Some Curious Quotes

Copyright © 1999 by Hugo S. Cunningham
started 990329
latest minor update 2011/0311F


quote and authorsource-- book or URLquote in original language (if applicable)


"Man's highest joy is in victory: to conquer one's enemies, to pursue them, to deprive them of their possessions, to make their beloved weep, to ride on their horses, and to embrace their daughters and their wives."
    --Genghis Khan (1162-1227)
cited in Vernadsky, The Mongols and Russia, Yale University Press, 1970, p. 43.
Added 990330
"I see heads ripe for cutting. People of Iraq, I shall not let myself be crushed like a soft fig. ... The Commander of the Faithful has drawn the arrows from his quiver and tested the wood, and has found that I am the hardest. ... And so, by Allah, I will strip you as men strip the bark off trees. ... I will beat you as stray camels are beaten."
    -- Al-Hajjaj (ca 692-694 CE), in the Mosque at Kûfa (Iraq), on his accession as governor
cited in P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis, Editor; The Cambridge History of Islam Volume I:The Central Islamic Lands, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge England, 1970. p. 85.
Added 990330
"Many heads do I see tottering; let each man see to it that his own remains on his shoulders."
    -- Ziyâd ibn Abîhi on his accession as governor of Basra, 665 CE.
cited in P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis, Editor; The Cambridge History of Islam Volume I:The Central Islamic Lands, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge England, 1970. p. 78.
Added 990330
"As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say, 'Civis Romanus sum,' so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him from injustice and wrong."
    --Lord Palmerston, British Prime Minister, 25 Jun 1850.
from Peter Stansky, Gladstone, Little Brown & Co., Boston, 1979. P. 53.
Added 990330
"You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"
    --Oliver Cromwell, breaking up England's "Rump Parliament," 1653.
from Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1948, p. 659.
Added 990330
"I have only one purpose, the destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby. If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons."
    --Winston S. Churchill, 1941.
from Winston Churchill, The Grand Alliance, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1950, p. 370.
Added 990330

NEW ORLEANS, May 15, 1862

General Order No. 28

As the officers and soldiers of the US have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy in our part, it is ordered that hereinafter when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded as and liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.

By Command of
Maj-General Butler

Geo. C. Strong, A.A.G., Chief of Staff

Benjamin F. Butler, Butler's Book: A Review of His Legal, Political, and Military Career, A. M. Thayer & Co., Boston, 1892; p. 418
Added 990330
Sourcing added 2009/0510
Note-- When later asked if he was licensing his soldiery to ravish the good ladies of New Orleans, Ben Butler replied that proud and disciplined soldiers do not ravish prostitutes. (Instead, they spurn them with contempt, try to negotiate a price, or arrest them as petty criminals.) But the good ladies did not try to test the matter.

Partly on behalf of Southern womanhood, Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed a proclamation (published 24 December 1862) that Ben Butler was an "outlaw and common enemy of mankind," to be hanged without trial if captured. More important issues in the proclamation, however, were Butler's hanging of Confederate activist William B. Mumford and recruitment of Black men as soldiers.(Butler's Book, pp. 542-548)

"We don't want to fight, but by jingo if we do...
We've got the ships, we've got the men, and got the money too!
We've fought the Bear before...
and while we're Britons true...
The Rooshuns shall not have Constantinople..."
    --popular British music-hall song during 1878 Balkan crisis.
    origin of epithet "jingoist"
Chorus of "Macdermott's War Song."
Reprinted in Aline Waites and Robin Hunter, The Illustrated Victorian Song Book, Michael Joseph, London, 1984; pp. 180-184.
Added 990330, amended 000312
"People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling -- all stuff -- no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children -- some for minor offences -- many more for drink."
    --The Duke of Wellington
cited in Paul Johnson, The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1991; p. 65.
Added Y00114
"No man wrongs me with impunity." (per E.A. Poe story)
"No-one provokes me with impunity" (more common Scottish version)
According to C.O Sylvester Mawson [Dictionary of Foreign Terms (revised by Robert J. Schwartz), Bantam Books, New York, 1961; p. 218], the Latin version is a motto of Scotland, associated with the prickly thistle. It was also immortalized in Edgar Allen Poe's short story, "A Cask of Amontillado."
Added 000221
Nemo me impune lacessit.
"Father, forgive me my trespasses,
as I forgive those I have trespassed against!"
    --minor adaptation from Robert Lowell
slightly modified from citation by Leon Weiseltier in "The New Republic," 27 Mar 2000, p. 6
Added 000319
"A vile race of Quislings -- to use a new word which will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries -- is hired to fawn upon the conqueror, to collaborate in his designs and to enforce his rule upon their fellow countrymen while groveling low themselves."
    --Winston S. Churchill,
    in a speech before the delegates of 14 allied nations, St. James's Palace, 12 June 1941
transcript in website of
World War II Resources ("Primary source materials on the Web").
I should also credit Bartlett's Quotations, 16th Edition, which told me what I was looking for.
"The army will forage liberally during the march."
    --from Special Field Orders, No. 120, dated 9 November 1864, by order of Major-General Sherman (the march from Atlanta to the sea)
William T. Sherman, Personal Memoirs of Gen'l W. T. Sherman, Fourth Edition, Charles L. Webster & Co., New York, 1892.
Vol II, p. 175
"My aim then was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. 'Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.'"
    --W.T. Sherman, describing his attitude in Savanna GA, Dec 1864
William T. Sherman, Personal Memoirs of Gen'l W. T. Sherman, Fourth Edition, Charles L. Webster & Co., New York, 1892.
Vol. II, p. 249.
From Mustafa Kemal before Turkey's Grand National Assembly, advocating the abolition of the Sultanate, to be proclaimed on 1 Nov 1922:
[The power of the Sultanate was forcibly seized from the nation by the "sons of Osman," and the nation has the right forcibly to take the power back.]
"If those gathered here, the Assembly, and everyone else could look at this question in a natural way, I think they would agree. Even if they do not, the truth will find expression, but some heads may roll in the process."

...From one of the hojas from Angora [came] the admission, "I beg your pardon, sir, we were looking at the matter from another point of view. We have been enlightened by your explanation."

Lord Kinross, Ataturk: A biography of Mustafa Kemal, father of modern Turkey, William Morrow and company, New York, 1965; p. 396
Added y20913
"They create a desert and call it peace."
    --A British elder, describing imperial Roman policy
Tacitus, Agricola, 30 Latin:
"Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant."
"Never be obscene or use profanity unless the obscenity is so splendid or the profanity so outstanding that people will be so interested that they will forget to be shocked."
    --George S. Patton, Gen, USA
H. Essame, Patton: A Study in Command, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1974; p. 30
Added 20040426
"The suitcase or the coffin."
(ie: "There is no longer a place for you here [in Algeria]. Leave at once, or be killed.")
Added 20041125
"La valise ou le cercueil"
This phrase might have come from the secretive Algerian guerrilla movement, FLN (Front de Libération Nationale), on the brink of power. More likely, however, it was an interpretation by French settlers ("Pieds Noirs"), correctly believing they would be unwelcome in the new independent Muslim state. In any case, 900,000 settlers rushed to depart in a few months (1962), often retaining nothing more than a suitcase of their life possessions.
Many settlers had fouled their own nest by complicity in OAS (Organisation Armée Secrète) terrorism (1961-62), even more intensely cruel and destructive than the FLN terrorism that had inspired it. Since 1962, however, the troubled fate of religious minorities in other Muslim states raises questions, whether even well-behaved settlers would have been able to keep a permanent home in Algeria.

"The task we've got ahead of us now is an awkward one ... It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."
    --Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense,
    (Friday April 2003) at Pentagon news briefing, shrugging off reports of massive looting in Baghdad and other cities of Iraq, after US overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
(various press reports)
Added 20051205
The failure to guarantee security caused a rapid collapse of both Iraq's economy and US credibility. Surely a US "conservative" should have realized this? Toughness on crime has been the one most consistently winning issue for "conservatives" in US elections, so consistent that many US "liberals" have also found it necessary to sound tough on crime.
"For foreigners [18th century] Russia was like a touchstone for their merit...he who succeeded in Russia could be sure of succeeding in all of Europe. I have always considered this observation infallible because nowhere are people more skillful than in Russia at noticing the weakness, ridiculousness, or faults of a foreigner. One can be assured that nothing will get past a Russian, because every Russian naturally, viscerally, dislikes all foreigners."
    -- Catherine II "the Great," Empress of Russia (1729-1796, reigned 1762-1796)
The Memoirs of Catherine the Great, translated from the original French by Mark Cruse and Hilde Hoogenboom, Modern Library, New York, 2005; p. 147
Added 2006/1028
At various times in their history, the English also had a reputation for hating all foreigners.
[For weak, resource-dependent societies, oil is]
"The excrement of the devil"
    -- Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo (1903-1979), Venezuela's Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons (1959–1964), an early founder of OPEC.
Title of his book Hundiéndonos en el excremento del diablo ("Drowning us in the excrement of the devil"),Caracas : Editorial Lisbona, 1976 -- about the petroleum industry and trade.
Added 2007/0926
el excremento del diablo
For developed countries, an oil or natural gas boom risks the "Dutch disease" -- appreciating exchange rates that make domestic manufactures uncompetitive. (This effect was first noticed and described for the Netherlands, collecting on large natural-gas finds in the 1960s.)
For backward societies (especially in Venezuela and sub-Saharan Africa), other problems are even worse, creating the "resource curse":
Governments are tempted to neglect the people, treating them as idle mouths who should be placated by handouts or intimidated by goons, rather than as potential taxpayers who should be cultivated with wise policies.
The people neglect professions and businesses that promise longterm paybacks in favor of quick oil-related payoffs, often for entirely unproductive activities (eg. threatening violence).

"If once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane."
    -- Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
A short poem, "Dane-geld"

"To ..."
"Lamentably, I killed your cat while trying just to sting it. It was crouched, as usual, under one of our bird feeders & I fired from some distance with bird shot. It may ease your grief somewhat to know that the cat was buried properly with a prayer & that I’ll be glad to get you another of your choice. I called & came by your house several times."
    -- Jimmy Carter (US President 1977-1981), in letter to his sister-in-law (1990)
Handwritten letter was found in a private museum in Eufaula AL, photographed, and posted to the Internet ca. November 2007. It was gleefully seized on by Carter's political detractors, who evoked Carter's 1979 "Killer Rabbit" embarrassment
"Lucky me. I hit the trifecta."
    -- US Pres. George W. Bush, "in mid-September" 2001 (soon after the 2001/0911 terror attack),
    talking to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.
Speech by OMB Director Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.
at the annual meeting of "The Conference Board, Inc."
at Cipriani 42nd St, New York NY
2001, October 16

Added 2009/0107

Trifecta -- in betting on horse races, guessing the top three winners of a race in correct order. The odds against this are high, guaranteeing a high payoff for a win.
Bush understood that three reasons were accepted for US budget deficits: war, recession, or emergency. Arguably all three applied after 2001/0911: an already existing recession from the end of the "Dot-com bubble", the emergency created by 9-11's economic fallout, and a widely accepted war supposedly to root out the sources of 9-11 terror.
The *enthusiasm* with which G.W. Bush embraced an excuse for deficits, however, would mean disaster for his country. A frat-boy party-hound by background, he would for the next 7 years dodge the difficult choices of sound government. Without cutting spending, he would give tax cuts to his political supporters. He would borrow huge sums of money from foreign creditors and squander it on a giant housing bubble, instead of addressing the deadly threat of oil vulnerability. (In contrast, France built nuclear generators for 90% of electricity needs.) When, driven by US profligacy, the international price of oil rose above $145/barrel in July 2008, and the US trade deficit rose to an annual rate of $700 billion, the bubble started to deflate. It was historical justice that the crash happened before G.W. Bush left office, so that he could not dodge responsibility for it.

"Overmighty subjects."
    -- John Fortescue (c. 1394 - c. 1476)
The Governance of England: otherwise called The Difference between an Absolute and a Limited Monarchy
by Sir John Fortescue, Kt., sometime Chief Justice of the King's Bench;
written 1471-1476;
Chapter 9.
Added 2009/0223.
Fortescue was referring to powerful barons, eg. Warwick the Kingmaker, whom he blamed for repeatedly endangering the weak English monarchy during the Wars of the Roses

Havoc -- Doubtful Source

"I can't spare this man -- he fights."
    --Abraham Lincoln,
    rejecting A. K. McClure's advice to fire Gen. Ulysses Grant after the bloody battle of Shiloh (April 1862).
Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1939;
Vol. I, p. 478.
Sandburg in turn cited a report by A. K. McClure himself, political operative and friend of Abraham Lincoln.
Added 2005/0212
Lincoln, of course, would have been correct. While Grant's victories were sometimes bloody (Shiloh 1862 and the Wilderness 1864), other Union commanders brought bloody defeats. Some of Grant's victories had a remarkably low cost, eg. Fort Donelson (1862), Vicksburg (1863), and Chattanooga (1863). Shiloh was a bloody setback for the Confederates as well, permanently losing them western and central Tennessee.
More recently, Grant biographer Brooks Simpson has cast doubt on this quote, noting (1) the only source is McClure himself, whom Simpson considers unreliable, and (2) Lincoln in fact considered sidelining Grant, not clearly endorsing him until Grant's successful Vicksburg campaign a year later.
Revised 2011/0228M
"He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch"
    --Commonly attributed to FDR, supposedly referring to Anastasio ("Tacho") Somoza García, dictator of Nicaragua 1936-1956.
An article in finds no contemporary cite linking this quote to FDR or US relations with Somoza. Similar quotes had appeared in US political writing as early as 1882.
Added 2011/0226St
"If I had two heads, one should be at the King of England's disposal."
    --Reported reply of Christina of Denmark (widowed Duchess-consort of Milan) to an English envoy bringing a proposal of marriage by Henry VIII.
It is a matter of record that in 1538 Henry VIII did propose marriage to Christina of Denmark, living in the Brussels court of her aunt Mary, Hapsburg Governor of the Netherlands, Dowager Queen of Hungary. Henry VIII already had a dubious reputation for divorcing Catherine of Aragon (ca. 1530) and beheading Anne Boleyn (1536). The death of Jane Seymour (1537) in childbed may have been due to inferior care. It is not clear that Christina would have wished to antagonize Henry at the time with such a colorful insult, though she and/or her aunt (no admirer of Henry) might have started retelling it soon afterwards.
Added 2011/0228M, modified 2011/0311F

Havoc -- Fictional

"I said I'm sorry, so shaddap!"
    --Moe Howard
Added 990330
"What's all this lying-around shit? We just gonna take this? What? Over? Nothing's over till we say it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl harbor? Hell no!"
    --The character "Bluto" in the film "Animal House"
cited in Tony Hendra, Going Too Far, Doubleday, New York, 1987; p. 409.
Added 991228
"A health to the man on the trail this night; may his dogs keep their feet, may his matches never miss fire; God prosper him, good luck go with him; and ..."
"Confusion to the Mounted Police!"
    --Two characters in Jack London's short story, "To the Man on the Trail"
Added Y00114
"The Warning reads thus:
'For him that stealeth a Book from this Library, let it change to a Serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, and all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain, crying aloud for Mercy and let there be no surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution. Let Book-worms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment let the Flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.'"
    --supposedly "Library of the Popish Monastery of San Pedro at Barcelona"
    --actually the Old Librarian's Almanack, supposedly dated 1773, actually an amusing forgery (1909) by Edmund Lester Pearson.
Wayne A. Wiegand, The History of a Hoax: Edmund Lester Pearson, John Cotton Dana, and 'The Old Librarian's Almanack', Beta Phi Mu, Pittsburgh PA, 1979; cloth, 75 pp.; p. 53.
(Beta Phi Mu is "The International Library and Information Studies Honor Society")
Pp. 37-71 of Mr Wiegand's book are a reprint of
"Philobiblos," The Old Librarian's Almanack: A very rare pamphlet first published in New Haven Connecticut in 1773 and now reprinted for the first time, The Librarian's Series/The Elm Tree Press, Woodstock VT, 1909.

Added 20020730, updated 20020821.
[There was a] "legendary annual confidential report on an officer of the [British] Indian Army, who subsequently rose to high rank. In his case the reporting officer, after forecasting that he would go far in war, is said to have added, 'In peace he is a pestilential nuisance owing to his persistent attempts, not always unsuccessful, to seduce the wives of his seniors.'" H. Essame, Patton: A Study in Command, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1974; pp. 23-24.
Added 20040426
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil man. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
    -- supposedly Ezekiel 25:17
A trademark quote favored by a personable hitman (played by Samuel L. Jackson) when he shoots people in Quentin Tarantino's film Pulp Fiction.
Added 20051105
The actual text, from Ezekiel 25:15-17, has been sharpened:
15 - Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy [it] for the old hatred;
16 - Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast.
17 - And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
"You might say that — I could not possibly comment."
    --trademark phrase by "Francis Urquhart," a delightfully evil British Prime Minister of the 1990s, played by Ian Richardson in the BBC series "House of Cards," based on the book by Michael Dobbs.
NYT obituary (2007/0210) of Ian Richardson (April 7 1934 - Feb 9 2007)
Added 20070210
"Urquhart" would make this mock-innocent response to journalists questioning him about news items which (unbeknownst to them) he had leaked himself.
A variant was "You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment."

Havoc -- quotes out of context

[People constantly requesting government intervention] "are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours."
    --Margaret Thatcher
an article by Peter Oborne in "the Spectator" (London UK), 24 August 2002, p. 9.

Added 20021111.

The full quote is standard conservative Christianity: while the government's role is limited, individuals retain a duty to help. Most commonly, however, political opponents pruned the quote down to six words, "There's no such thing as society," making "Attila the Hen" sound even more cold-hearted than usual.
Oborne suggests Thatcher read a distinction between externally-imposed "society" and spontaneous "community" into the works of philosopher John Macmurray, who, however, was a socialist.

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