Quotations about:
    force


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Let the rigour of a master over his slaves be applied by those who hold men under the empire of oppression; but they who rule by the principle of fear in a free state, practice a system of unparalleled madness. […] Let us therefore embrace that mode of conduct which has the most extensive influence, which contributes most, not only to the safety, but to the increase of wealth and power, and which rests, not upon fear, but upon the continuation of kind affections. — This is the method by which not only in private, but in public, we shall most easily obtain what we desire.

[Sed iis, qui vi oppresses imperio coercent, sit sane adhibenda saevitia, ut eris in famulos, si aliter teneri non possunt; qui vero in libera civitate ita se instruunt, ut metuantur, iis nihil potest esse dementius. […] Quod igitur latissime patet neque ad incolumitatem solum, sed etiam ad opes et potentiam valet plurimum, id amplectamur, ut metus absit, caritas retineatur. Ita facillime, quae volemus, et privatis in rebus et in re publica consequemur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 2, ch. 7 (2.7) / sec. 24 (44 BC) [tr. McCartney (1798)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

It is well enough in those who by open force have reduced any nation, and accordingly rule it with a high hand, if they do sometimes use rigour and severity, like masters towards their slaves when there is no other way of holding them in subjection: but for those who are magistrates in a free city, to endeavour to make themselves feared by the people, is one of the maddest and most desperate attempts on the face of the earth. [...] Let us therefore embrace and adhere to that method which is of the most universal influence, and serves not only to secure us what we have, but moreover to enlarge our power and authority; that is, in short, let us rather endeavour to be loved than feared, which is certainly the best way to make us successful, as well in our private as our public business.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

But the truth is, cruelty must be employed by those who keep others in subjection by force; as by a master to his slaves, if they cannot otherwise be managed. But of all madmen, they are the maddest who, in a free state so conduct themselves as to be feared. [...] We ought therefore to follow this most obvious principle, that dread should be removed and affection reconciled, which has the greatest influence not only on our security but also on our interest and power; and thus we shall most easily attain to the object of our wishes, both in private and political affairs.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Those who hold under their command subjects forcibly kept down must indeed resort to severity, as masters toward their slaves when they cannot otherwise be restrained. But nothing can be more mad than the policy of those who in a free state conduct themselves in such a way as to be feared. [...] Let us then embrace the policy which has the widest scope, and is most conducive, not to safety alone, but to affluence and power, namely, that by which fear may be suppressed, love retained. Thus shall we most easily obtain what we desire both in private and in public life.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

Let tyrants exercise cruelty, as a master does towards his slaves when he cannot control them by other means: but for a Citizen of a free State to equip himself with the weapons of intimidation is the height of madness. [...] Let us then put away fear and cleave to love; love appeals to every heart, it is the surest means of gaining safety, influence and power; in a word, it is the key to success both in private and in public life.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

But those who keep subjects in check by force would of course have to employ severity -- masters, for example, toward their servants, when these cannot be held in control in any other way. But those who in a free state deliberately put themselves in a position to be feared are the maddest of the mad. [...] Let us, then, embrace this policy, which appeals to every heart and is the strongest support not only of security but also of influence and power -- namely, to banish fear and cleave to love. And thus we shall most easily secure success both in private and in public life.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

Men who dominate and command other men, whom they have subjugated by force, have to apply some harshness, just as the owner uses harshness toward his slaves if he cannot control them any other way. But it is completely senseless for men in a free city act in such a way that it causes others to live in fear: no one could be more insane. [...] So let us embrace a rule that applies widely and that is extremely effective not only maintaining safety but also in acquiring wealth and power, namely, that there should be no fear, that one should hold affection dear. This is the easiest way for ust to attain what we want both in private affairs and in the government.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

 
Added on 15-Sep-22 | Last updated 15-Sep-22
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One does not export democracy in an armored vehicle.

[On n’exporte pas la démocratie dans un fourgon blindé.]

Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac (1932-2019) French politician, President of France (1995-2007)
Conversation with Silvio Berlusconi (2003)


Concerning the invasion of Iraq. Attributed by Jean-Pierre Raffarin on 20 O'clock News, TF1 (11 Mar 2007).
 
Added on 28-Dec-21 | Last updated 28-Dec-21
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By force you can make hypocrites — men who will agree with you from the teeth out, and in their hearts hate you. We want no more hypocrites. We have enough in every community. And how are you going to keep from having more? By having the air free, — by wiping from your statute books such miserable and infamous laws as this.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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Added on 22-Sep-21 | Last updated 22-Sep-21
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You can stand with the lash over a man, or you can stand by the prison door, or beneath the gallows, or by the stake, and say to this man: “Recant, or the lash descends, the prison door is locked upon you, the rope is put about your neck, or the torch is given to the fagot.” And so the man recants. Is he convinced? Not at all. Have you produced a new argument? Not the slightest. And yet the ignorant bigots of this world have been trying for thousands of years to rule the minds of men by brute force. They have endeavored to improve the mind by torturing the flesh — to spread religion with the sword and torch. They have tried to convince their brothers by putting their feet in iron boots, by putting fathers, mothers, patriots, philosophers and philanthropists in dungeons. And what has been the result? Are we any nearer thinking alike to-day than we were then?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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Added on 8-Sep-21 | Last updated 8-Sep-21
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For thousands of years people have been trying to force other people to think their way. Did they succeed? No. Will they succeed? No. Why? Because brute force is not an argument.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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Added on 26-Aug-21 | Last updated 26-Aug-21
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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 (1.22) / sec. 76 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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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.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate 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)]

An army in the field is nothing without wisdom at home.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

For weapons have small value abroad unless there is good advice at home.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

 
Added on 15-Feb-21 | Last updated 8-Sep-22
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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)
 
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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 22-Nov-21
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Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Nature in Men,” Essays, No. 38 (1625)
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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."
More discussion here:
 
Added on 2-Nov-11 | Last updated 28-Jan-22
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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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Persuasion is better than force.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “The Wind and the Sun” (6th C BC) [tr. James (1848)]
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Alternate translation: "Kindness effects more than Severity." [tr. Jacobs (1894)]

Alternate translation: "Persuasion is often more effectual than force."
 
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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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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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Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe:
Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Richard III, Act 5, sc. 3, l. 327ff [Richard] (1592)
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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)
    (Source)


This phrase is not found in the parallel "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild]" the next year.
 
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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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The substitution of force for persuasion, among its other disadvantages, has this further drawback, from our present point of view, that it lessens the conscience of a society and breeds hypocrisy. You have not converted a man, because you have silenced him.

Morley - You have not converted a man because you have silenced him - wist.info quote

John Morley (1838-1923) English statesman, journalist, writer [John, Viscount Morley]
On Compromise, ch. 5 “Realization of Opinion” (1874)
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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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Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 366ff [Rosencrantz] (c. 1600)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Jun-22
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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
 
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