Quotations about   crime

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Few love to hear the sins they love to act.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Pericles, Act 1, sc. 1 (1607)
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Added on 3-Nov-21 | Last updated 3-Nov-21
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There are crimes I don’t commit mainly because I don’t want to find out I could.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays #124 (2001)
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Added on 13-Jul-21 | Last updated 13-Jul-21
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To think yourself incapable of crime is one failure of the imagination. To think yourself capable of all crimes is another.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays, #122 (2001)
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Added on 29-Jun-21 | Last updated 29-Jun-21
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We may then lay down this rule of friendship — neither ask nor consent to do what is wrong. For the plea “for friendship’s sake” is a discreditable one, and not to be admitted for a moment. This rule holds good for all wrong-doing, but more especially in such as involves disloyalty to the republic.

[Haec igitur lex in amicitia sanciatur, ut neque rogemus res turpes nec faciamus rogati. Turpis enim excusatio est et minime accipienda cum in ceteris peccatis, tum si quis contra rem publicam se amici causa fecisse fateatur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 12 / sec. 40 (44 BC) [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]
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Original Latin. Alternate translations:

Let this law therefore be established in friendship, viz., that we should neither ask things that are improper, nor grant them when asked; for it is a disgraceful apology, and by no means to be admitted, as well in the case of other offenses, as when any one avows he has acted against the state for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

As to friendship, then, let this law be enacted, that we neither ask of a friend what is wrong, nor do what is wrong at a friend’s request. The plea that it was for a friend’s sake is a base apology, -- one that should never be admitted with regard to other forms of guilt, and certainly not as to crimes against the State.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

Therefore let this law be established in friendship: neither ask dishonourable things, nor do them, if asked. And dishonourable it certainly is, and not to be allowed, for anyone to plead in defence of sins in general and especially of those against the State, that he committed them for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

Therefore, let this law be established for friendship: that we should neither ask for foul things nor fulfill requests for them. For this is a foul excuse and ought not be accepted for any crime, but especially not if someone is shown to have placed themselves against the Republic for the sake of a friend.
[Source]

Added on 26-Apr-21 | Last updated 26-Apr-21
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Oh, but I hate it more
when a traitor, caught red-handed,
tries to glorify his crimes.

[μισῶ γε μέντοι χὤταν ἐν κακοῖσί τις
ἁλοὺς ἔπειτα τοῦτο καλλύνειν θέλῃ.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 495ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 552ff]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Howbeit, to me it is no less abhorrent,
When, caught in criminality, the culprit
Seeks with fine words to beautify his deed.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

More hateful still the miscreant who seeks
When caught, to make a virtue of a crime.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

But not less hateful
Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught
In wickedness would give it a brave show.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

But, truly, I detest it, too, when one who has been caught in treachery then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

I cannot bear to see the guilty stand
Convicted of their crimes, and yet pretend
To gloss them o'er with specious names of virtue.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

But verily this, too, is hateful, -- when one who hath been caught in wickedness then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

But now much worse than this
Is brazen boasting of barefaced anarchy.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 390ff]

The criminal who being caught still tries.
To make a fair excuse , is damned indeed.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 414ff]

I hate it too when someone caught in crime
then wants to make it seem a lovely thing.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

But this is worst of all: to be convicted
And then to glorify the name as virtue.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

But how I hate it when she's caught in the act, And the criminal still glories in her crime. [tr. Woodruff (2001)]

I hate it when someone, caught in ugliness, afterwards wants to make it look pretty. [tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

And there’s nothing I hate more than when someone is caught committing a crime and tries to hide it by embellishing it with sweet words.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

How I despise
a person caught committing evil acts
who then desires to glorify the crime.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 562ff]

I, for my part, hate anyone caught in the act who tries to beautify his crimes thereupon.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

I hate it when someone is caught in the midst of their evil deeds and tries to gloss over them.
[tr. @sentantiq (2020)]

Added on 18-Mar-21 | Last updated 18-Mar-21
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When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“On Violence,” Crises of the Republic (1972)
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Added on 11-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-Mar-21
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No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes. On the contrary, whatever the punishment, once a specific crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its initial emergence could ever have been.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Epilogue (1963)
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Added on 28-Jul-20 | Last updated 28-Jul-20
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Men of faith know that throughout history the crimes committed in liberty’s name have been exceeded only by those committed in God’s name.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Mills E. Godwin, Governor of Virginia (Dec 1966)

On KKK cross-burnings. Quoted in various papers of the time.
Added on 11-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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For the propaganda of totalitarian movements which precede and accompany totalitarian regimes is invariably as frank as it is mendacious, and would-be totalitarian rulers usually start their careers by boasting of their past crimes and carefully outlining their future ones. The Nazis were “convinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction,” Bolshevik assurances inside and outside Russia that they do not recognize ordinary moral standards have become a mainstay of Communist propaganda, and experience has proven time and again that the propaganda value of evil deeds and general contempt for moral standards is independent of mere self-interest, supposedly the most powerful psychological factor in politics.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 1, sec. 1 (1951)
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Added on 28-Apr-20 | Last updated 28-Apr-20
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Oh dear, I’m feeling political today. It’s just that it’s dawned on me that “zero tolerance” only seems to mean putting extra police in poor, run-down areas, and not in the Stock Exchange.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (11 Jan 1997)
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Added on 24-Apr-20 | Last updated 24-Apr-20
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Satchelmouth was by no means averse to the finger-foxtrot and the skull fandango, but he’d never murdered anyone, at least on purpose. Satchelmouth had been made aware that he had a soul and, though it had a few holes in it and was a little ragged around the edges, he cherished the hope that some day the god Reg would find him a place in a celestial combo. You didn’t get the best gigs if you were a murderer. You probably had to play the viola.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Soul Music (1994)
Added on 13-Mar-20 | Last updated 13-Mar-20
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Things seem to tend downward, to justify despondency, to promote rogues, to defeat the just; and by knaves as well as by martyrs the just cause is carried forward. Although knaves win in every political struggle, although society seems to be delivered over from the hands of one set of criminals into the hands of another set of criminals, as fast as the government is changed, and the march of civilization is a train of felonies, yet, general ends are somehow answered.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Montaigne; or, The Skeptic,” Representative Men, Lecture 4 (1850)
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Added on 28-Oct-19 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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Be it observed, that the most superstitious times have always been those of the most horrible crimes.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
“Superstition,” sec. 4, Philosophical Dictionary (1764) [tr. Besterman (1971)]
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Added on 2-Jun-17 | Last updated 2-Jun-17
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For de little stealin’ dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin’ dey makes you Emperor and puts you in de Hall o’ Fame when you croaks.

oneill-dey-makes-you-emperor-wist_info-quote

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) Irish American playwright, Nobel laureate
The Emperor Jones, 1 (1921)
Added on 23-Nov-16 | Last updated 23-Nov-16
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Money dishonestly acquired is never worth its cost, while a good conscience never costs as much as it is worth.

Jean-Antoine Petit-Senn (1792-1870) French-Swiss poet
Maxims and Ethical Sentences
Added on 26-Jul-16 | Last updated 26-Jul-16
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I am convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile.

Tom C. Clark (1899-1977) American lawyer, US Attorney General, US Supreme Court Justice (1949-1967)
(Attributed)

Speaking of recreational programs to reduce juvenile delinquency. Quoted in Reader's Digest, Vol. 60 (1952). Restated as "I still believe that any boy would rather steal second base than an automobile" in Washington World, Vol. 3 (1963).
Added on 6-Jan-16 | Last updated 6-Jan-16
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When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard.
The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“When evil-doing comes like falling rain [Wenn die Untat kommt, wie der Regen fällt]” (1935) [tr. Willett]
Added on 19-Nov-15 | Last updated 19-Nov-15
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No man was ever more than about nine meals away from crime or suicide.

Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) American journalist [Arnold Eric Sevareid]
“A New Kind of Leadership,” speech, Conference on Vision Care, Washington, DC (26 Apr 1974)

For more discussion of this and other closely parallel quotations, see: There Are Only Nine Meals Between Mankind and Anarchy – Quote Investigator.
Added on 1-Oct-15 | Last updated 3-May-22
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I hear much of People’s calling out to punish the Guilty, but very few are concern’d to clear the Innocent.

Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731) English journalist and novelist
An Appeal to Honour and Justice, Tho’ it be of His Worse Enemies (1715)
Added on 17-Feb-15 | Last updated 17-Feb-15
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There is no such thing as success in a bad business.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927) [ed. Elbert Hubbard II]
Added on 6-Feb-15 | Last updated 6-Feb-15
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They had Gebert down there, slapping him around and squealing and yelling at him. If you’re so sure violence is inferior technique, you should have seen that exhibition; it was wonderful. They say it works sometimes, but even if it does, how could you depend on anything you got that way? Not to mention that after you had done it a few times any decent garbage can would be ashamed to have you found in it.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Red Box, ch. 14 [Archie] (1937)

Describing a police interrogation.
Added on 6-Mar-14 | Last updated 6-Mar-14
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Remember that those of us who are both civilized and prudent commit our murders only under the complicated rules which permit us to avoid personal responsibility.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
Fer-de-Lance, Nero Wolfe, chapter 16 (1934)
Added on 30-Jan-14 | Last updated 30-Jan-14
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It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
(Attributed)

Cited in some cases as the closing argument while defending the British Soldiers accused of killing 5 colonists in the "Boston Massacre" (usually given as "Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials" (Dec 1770)), but I did not find it in accounts of that defense.
Added on 7-Jul-11 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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My wife should be as much free from suspicion of a crime as she is from a crime itself.

[Meos tam suspicione quam crimine iudico carere oportere.]

Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) Roman general and statesman [Gaius Julius Caesar]
In Suetonius, Life of Caesar

Popularly, "Caesar’s wife must be above reproach" or "beyond reproach."

Caesar was called to be a witness against Clodius, who was charge with having  defiled sacred rites and having an affair with Pompeia, Caesar's wife.  Caesar said he had investigated and found out nothing to prove the Pompeia's fidelity.  When asked why, then, he had divorced her, he gave this answer.

Alt. trans.: "I judge it necessary for my kin to be as free from suspicion as from the charge of wrongdoing."

Alt. trans.: "I wished my wife to be not so much as suspected." [in Plutarch, “Caesar,” Parallel Lives [tr. Dryden (1693)]].
Added on 3-Mar-11 | Last updated 28-Dec-16
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There is all the difference in the world between the criminal’s avoiding the public eye and the civil disobedient’s taking the law into his own hands in open defiance. This distinction between an open violation of the law, performed in public, and a clandestine one is so glaringly obvious that it can be neglected only by prejudice or ill will.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Civil Disobedience,” Crises of the Republic (1969)
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Added on 22-Apr-10 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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For it is in the person’s choice that wickedness and the commission of injustice are found.

[ἐν γὰρ τῇ προαιρέσει ἡ μοχθηρία καὶ τὸ ἀδικεῖν]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 1, ch. 13, sec. 10 (1.13.10) / 1374a.11 (350 BC) [tr. Bartlett (2019)]
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Often given as "The intention makes the crime." (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For the criminality and injustice of the act stands essentially in the deliberate principle on which it is done.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

For vice and wrong-doing depend on the moral purpose.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

It is deliberate purpose that constitutes wickedness and criminal guilt.
[tr. Roberts (1924)]

For vice and wrongdoing consist in the moral purpose.
[tr. Freese (1926)]

For the immorality and wrongness of an act depend on intentional choice.
[tr. Waterfield (2018)]

Added on 3-Jun-09 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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How many crimes committed merely because their authors could not endure being wrong?

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall [La Chute] (1956) [tr. O’Brien]
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Added on 2-Jun-09 | Last updated 20-Apr-22
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Once again prosperous and successful crime goes by the name of virtue; good men obey the bad, might is right and fear oppresses law.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Hercules Furens, Part 1, l.255 [Amphitryon] [tr. Miller (1917)]
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Alt. trans.: "Successful and fortunate crime is called virtue."
Added on 21-Nov-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-17
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Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson (23 Jan 1825)
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Added on 25-Jul-08 | Last updated 16-Jun-21
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The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“My First Impression of the U.S.A.” (1921)
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Later published as "Some Notes on my American Impressions" in The World As I See It (1949)
Added on 8-Oct-07 | Last updated 19-Dec-19
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To punish a man because he has committed a crime, or because he is believed, though unjustly, to have committed a crime, is not persecution. To punish a man, because we infer from the nature of some doctrine which he holds, or from the conduct of other persons who hold the same doctrines with him, that he will commit a crime, is persecution, and is, in every case, foolish and wicked.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Hallam’s Constitutional History,” Edinburgh Review (Sep 1828)
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Review of Henry Hallam, The Constitutional History of England, from the Accession of Henry VII to George II (1827).
Added on 26-Jul-07 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
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I am against using death as a punishment. I am also against using it as a reward.

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane] (1957) [tr. Gałązka (1962)]
Added on 25-Jul-07 | Last updated 29-Mar-22
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The great atrocities of our civilization have rarely been the acts of generals or presidents or kings. They have been the doings of petty bureaucrats acting within the strict confines of the law.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Alain Simon
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Nov-21
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