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I was raised in an old-fashioned American tradition and there were certain homely things that were taught to me: To try to tell the truth, not to bear false witness, not to harm my neighbor, to be loyal to my country, and so on. In general, I respected these ideals of Christian honor and did as well with them as I knew how. It is my belief that you will agree with these simple rules of human decency and will not expect me to violate the good American tradition from which they spring.

Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) American playwright, screenwriter
Letter to Rep. John S. Wood, House Committee on Un-American Activities (19 May 1952)

On declining to "name names" before HUAC (see here). National Archives copy. Reprinted in The Nation (31 May 1952).

As a result of the letter and her invoking the Fifth Amendment at the HUAC hearings, Hellman was put on the Hollywood Blacklist for the rest of the decade.
Added on 8-Mar-23 | Last updated 8-Mar-23
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Between justice and respect there is this difference, that it is the part of justice not to injure; of respect, not to offend. In this the force of propriety is extremely clear.

[Est autem, quod differat in hominum ratione habenda inter iustitiam et verecundiam. Iustitiae partes sunt non violare homines, verecundiae non offendere; in quo maxime vis perspicitur decori.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 28 (1.28) / sec. 99 (44 BC) [tr. McCartney (1798)]

Verecundia is usually translated as "modesty," but Cicero is using a more complex sense here, leading to a variety of translations. Peabody translates it as "courtesy" that is "part of or a consequence of modesty." Edmonds (at length) considers the term untranslatable here, "an inward abhorrence of moral turpitude, through which the conscience is awed, and may be said to blush."

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

But here we must observe, that there is a great deal of difference between that which justice, and that which this modesty, respect, or reverence demands, in relation to other people. It is the duty of justice, not to injure or wrong any man; of respect, or reverence, not to do anything that may offend or displease him; wherein more especially the nature of that decorum we are speaking of consists.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

But, in our estimate of human life, we are to make a difference between justice and moral susceptibility. The dictate of justice is to do no wrong; that of moral susceptibility is to give no offense to mankind, and in this the force of the graceful is most perceptible.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

But in the treatment of men there is a difference between justice and courtesy. It is the part of justice not to injure men; of courtesy, not to give them offence, and it is in this last that the influence of becomingness is most clearly seen.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

In our social relations there is a difference between justice and sympathy. Not to wrong our fellow-men is the function of justice: that of sympathy is not to wound their feelings; herein the power of decorum is most conspicuous.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

There is, too, a difference between justice and considerateness in one's relations to one's fellow-men. It is the function of justice not to do wrong to one's fellow-men; of considerateness, not to wound their feelings; and in this the essence of propriety is best seen.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

Moreover, in maintaining distinctions among men there is a degree of difference between justice and decent respect. The duty of justice is not to do violence to men. The duty of decent respect is not to insult them; this latter especially reveals the essence of decorum.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

Added on 18-Aug-22 | Last updated 18-Aug-22
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I’d write a story once in a while, but I wouldn’t pester editors with it. I’d write of people and places like I knew, and I’d make my characters talk everyday English; and I’d let the sun rise and set in the usual quiet way without much fuss over the fact. If I had to have villains at all, I’d give them a chance, Anne — I’d give them a chance. There are some terrible bad men in the world, I suppose, but you’d have to go a long piece to find them — though Mrs. Lynde believes we’re all bad. But most of us have got a little decency somewhere in us.

Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) Canadian author
Anne of the Island, ch. 12 [Mr. Harrison] (1915)
Added on 11-Nov-21 | Last updated 27-Nov-21
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To jest at physical deformities is to prove Yourself Unfit to breathe the air of Decency.

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Minna Antrim (1861-1950) American epigrammatist, writer
Don’ts for Bachelors and Old Maids (1908)
Added on 29-Oct-21 | Last updated 29-Oct-21
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It’s hard for decent people to stay angry at someone who has burst into tears, which is why it is often a good idea to burst into tears if a decent person is yelling at you.

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
The Carnivorous Carnival (2002)
Added on 24-Feb-21 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
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War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.

Benjamin Ferencz (b. 1920) American lawyer, international legal scholar, activist
“What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know,” interview with Leslie Stahl, 60 Minutes (7 May 2017)

Ferencz served as chief prosecutor of twenty Einsatzgruppen officers during the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Longer excerpt:

STAHL: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?
FERENCZ: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite --
STAHL: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?
FERENCZ: He's not a savage. He's an intelligent, patriotic human being.
STAHL: He's a savage when he does the murder though.
FERENCZ: No. He's a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.
STAHL: You don't think they turn into savages even for the act?
FERENCZ: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.
Added on 8-Jan-21 | Last updated 8-Jan-21
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A real man of fashion and pleasures observes decency: at least, neither borrows nor affects vices; and, if he unfortunately has any, he gratifies them with choice, delicacy, and secrecy.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #119 (27 Mar 1747)
Added on 8-Jan-21 | Last updated 12-Oct-22
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The best foreign policy is to live our daily lives in honesty, decency, and integrity; at home, making our own land a more fitting habitation for free men; and abroad, joining with those of like mind and heart, to make of the world a place where all men can dwell in peace.

Eisenhower - honesty decency integrity - wist_info quote

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Inaugural Gabriel Silver lecture, Columbia University (23 Mar 1950)

Eisenhower was President of Columbia University at the time. The quote was widely used in an "I Believe" advertisement for Eisenhower during the 1956 election.

(Sources 1 and 2)
Added on 21-Jun-16 | Last updated 21-Jun-16
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Good judgment in our dealings with others consists not in seeing through deceptions and evil intentions but in being able to waken the decency dormant in every person.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 141 (1955)
Added on 22-Jun-11 | Last updated 23-Jun-22
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Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend your own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Commencement Speech, Dartmouth College (14 Jun 1953)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Jul-15
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