Quotations about   force

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Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware of those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware of those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
“The Perfect Mirror,” Christian Century (18-25 Mar 1998)
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Added on 30-Jul-21 | Last updated 30-Jul-21
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Shake and shake
The catsup bottle,
None will come,
And then a lot’ll.

Richard Armour (1906-1989) American poet and author
“Going to Extremes” (1949)
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Added on 24-Feb-21 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
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If we stay strong, then I believe we can stabilize the world and have peace based on force. Now, peace based on force is not as good as peace based on agreement, but in the terrible world in which we live, in the world where the Russians have enslaved many millions of human beings, in the world where they have killed men, I think that for the time being the only peace we can have is the peace based on force.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
“Fallout and Disarmament: A Debate Between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller,” KQED-TV, San Francisco (20 Feb 1958)
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Added on 16-Feb-21 | Last updated 16-Feb-21
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For arms are of little value in the field unless there is wise counsel at home.

[Parvi enim sunt foris arma, nisi est consilium domi.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 22 / sec. 76 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Peabody comments, "A verse, quoted probably from some lost comedy, the measure being one employed by the comic poets." None of the other translators call this out or show the text as separate except Peabody. Alternative translations:

  • "For armies can signify but little abroad, unless there be counsel and wise management at home." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "Armies abroad avail little, unless there be wisdom at home." [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "An army abroad is but of small service unless there be a wise administration at home." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
  • "Valor abroad is naught, unless at home be wisdom." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 15-Feb-21 | Last updated 15-Feb-21
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KING : Am I the strongest or am I not?
BECKET: You are, today. But one must never drive one’s enemy to despair. It makes him strong. Gentleness is better politics. It saps virility. A good occupational force must never crush, it must corrupt.

Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) French dramatist
Becket, Act 2 (1959) [tr. Hill (1961)
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The lines remain intact in Edward Anhalt's 1964 screenplay.
Added on 17-Sep-20 | Last updated 17-Sep-20
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The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death-wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor, finally and more plausibly, the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“On Violence,” Crises of the Republic (1972)
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Added on 25-Aug-20 | Last updated 25-Aug-20
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The enemies of Freedom do not argue; they shout and they shoot.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
End of an Age, ch. 4 (1948)
Added on 10-Aug-20 | Last updated 10-Aug-20
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Necessity is the only successful adviser.

Charles Reade (1814-1884) English novelist and dramatist
(Attributed)
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In M. Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886).
Added on 8-Jul-20 | Last updated 8-Jul-20
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Some people idealize force and pull it into the foreground and worship it, instead of keeping it in the background as long as possible. I think they make a mistake, and I think that their opposites, the mystics, err even more when they declare that force does not exist. I believe that it exists, and that one of our jobs is to prevent it from getting out of its box. It gets out sooner or later, and then it destroys us and all the lovely things which we have made. But it is not out all the time, for the fortunate reason that the strong are so stupid.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
Added on 4-Sep-19 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
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I realize that all society rests upon force. But all the great creative actions, all the decent human relations, occur during the intervals when force has not managed to come to the front. These intervals are what matter. I want them to be as frequent and as lengthy as possible, and I call them “civilization”.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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Added on 10-Apr-19 | Last updated 10-Apr-19
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Every man has a certain sphere of discretion, which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbors. This right flows from the very nature of man. First, all men are fallible: no man can be justified in setting up his judgment as a standard for others. We have no infallible judge of controversies; each man in his own apprehension is right in his decisions; and we can find no satisfactory mode of adjusting their jarring pretensions. If every one be desirous of imposing his sense upon others, it will at last come to be a controversy, not of reason, but of force.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Book 2, ch. 5 (1793)
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Added on 8-Jan-18 | Last updated 8-Jan-18
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Money is said to be power, which is, in some cases, true; and the same may be said of knowledge; but superior sobriety, industry and activity, are a still more certain source of power; for without these, knowledge is of little use; and, as to the power which money gives, it is that of brute force, it is the power of the bludgeon and the bayonet, and of the bribed press, tongue and pen.

William Cobbett (1763-1835) English politician, agriculturist, journalist, pamphleteer
Advice to Young Men, Letter 1, #40 (1829)
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Added on 7-Nov-17 | Last updated 7-Nov-17
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The proper method for hastening the decay of error is not by brute force, or by regulation which is one of the classes of force, to endeavor to reduce men to intellectual uniformity, but on the contrary by teaching every man to think for himself.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. 2, bk. 8, ch. 6 “Of the Enjoyment of Liberty” (1793)
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Added on 7-Sep-17 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
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The exact measure of the progress of civilization is the degree in which the intelligence of the common mind has prevailed over wealth and brute force.

George Bancroft (1800-1891) American historian, statesman, education reformer
Speech, Adelphi Society, Liamstown College (Aug 1835)
Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 30-Jan-17
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Might was the measure of right.

[Mensuraque juris / Vis erat.]

Lucan (AD 39-65) Roman poet [Marcus Annaeus Lucanus]
Pharsalia, 1.175
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Referring to earlier eras of anarchy.
Added on 27-Oct-15 | Last updated 27-Oct-15
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Law and Justice play no role in the relations of peoples of unequal strength.

Gustave LeBon (1841-1931) German psychologist
Aphorisms of Present Times, 2.6 (1913)
Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Note-books, 1 [tr. McCurdy (1908)]
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What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason. Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily — whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence — whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) American politician
“On the Mindless Menace of Violence,” speech, City Club of Cleveland (5 Apr 1968)
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Added on 8-Dec-14 | Last updated 8-Dec-14
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In military operations what is done openly and by force is much less than what is done by stratagem and the use of opportunity.

Polybius (203?-120 BC) Greek historian
Histories, 9.12 [tr. Paton (1925)]
Added on 2-Oct-14 | Last updated 2-Oct-14
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If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden (b. 1956) American editor, writer, essayist
Making Light, “Commonplaces”
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Added on 5-Sep-14 | Last updated 5-Sep-14
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Nothing stands between the people’s miserable present and its glorious future, except a minority, perhaps a majority, of perverse or merely ignorant individuals. All that is necessary is to liquidate a few thousands, or it may be a few millions, of these living obstacles to progress, and then to coerce and propagandize the rest into acquiescence. When these unpleasant but necessary preliminaries are over, the governage will begin. Such is the theory that secular apocalypticism, which is the religion of the revolutionaries. But in practice, it is hardly necessary to say, the means employed positively guarantee that the end actually reached shall be profoundly different form that which the prophetic theorists envisage.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
“Religion and Time,” in Christopher Isherwood, ed. Vedanta for the Western World (1945)
Added on 14-Jan-14 | Last updated 11-Aug-14
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Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldome extinguished. Force maketh nature more violent in the return.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Nature in Men,” Essays, No. 38 (1625)
Added on 17-Nov-11 | Last updated 16-May-16
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I have always been fond of the West African proverb “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

Roosevelt - big stick - wist_info quote

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Letter to Henry L. Sprague (26 Jan 1900)

Full text. This is the first known use by Roosevelt of his future catch phrase.  It attained more fame when he used it in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair (2 Sep 1901) (there are transcript variants):

  • "There is a homely adage which runs 'Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.' If the American nation will speak softly and yet build and keep at a pitch of highest training a thoroughly efficient Navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far."
  • "Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far.' If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power."
Added on 2-Nov-11 | Last updated 12-Jan-16
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Justice without might is helpless; might without justice is tyrannical.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French scientist and philosopher
Pensées, #298 (1670) [tr. Trotter (1931)]
Added on 23-May-11 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher
Leviathan, Part 1, ch. 13 (1651)
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Added on 7-Oct-10 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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Fear: A club used by priests, presidents, kings and policemen to keep the people from recovering stolen goods.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Roycroft Dictionary (1914)
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Added on 11-May-10 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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It seems to me that the distinctions separating the social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on force.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What I Believe,” Forum and Century (Oct 1930)
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This phrase is not found in the parallel "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild]" the next year.
Added on 10-Mar-09 | Last updated 20-Feb-21
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To give the victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech fragment (c. 18 May 1858)
Added on 22-Apr-08 | Last updated 6-Apr-17
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Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, sc. 2 (1600)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-May-16
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Study depends on the good will of the student, a quality that cannot be secured by compulsion.

[Studium discendi voluntate, quae cogi non potest, constat.]

Quintilian (39-90) Roman orator [Marcus Fabius Quintilianus]
De Institutione Oratoria, Book 3, ch. 8
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-Jun-16
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Don’t fight forces, use them.

Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) American architect, engineer
Shelter Magazine (Nov 1932)

The motto of Shelter magazine, when renamed and repurposed by Fuller in 1932 from Philadelphia's old T-Square Club Journal.
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