Quotations about:
    privacy


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Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) Russian-American writer, philosopher
The Fountainhead, ch. 18 [Roark] (1943)
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Added on 5-Oct-22 | Last updated 5-Oct-22
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Miss Manners has come to believe that the basic political division in the society is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who believe that they should have a say in the love lives of strangers and those who do not.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners Rescues Civilization, ch. 5 (1996)
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Added on 3-Aug-22 | Last updated 3-Aug-22
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Our law affords constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. Our cases recognize “the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” Our precedents “have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.” These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

Anthony Kennedy (b. 1936) US Supreme Court Justice
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (91-744), 505 U.S. 833 (29 Jun 1992) [Majority Opinion]
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Citations removed.
 
Added on 11-Nov-20 | Last updated 11-Nov-20
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Who could deny that privacy is a jewel? I has always been the mark of privilege, the distinguishing feature of a truly urbane culture. Out of the cave, the tribal teepee, the pueblo, the community fortress, man emerged to build himself a house of his own with a shelter in it for himself and his diversions. Every age has seen it so. The poor might have to huddle together in cities for need’s sake, and the frontiersman cling to his neighbors for the sake of protection. But in each civilization, as it advanced, those who could afford it chose the luxury of a withdrawing-place.

Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) American author, poet
“A Lost Privilege,” The Province of the Heart (1959)
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Added on 26-Feb-20 | Last updated 26-Feb-20
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Madam, I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody’s damn business.

Chester Alan Arthur (1829-1886) American attorney, politician, US President (1881-85)
(Attributed)

In various sources, this was a reply made to a temperance reformer about his drinking alcohol, against journalists writing of his late wife and children, or to a gossip commenting on rumors he was seeing other women.
 
Added on 23-Jan-20 | Last updated 23-Jan-20
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The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter! — all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!

William Pitt the Elder (1708-1778) British statesman, orator [1st Earl of Chatham]
Speech on the Excise Bill, House of Commons (Mar 1763)
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Added on 21-Jan-20 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
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The human animal needs a freedom seldom mentioned, freedom from intrusion. He needs a little privacy quite as much as he wants understanding or vitamins or exercise or praise.

Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) American author, poet
The Province of the Heart (1959)
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Added on 17-Jan-20 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
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Lesson to the Indiscreet: They who say all they think, and tell all they know, put others on their guard and prevent themselves from being told anything of consequence.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) English novelist, letter writer
A Note Book of Horace Walpole, “1781” (1927)
 
Added on 12-Apr-17 | Last updated 12-Apr-17
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Trading privacy for security is stupid enough; not getting any actual security in the bargain is even more stupid.

Cory Doctorow (b. 1971) Canadian-British blogger, journalist, activist, author
Little Brother (2008)
 
Added on 17-Sep-15 | Last updated 17-Sep-15
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Privacy is as necessary as company; you can drive a man crazy by depriving him of either.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough For Love [Lazarus Long] (1973)
 
Added on 19-May-15 | Last updated 19-May-15
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HARKEN: [In an interrogation room] You fought with Captain Reynolds in the war?
ZOE: Fought with a lot of people in the war.
HARKEN: And your husband?
ZOE: Fight with him sometimes, too.
HARKEN: Is there any particular reason you don’t wish to discuss your marriage?
ZOE: Don’t see that it’s any of your business, is all. We’re very private people.
WASH: [In a different interrogation room] The legs! [Laughs] Oh yeah, definitely have to say it was her legs. You can put that down. Her legs, and right where her legs — meet her back. That — actually, that whole area. That, and — and above it. […] Have you seen what she wears? Forget about it. Have you ever been with a warrior woman?

Tim Minear (b. 1963) American screenwriter and director
Firefly, 1X03 “Bushwhacked” (27 Sep 2002)
 
Added on 30-Apr-15 | Last updated 30-Apr-15
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INARA: What did I say to you about barging into my shuttle?

MAL: That it was manly and impulsive?

INARA: Yes, precisely. Only the exact phrase I used was, “Don’t.”

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Firefly, 1×02 “The Train Job” [with Tim Minear] (20 Sep 2002)
 
Added on 19-Mar-15 | Last updated 19-Mar-15
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“My dear young lady,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”

“What’s that?” said Susan.

“We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
 
Added on 28-Nov-14 | Last updated 28-Nov-14
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You need not tell all the truth, unless to those who have a right to know it all. But let all you tell be truth.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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Added on 12-Jun-14 | Last updated 12-Jun-14
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Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say — that the people’s religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office. Under that Amendment’s prohibition against governmental establishment of religion, as reinforced by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, government in this country, be it state or federal, is without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer which is to be used as an official prayer in carrying on any program of governmentally sponsored religious activity.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 429-30 (1962) [majority opinion]
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Added on 3-Oct-12 | Last updated 2-Feb-23
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The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) American lawyer, activist, Supreme Court Justice (1916-39)
Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928) [Dissent]
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Added on 13-Jun-11 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

Jefferson - a wall of separation between church & state - wist.info quote

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to the Danbury Baptists (1 Jan 1802)
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Addressed to "messrs. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut."
 
Added on 3-Dec-10 | Last updated 3-Aug-22
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It behooves every man, who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith, which the laws have left between God and himself.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Benjamin Rush (21 Apr 1803)
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Added on 5-Jul-10 | Last updated 12-May-22
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“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 6:1-6 (NIV)
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KJV:  "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. "Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
 
Added on 11-Mar-10 | Last updated 8-Jul-16
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There is surely no contradiction in saying that a certain section of the community may be quite competent to protect the persons and property of the rest, yet quite unfit to direct our opinions, or to superintend our private habits.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
Southey’s Colloquies on Society (1830)
 
Added on 24-Mar-08 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
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Religion, a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his maker, in which no other, & far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Richard Rush (31 May 1813)
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Added on 29-Jun-04 | Last updated 2-Aug-22
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My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
(Attributed)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Apr-21
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Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to John Adams (11 Jan 1817)
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Instructions he gave to a biographer.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jul-22
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If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) American lawyer, US Supreme Court Justice (1967-1991)
Stanley v. Georgia 394 U.S. 557 (1969) [Unanimous Opinion]
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Does it really matter what these affectionate people do — so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses!

Beatrice Campbell (1865-1940) English actress [Mrs. Patrick Campbell, née Beatrice Stella Tanner]
(Attributed)

Apocryphally a rebuke c. 1910 to a young actress who criticized an older actor as seeming too affectionate toward the handsome leading man in the production. Most famously given in this form in Alan Dent, Mrs. Patrick Campbell (1961).

Further discussion and variants:
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Oct-22
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The word “idiot” comes from a Greek root meaning private person. Idiocy is the female defect: intent on their private lives, women follow their fate through a darkness deep as that cast by malformed cells in the brain. It is no worse than the male defect, which is lunacy: men are so obsessed by public affairs that they see the world as by moonlight, which shows the outlines of every object but not the details indicative of their nature.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Prologue (1941)
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Sometimes oddly paraphrased, "The main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics and women are idiots."
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Mar-21
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