Quotations by Washington, George


I also give it in charge to you to avoid all disrespect of the religion of the country, and its ceremonies. Prudence, policy, and a true Christian spirit, will lead us to look wit compassion up their errors without insulting them. While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case are they answerable.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force,” letter to Benedict Arnold (14 Sep 1775)
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Regarding the invasion of (Catholic) Quebec, Canada.
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It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a People always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
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It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)

Full address
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The basis of our political systems is the right of the people make and alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
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The very idea of the power and the right of the People to establish Government presupposes the duty of every Individual to obey the established Government.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
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They will avoid the necessity of those overgrown Military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
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Timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
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In proportion as the structure of a government gives forces to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
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No taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Farewell Address” (17 Sep 1796)
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It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport,” Rhode Island (17 Aug 1790)

Full text.
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The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Letter to the members of the Volunteer Association and other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland who have lately arrived in the City of New York” (2 Dec 1783)
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Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
“Rules of Civility” (1747)
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Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; promises successes to the weak, and esteem to all.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
(Attributed)
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Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
(Attributed)

Unsourced. First attributed to "The First President of the United States" in "Liberty and Government" by W. M., in The Christian Science Journal (Nov 1902) ed. Mary Baker Eddy.

Variant: "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."

More information here.

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Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
(Attributed)
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When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Copybook (1748)

From Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, #44, an update of Decency of Conversation Among Men by French Jesuits (1595) [tr. Hawkins (1640)].
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There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Farewell Address (17 Sep 1796) [with A. Hamilton]
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There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Fifth Annual Message, Philadelphia (3 Dec 1793)
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Should, hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by the Supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchm[en]t can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
First Inaugural Address, draft (Apr 1789)
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Still I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of an honest man.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Alexander Hamilton (28 Aug 1788)
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Do not conceive that fine Clothes make fine Men, any more than fine feathers make fine Birds.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Bushrod Washington (15 Jan 1783)
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[Gambling] is the child of Avarice, the brother of Iniquity, and father of Mischief.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Bushrod Washington (15 Jan 1783)
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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.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Bushrod Washington (15 Jan 1783)
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While we are contending for our own Liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the Rights of Conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the Judge of the Hearts of Men, and to him only in this Case, they are answerable.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Col. Benedict Arnold (14 Sep. 1775)
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The aggregate happiness of the society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all government.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Comte de Moustier (1 Nov 1790)
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Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Edward Newenham (30 Oct 1792)
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Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother’s Sword has been sheathed in a Brother’s breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to George William Fairfax (31 May 1775)
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To persevere in one’s duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Gov. William Livingston (7 Dec 1779)
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It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Harriet Washington (30 Oct 1791)
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Though I prize, as I ought, the good opinion of my fellow citizens; yet, if I know myself, I would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee (22 Sep 1788)
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Integrity and firmness is all I can promise; these, be the voyage long or short, never shall forsake me although I may be deserted by all men. For of the consolations which are to be derived from these (under any circumstances) the world cannot deprive me.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Henry Knox (1 Apr 1789)

Written four weeks before assuming the Presidency.
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My movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit, who is going to the place of his execution: so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities, and inclination, which is necessary to manage the helm.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Henry Knox (1 Apr 1789)

To the Acting Secretary of War, just prior to Washington's assuming the Presidency.
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To trust altogether in the justice of our cause, without our own utmost exertions, would be tempting Providence.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Jonathan Trumbull (7 Aug 1776)
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We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to the New Church (22 Jan 1793)
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If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (May 1789)
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To persevere in one’s duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to William Livingston (7 Dec 1779)
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If Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Speech to the Officers at Newburgh (15 Mar 1783)
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There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
State of the Union (8 Jan 1790)
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