Quotations about   patriotism

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You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else’s life. They’re plenty loud and they talk all the time. You can find them in churches and schools and newspapers and congresses. That’s their business. They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men who died so gloriously. They shall not have died in vain. Our noble dead.

Hmmmm.

But what do the dead say?

Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god I’m glad I’m dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say I’m glad i died to make the world safe for democracy? Did they say i like death better than losing liberty? Did any of them ever say it’s good to think i got my guts blown out for the honor of my country? Did any of them ever say look at me i’m dead but i died for decency and that’s better than being alive? Did any of them ever say here i am, i’ve been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it’s wonderful to die for your native land? Did any of them say hurray I died for womanhood and I’m happy, see how I sing even though my mouth is choked with worms?

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Johnny Got His Gun (1938)
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Added on 2-Feb-19 | Last updated 2-Feb-19
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Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A stranger may be well inclined to praise many of the institutions of their country, but he begs permission to blame some of the peculiarities which he observes — a permission which is however inexorably refused.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) French writer, diplomat, politician
Democracy in America, Vol. 1, “Public Spirit in the United States” (1835) [tr. Reeve (1839)]
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Added on 21-Nov-18 | Last updated 21-Nov-18
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Americans rightly think their patriotism is a sort of religion strengthened by practical service.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) French writer, diplomat, politician
Democracy in America, Vol. 1, “Public Spirit of the Townships of New England” (1835)
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Alt. trans.: "For in the United States it is believed, and with truth, that patriotism is a kind of devotion which is strengthened by ritual observance." [tr. Reeve (1839)]
Added on 14-Nov-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-18
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[T]here are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) American theologian and clergyman
“Christian Faith and the World Crisis,” Christianity and Crisis (10 Feb 1941)
Added on 12-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
Added on 17-May-17 | Last updated 17-May-17
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I don’t think.
I don’t know.
I don’t care.
I am too busy.
I leave well enough alone.
I have no time to read and find out.
I am not interested.

William J. H. Boetcker (1873-1962) German-American religious leader, author, public speaker [William John Henry Boetcker]
“Seven National Crimes”
Added on 28-Mar-17 | Last updated 28-Mar-17
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Our loyalty is due entirely to the United States. It is due to the President only and exactly to the degree in which he efficiently serves the United States. It is our duty to support him when he serves the United States well. It is our duty to oppose him when he serves it badly. This is true about Mr. Wilson now and it has been true about all our Presidents in the past. It is our duty at all times to tell the truth about the President and about every one else, save in the cases where to tell the truth at the moment would benefit the public enemy.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Kansas City Star (7 May 1918)

Reprinted in "Lincoln and Free Speech," The Great Adventure (1926).
Added on 22-Aug-16 | Last updated 22-Aug-16
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Nations are never virtuous, though they might sometimes think they are.

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
Solar (2010)
Added on 2-Aug-16 | Last updated 2-Aug-16
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I don’t ever lose sight of the fact that this country is the best one. I don’t care nearly as much about other societies. My country is the one I want to make better. But I do think the patriotic thing to do is to critique my country. How else do you make a country better but by pointing out its flaws?

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
“Bill Maher, Incorrect American Patriot,” Interview with Sharon Waxman, Washington Post (8 Nov 2002)
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Added on 13-Jul-16 | Last updated 13-Jul-16
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For politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage. Politics must be the concern of every citizen who wants to see our national well-being increased and our international leadership strengthened. In that combined sense, politics is the noblest of professions. In the ranks of that kind of politics, every American should be enrolled.

Eisenhower - politics part-time profession - wist_info quote

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican Lincoln Day Dinners (28 Jan 1954)
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Often paraphrased: "Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free men."

The speech was filmed for the Republican National Committee and distributed to state and local committees to be shown at the Lincoln Day dinners.
Added on 17-May-16 | Last updated 17-May-16
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You know, if you’re an American and you’re born at this time in history especially, you’re lucky. We all are. We won the world history Powerball lottery, but a little modesty about it might keep the heat off of us. I can’t stand the people who say things like, “We built this country!” You built nothing. I think the railroads were pretty much up by 1980.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Victory Begins at Home (20 Jan 2004)
Added on 4-May-16 | Last updated 4-May-16
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There are things a man must not do even to save a nation.

Kempton - even to save a nation - wist_info quote

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
“To Save a Nation,” America Comes of Age (1963)
Added on 18-Apr-16 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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If you have a weak candidate and a weak platform, wrap yourself up in the American flag and talk about the Constitution.

Matthew Stanley Quay (1833-1904) American political boss, politician, US Senator
(Attributed, 1886)
Added on 1-Apr-16 | Last updated 1-Apr-16
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No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-rousing remain the true duty of patriots.

Ehrenreich - patriotism - wist_info quote

Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941) American feminist, journalist, political activist
“Introduction: Family Values” (1988), The Worst Years of Our Lives (1990)

See Johnson.
Added on 29-Jan-16 | Last updated 29-Jan-16
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But, though pugnacity and acquisitiveness have been the real foundation of much miscalled patriotism, better motives are generally mingled with these primitive instincts. It is the subtle blend of noble and ignoble sentiment which makes patriotism such a difficult problem for the moralist. The patriot nearly always believes, or thinks he believes, that he desires the greatness of his country because his country stands for something intrinsically great and valuable.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Patriotism,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1915)
Added on 11-Jan-16 | Last updated 11-Jan-16
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Devil-worship remains what it was, even when the idol is draped in the national flag.

Inge - flag - wist_info quote

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Patriotism,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1915)
Added on 4-Jan-16 | Last updated 4-Jan-16
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The conflict to different approaches to the liberty of man and mind or between different views of human dignity and the right of the individual is continuous. The dividing line goes within ourselves, within our own peoples, and also within other nations. It does not coincide with any political or geographical boundaries. The ultimate fight is one between the human and the subhuman. We are on dangerous ground if we believe that any individual, any nation, or any ideology has a monopoly on rightness, liberty, and human dignity.

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) Swedish diplomat, author, UN Secretary-General (1953-61)
“The Walls of Distrust,” speech, Cambridge University (5 Jun 1958)
Added on 29-Dec-15 | Last updated 29-Dec-15
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Democracy postulates community of interest or loyal patriotism. When these are absent it cannot long exist.

Inge - democracy - wist_info

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Our Present Discontents,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1919)
Added on 30-Nov-15 | Last updated 1-Jun-16
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You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

Malcolm X - wrong is wrong - wist_info

Malcolm X (1925-1965) American revolutionary, religious leader [b. Malcolm Little]
“Prospects for Freedom in 1965,” speech, New York (7 Jan 1965)
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Like other idealisms, patriotism varies from a noble devotion to a moral lunacy.

Dean Inge - patriotism - wist-info

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Our Present Discontents,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1919)
Added on 12-Oct-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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“The trouble with this country is,” observed Herndon, “that there’re too many people going about saying: ‘The trouble with this country is –‘”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Dodsworth, ch. 10 (1929)
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Added on 25-Aug-15 | Last updated 25-Aug-15
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When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
(Spurious)

Not found in Lewis' writing. Variants:
  • James Waterman Wise, Jr., Christian Century (5 Feb 1936): "In a recent address here before the liberal John Reed club said that Hearst and Coughlin are the two chief exponents of fascism in America. If fascism comes, he added, it will not be identified with any 'shirt' movement, nor with an 'insignia,' but it will probably be 'wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.'"
  • Halford E. Luccock, Keeping Life Out of Confusion (1938): "When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled 'made in Germany'; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, 'Americanism.'"
  • Harrison Evans Salisbury, The Many Americas Shall Be One (1971): "Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling 'The Star Spangled Banner.'" [The quotation is not found in that book.]
Added on 4-Aug-15 | Last updated 4-Aug-15
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Patriotism in the female sex is the most disinterested of all virtues. Excluded from honors and from offices, we cannot attach ourselves to the State or Government from having held a place of eminence. Even in the freest countries our property is subject to the control and disposal of our partners, to whom the laws have given a sovereign authority. Deprived of a voice in legislation, obliged to submit to those laws which are imposed upon us, is it not sufficient to make us indifferent to the public welfare? Yet all history and every age exhibit instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex; which considering our situation equals the most heroic of yours.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to John Adams (17 June 1782)
Added on 17-Jul-15 | Last updated 17-Jul-15
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The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Coolidge Buncombe” (6 Oct 1924)
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Added on 8-Jun-15 | Last updated 8-Jun-15
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The future will be determined by the young, and there is no more essential task today, it seems to me, than to bring before them once more, in all its brightness, in all its splendor and beauty, the American dream, lest we let it fade, too concerned with the ways of earning a living or impressing our neighbors or getting ahead or finding bigger and more potent ways of destroying the world and all that is in it.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
“What Has Happened to the American Dream?” Atlantic Monthly (Apr 1961)
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Added on 4-Feb-15 | Last updated 4-Feb-15
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America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them; and every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.

George W. Bush (b. 1946) US President (2001-09)
Inaugural Address (20 Jan 2001)
Added on 17-Dec-14 | Last updated 20-Jun-16
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‘Patriotism is not enough.’ But neither is anything else. Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
The Island, “Notes on What’s What” (1962)
Added on 22-Oct-14 | Last updated 22-Oct-14
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The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny. Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech, Rochester, New York (5 July 1852)
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Added on 15-Oct-14 | Last updated 15-Oct-14
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“It looks to me,” he went on in a melancholy tone, “as if they was too much noise an’ smoke about pathritism in America f’r the good ib th’ country.”

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
“Freedom and the Fourth of July” (1897)
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Added on 13-Oct-14 | Last updated 13-Oct-14
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What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good; the development of the individual through liberty, and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) American lawyer, activist, Supreme Court Justice (1916-39)
“True Americanism” (1915)
Added on 7-Oct-14 | Last updated 7-Oct-14
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The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.

David Lloyd George (1863-1945) Welsh politician, statesman, UK Prime Minister (1916-22)
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Sep-14 | Last updated 11-Sep-14
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Our national strength matters, but the spirit which informs our strength matters just as much.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Amherst College (26 Oct 1963)
Added on 12-May-14 | Last updated 12-May-14
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Then join Hand in Hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.

John Dickinson (1732-1808) American solicitor, politician, writer
“A Song for American Freedom” (“The Liberty Song”), Boston Gazette (18 Jul 1768)

See Aesop.
Added on 2-Apr-14 | Last updated 11-Aug-14
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Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
More Poems, #36 (1936)
Added on 12-Mar-14 | Last updated 12-Mar-14
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They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Notes on the Next War,” Esquire (Sep 1935)
Added on 5-Mar-14 | Last updated 5-Mar-14
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The only religion that still demands human sacrifice is nationalism.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Lecture, University of Michigan (28 Jan 1969)
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Quoted in Stephen Nelson, "Nature/Nurture Revisited I: A Review of the Biological Bases of Conflict," Journal of Conflict Resolution (Jun 1974).
Added on 20-Jan-14 | Last updated 20-Jan-14
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Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country — hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Papers of the Adams Family, Part 6 “Two Fragments from a Suppressed Book Called ‘Glances at History’ or ‘Outlines of History'” (1939)
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For I can assure you that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great — not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud — but for what it someday can, and, through the efforts of us all, someday will be.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, National Industrial Conference Board (13 Feb 1961)
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Added on 9-Apr-12 | Last updated 2-Jan-14
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The modern patriotism, the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism is loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“The Czar’s Soliloquy,” North American Review (Mar 1905)

Sometimes paraphrased: "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."
Added on 1-Feb-12 | Last updated 8-Aug-19
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Patriotism varies, from a noble devotion to a moral lunacy.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Our Present Discontents,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1919)
Added on 29-Sep-11 | Last updated 20-Jun-14
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Nearly every people have created a god and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he was invariably found on the side of those in power. Each god was intensely patriotic, and detested all nations but his own.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Gods” (1876)
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Sometimes quoted, "Nearly every people have created a god ..."Full text.
Added on 30-Oct-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Benjamin Rush (18 Apr 1808)
Added on 22-Aug-08 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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Intellectually I know America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every other country.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Radio interview, Berlin (29 Dec 1930)

Reported in the New York Times (30 Dec 1930)
Added on 8-Jan-08 | Last updated 19-May-15
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A man who says that no patriot should attack the Boer War until it is over is not worth answering intelligently; he is saying that no good son should warn his mother off a cliff until she has fallen over it.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
Orthodoxy, ch. 5 (1908)
Added on 4-Aug-07 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia, pereat coelum. My toast would be, may our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Letter to John Adams (1 Aug 1816)

In response to Stephen Decatur's quote (and subsequent popular catch phrase), "Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right, but our country, right or wrong."

The Latin translates as "Let justice be done though Heaven should fall."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Aug-16
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“My Country, right or wrong” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
The Defendant, ch. 16 “A Defence of Patriotism”
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Apr-16
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I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.

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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Sometimes misquoted as: "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the decency to betray my country."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Nov-18
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The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Kansas City Star (7 May 1918)

Reprinted in "Lincoln and Free Speech," The Great Adventure (1926).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Aug-16
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