shall and what shall not be dealt with. But, upon the other hand, in quiet times statesmen have great power; when there is no fire lighted, they can settle what fire shall be lit. And as the new suffrage is happily to be tried in a quiet time, the responsibility of our statesmen is great because their power is great too.
- Under a cabinet constitution at a sudden emergency this people can choose a ruler for the occasion. It is quite possible and even likely that he would not be ruler before the occasion. The great qualities, the imperious will, the rapid energy, the eager nature fit for a great crisis are not required - are impediments - in common times. A Lord Liverpool is better in everyday politics than a Chatham - a Louis Philippe far better than a Napoleon. By the structure of the world we want, at the sudden occurrence of a grave tempest, to change the helmsman - to replace the pilot of the calm by the pilot of the storm.
- A cabinet is a combining committee, - a hyphen which joins, a buckle which fastens, the legislative part of the state to the executive part of the state. In its origin it belongs to the one, in its functions it belongs to the other.
- The Sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights - the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn.
- Nations touch at their summits.
- Whatever expenditure is sanctioned - even when it is sanctioned against the ministry's wish - the ministry must find the money. Accordingly, they have the strongest motive to oppose extra outlay.... The ministry is (so to speak) the breadwinner of the political family, and has to meet the cost of philanthropy and glory; just as the head of a family has to pay for the charities of his wife and the toilette of his daughters.
- The caucus is a sort of representative meeting which sits voting and voting till they have cut out all the known men against whom much is to be said, and agreed on some unknown man against whom there is nothing known, and therefore nothing to be alleged.
- Free government is self-government. A government of the people by the people. The best government of this sort is that which the people think best.
- The great difficulty which history records is not that of the first step, but that of the second step. What is most evident is not the difficulty of getting a fixed law, but getting out of a fixed law; not of cementing (as upon a former occasion I phrased it) a cake of custom, but of breaking the cake of custom; not of making the first preservative habit, but of breaking through it, and reaching something better.
- One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.
- All the inducements of early society tend to foster immediate action; all its penalties fall on the man who pauses; the traditional wisdom of those times was never weary of inculcating that 'delays are dangerous,' and that the sluggish man - the man 'who roasteth not that which he took in hunting' - will not prosper on the earth, and indeed will very soon perish out of it. And in consequence an inability to stay quiet, an irritable desire to act directly, is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind.
- I wish the art of benefiting men had kept pace with the art of destroying them; for though war has become slow, philanthropy has remained hasty. The most melancholy of human reflections, perhaps, is that, on the whole, it is a question whether the, benevolence of mankind does most good or harm. Great good, no doubt, philanthropy does, but then it also does great evil. It augments so much vice, it multiplies so much suffering, it brings to life such great populations to suffer and to be vicious, that it is open to argument whether it be or be not an evil to the world, and this is entirely because excellent people fancy that they can do much by rapid action - that they will most benefit the world when they most relieve their own feelings; that as soon as an evil is seen 'something' ought to be done to stay and prevent it.
- Most men of business think 'Anyhow this system will probably last my time. It has gone on a long time, and is likely to go on still.'
- Credit means that a certain confidence is given, and a certain trust reposed. Is that trust justified? and is that confidence wise? These are the cardinal questions. To put it more simply credit is a set of promises to pay; will those promises be kept?
- The less money lying idle the greater is the dividend.
- To a great experience one thing is essential - an experiencing nature.
- The purse strings tie us to our kind.
- The reason why so few good books are written is, that so few people that can write know anything. In general an author has always lived in a room, has read books, has cultivated science, is acquainted with the style and sentiments of the best authors, but he is out of the way of employing his own eyes and ears. He has nothing to hear and nothing to see. His life is a vacuum.
- A highly developed moral nature joined to an undeveloped intellectual nature, an undeveloped artistic nature, and a very limited religious nature, is of necessity repulsive. It represents a bit of human nature - a good bit, of course, but a bit only - in disproportionate, unnatural and revolting prominence.
- A constitutional statesman is in general a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities.
- You may talk of the tyranny of Nero and Tiberius; but the real tyranny is the tyranny of your next-door neighbor... Public opinion is a permeating influence, and it exacts obedience to itself; it requires us to think other men's thoughts, to speak other men's words, to follow other men's habits.
- It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptations.
- [Of Guizot] A Puritan born in France by mistake.
- A Parliament is nothing less than a big meeting of more or less idle people.
- A princely marriage is the brilliant edition of a universal fact, and, as such, it rivets mankind.
- A schoolmaster should have an atmosphere of awe, and walk wonderingly, as if he was amazed at being himself.
- A severe though not unfriendly critic of our institutions said that the cure for admiring the House of Lords was to go and look at it.
- A slight daily unconscious luxury is hardly ever wanting to the dwellers in civilization; like the gentle air of a genial climate, it is a perpetual minute enjoyment.
- All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality - the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.
- An ambassador is not simply an agent; he is also a spectacle.
- An element of exaggeration clings to the popular judgment: great vices are made greater, great virtues greater also; interesting incidents are made more interesting, softer legends more soft.
- An influential member of parliament has not only to pay much money to become such, and to give time and labour, he has also to sacrifice his mind too - at least all the characteristics part of it that which is original and most his own.
- Conquest is the missionary of valor, and the hard impact of military virtues beats meanness out of the world.
- Dullness in matters of government is a good sign, and not a bad one - in particular, dullness in parliamentary government is a test of its excellence, an indication of its success.
- History is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world gave a chance for it.
- In every particular state of the world, those nations which are strongest tend to prevail over the others; and in certain marked peculiarities the strongest tend to be the best.
- It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations; but it would be truer to say they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations.
- Men who do not make advances to women are apt to become victims to women who make advances to them.
- Much has been written about panics and manias, much more than with the most outstretched intellect we are able to follow or conceive; but one thing is certain, that at particular times a great deal of stupid people have a great deal of stupid money.
- No real English gentleman, in his secret soul, was ever sorry for the death of a political economist.
- Open-mindedness should not be fostered because, as Scripture teaches, Truth is great and will prevail, nor because, as Milton suggests, Truth will always win in a free and open encounter. It should be fostered for its own sake.
- Poverty is an anomaly to rich people; it is very difficult to make out why people who want dinner do not ring the bell.
- So long as war is the main business of nations, temporary despotism - despotism during the campaign - is indispensable.
- The being without an opinion is so painful to human nature that most people will leap to a hasty opinion rather than undergo it.
- The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government. The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.
- The greatest mistake is trying to be more agreeable than you can be.
- The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
- The habit of common and continuous speech is a symptom of mental deficiency.
- The most intellectual of men are moved quite as much by the circumstances which they are used to as by their own will. The active voluntary part of a man is very small, and if it were not economized by a sleepy kind of habit, its results would be null.
- The whole history of civilization is strewn with creeds and institutions which were invaluable at first, and deadly afterwards.
- We must not let daylight in upon the magic.
- What impresses men is not mind, but the result of mind.
- Woman absent is woman dead.
- Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders.
- Honor sinks where commerce long prevails.
- I started out by believing God for a newer car than the one I was driving. I started out believing God for a nicer apartment than I had. Then I moved up.
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