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No form of liberty is worth a darn which doesn’t give us the right to do wrong now and then.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major, ch. 3, § 16 (1916)
Added on 9-Nov-23 | Last updated 9-Nov-23
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“One must do as others do”: a suspect maxim, which nearly always means: “one must do wrong” as soon as it is applied to anything beyond those purely external matters which are of no consequence, but depend on custom, fashion or convention.

[«Il faut faire comme les autres»: maxime suspecte, qui signifie presque toujours: «il faut mal faire» dès qu’on l’étend au delà de ces choses purement extérieures, qui n’ont point de suite, qui dépendent de l’usage, de la mode ou des bienséances.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 12 “Of Opinions [Des Jugements],” § 10 (12.10) (1688) [tr. Stewart (1970)]

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

We must do like other men; a dangerous Maxim, and for the most part signifies we must do ill; if you speak not of things purely exteriour, and of no consequence, but what depends on Custome, Fashion, or Decency.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

We must do as others do; a dangerous Maxim, which for the most part signifies we must do ill, if extended beyond things purely exterior, and of no consequence, things depending on Custom, Fashion, or Decency.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

We must do like other Men: a dangerous Maxim, for the most Part signifying we must do ill, if you carry it beyond things external, and of no consequence, but depending on Custom, Fashion, or Ceremony.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

“We must do as others do” is a dangerous maxim, which nearly always means “we must do wrong” if it is applied to any but external things of no consequence, and depending on custom, fashion, or decency.
[tr. Van Laun (1885)]

Added on 8-Aug-23 | Last updated 8-Aug-23
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We may then lay down this rule of friendship — neither ask nor consent to do what is wrong. For the plea “for friendship’s sake” is a discreditable one, and not to be admitted for a moment. This rule holds good for all wrong-doing, but more especially in such as involves disloyalty to the republic.

[Haec igitur lex in amicitia sanciatur, ut neque rogemus res turpes nec faciamus rogati. Turpis enim excusatio est et minime accipienda cum in ceteris peccatis, tum si quis contra rem publicam se amici causa fecisse fateatur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship], ch. 12 / sec. 40 (44 BC) [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

Original Latin. Alternate translations:

Let this law therefore be established in friendship, viz., that we should neither ask things that are improper, nor grant them when asked; for it is a disgraceful apology, and by no means to be admitted, as well in the case of other offenses, as when any one avows he has acted against the state for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

As to friendship, then, let this law be enacted, that we neither ask of a friend what is wrong, nor do what is wrong at a friend’s request. The plea that it was for a friend’s sake is a base apology, -- one that should never be admitted with regard to other forms of guilt, and certainly not as to crimes against the State.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

Therefore let this law be established in friendship: neither ask dishonourable things, nor do them, if asked. And dishonourable it certainly is, and not to be allowed, for anyone to plead in defence of sins in general and especially of those against the State, that he committed them for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

Therefore, let this law be established for friendship: that we should neither ask for foul things nor fulfill requests for them. For this is a foul excuse and ought not be accepted for any crime, but especially not if someone is shown to have placed themselves against the Republic for the sake of a friend.

Added on 26-Apr-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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As citizens, we must prevent wrongdoing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong sufferer and spectator, is at stake.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Life of the Mind (1977)
Added on 25-Mar-21 | Last updated 25-Mar-21
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RESPECTABILITY, n. The social status of people whose sins haven’t quite caught up with them.

Edmund H. Volkart (1919-1992) American sociologist, researcher, editor
The Angel’s Dictionary: A Modern Tribute to Ambrose Bierce (1986)
Added on 28-Apr-20 | Last updated 28-Apr-20
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The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do and, in addition, will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people. They say “no” to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds, but in their quiet refusals to commit villainies. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) American writer
“How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (1978)
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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Wherever a Knave is not punished, an honest Man is laugh’d at.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Punishment,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
Added on 3-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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Success in war, like charity in religion, covers a multitude of sins.

William Napier (1785-1860) Irish soldier and military historian
History of the War in the Peninsula, Vol. 5, Book 25, ch. 2 (1837)
Added on 18-Nov-14 | Last updated 18-Nov-14
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