The God Who Stopped Loving Herself

   
The universe is a mystery to me. I do believe there must have been one being who must have created it. My question is, why? In a sense, it is related to why we love other human beings. We love, simply because we want to. We love, we create, because it soothes our souls. It reminds us that we are not alone. There is such great fulfillment in each act of love, a kind of spiritual love, which can be objective and subjective, understanding and empathetic. We always want to mess things up by over-thinking everything, with negative thoughts.Having said that, I think that first being of the universe, despite either being independent in existence, or composed of an infinite amount of objects and beings, all connected, like the Earth and all its creative wonders, became lonely. With love, comes pain, the pain of separation, rejection, betrayal, etc. Then comes fear. Then anger. I think that being should not have, in the act of creating the universe, allowed any part of that being’s self to be separated into any other additional beings. We have all spent our entire lives trying to return to that eternal, everlasting womb. 

But, I think I understand why God did it. Because feeling alone, in any form of existence one can imagine, is the most painful experience, in all of life. I believe, in my heart, what happened, was that she stopped loving herself. God lost an appreciation for her infinite gifts. She lost her fellowship with the glory of her Creation, which began long before Earth. She forgot who she was. But she also remembered that she loved her children: planets, Suns, galaxies. She began to stretch her imagination, until she came up with the idea of human beings. These beings would be the roughest creation she made. She was taking a risk. These humans would have an intellect, second only to hers. But their hearts could be as soft as pudding, or as hard as stone. The difference would be determined by two concepts: the ability to trust or mistrust, influenced heavily in childhood, and the choices each human made, each day, all day long, for the rest of their entire lives.

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“The God Hypothesis” an excerpt from The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Those of us schooled from infancy in his ways can become desensitized to their horror.”

“…any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution. Creative intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it. God, in the sense defined, is a delusion; and…a pernicious delusion.”

–from The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

“The God Above God”, an excerpt from The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich

“The God above the God of theism is present, although hidden, in every divine-human encounter. Biblical religion as well as Protestant theology are aware of the paradoxical character of this encounter. They are aware that if God encounters man God is neither object nor subject and is therefore above the scheme into which theism has forced him. They are aware that personalism with respect to God is balanced by a transpersonal presence of the divine. They are aware that forgiveness can be accepted only if the power of acceptance is effective in man–biblically speaking, if the power of grace is effective in man. They are aware of the paradoxical character of every prayer, of speaking to somebody to who you cannot speak because he is not “somebody,” of asking somebody of whom you cannot ask anything because he gives or gives not before you ask, of saying “thou” to somebody who is nearer to the I than the I is to itself. Each of these paradoxes drives the religious consciousness toward a God above the God of theism.”

“…But a church which raises itself in its message and its devotion to the God above the God of theism without sacrificing its concrete symbols can mediate a courage which takes doubt and meaninglessness into itself. It is the Church under the Cross which alone can do this, the Church which preaches the Crucified who cried to God who remained his God after the God of confidence had left him in the darkness of doubt and meaninglessness. To be as a part in such a church is to receive a courage to be in which one cannot lose one’s self and in which one receives one’s world.”

–from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

“The Divine-Human Encounter and the Courage to Be”, an excerpt from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

“The courage of confidence has often, especially in Protestantism, been identified with the courage of faith. But this is not adequate, because confidence is only one element in faith. Faith embraces both mystical participation and personal confidence. Most parts of the Bible describe the religious encounter in strongly personalist terms. Biblicism, notably that of the Reformers, follows this emphasis. Luther directed his attack against the objective, quantitative, and impersonal elements in the Roman system. He fought for an immediate person-to-person relationship between God and man. In him the courage of confidence reached its highest point in the history of Christian thought. Every work of Luther, especially in his earlier years, is filled with such courage. Again and again he uses the word ‘trotz’, ‘in spite of.’ In spite of all the negativities which he had experienced, in spite of the anxiety which dominated that period, he derived the power of self-affirmation from his unshakable confidence in God and from the personal encounter with him. According to the expressions of anxiety of his period, the negativity his courage had to conquer were symbolized in the figures of death and the devil. It has rightly been said that Albrecht Durer’s engraving, “Knight, Death, and the Devil,” is a classic expression of the spirit of the Lutheran Reformation and–it might be added–of Luther’s courage of confidence, of his form of the courage to be. A knight in full armor is riding through a valley, accompanied by the figure of death on one side, the devil on the other. Fearlessly, concentrated, confident he looks ahead. He is alone but he is not lonely. In his solitude he participates in the power which gives him the courage to affirm himself in spite of the presence of the negativities of existence. His courage is certainly not the courage to be as a part. The Reformation broke away from the semicollectivism of the Middle Ages. Luther’s courage of confidence is personal confidence, derived from a person-to-person encounter with God. Neither popes nor councils could give him this confidence. Therefore he had to reject them just because they relied on a doctrine which blocked off the courage of confidence. They sanctioned a system in which the anxiety of death and guilt never was completely conquered. There were many assurances but no certainty, many supports for the courage of confidence but no unquestionable foundation. The collective offered different ways of resisting anxiety but no way in which the individual could take his anxiety upon himself. He never was certain; he never could affirm his being with unconditional confidence. For he never could encounter the unconditional directly with his total being, in an immediate personal relation. There was, except in mysticism, always mediation through the Church, an indirect and partial meeting between God and the soul. When the Reformation removed the mediation and opened up a direct, total, and personal approach to God, a new nonmystical courage to be was possible. It is manifest in the heroic representatives of fighting Protestantism, in the Calvinist as well as in the Lutheran Reformation, and in Calvinism even more conspicuously. It is not the heroism of risking martyrdom, of resisting the authorities, of transforming the structure of Church and society, but it is the courage of confidence which makes these men heroic and which is the basis of the other expressions of their courage. One could say–and liberal Protestantism often has said–that the courage of the Reformers is the beginning of the individualistic type of the courage to be as oneself. But such an interpretation confuses a possible historical effect with the matter itself. In the courage of the Reformers the courage to be as oneself is both affirmed and transcended. In comparison with the mystical form of courageous self-affirmation the Protestant courage of confidence affirms the individual self as an individual self in its encounter with God as person. This radically distinguishes the personalism of the Reformation from all the later forms of individualism and Existentialism. The courage of the Reformers is not courage to be oneself–as it is not the courage to be as a part. It transcends and unites both of them. For the courage of confidence is not rooted in confidence about oneself. The Reformation pronounces the opposite: one can become confident about one’s existence only after ceasing to base one’s confidence on oneself. On the other hand the courage of confidence is in no way based on anything finite besides oneself, not even on the Church. It is based on God and solely on God, who is experienced in a unique and personal encounter. The courage of the Reformation transcends both the courage to be as a part and the courage to be as oneself. It is threatened neither by the loss of oneself nor by the loss of one’s world.”

–from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

“Those who are…disturbed by expressions of the Existentialist courage of despair”, excerpt from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

“It is not astonishing that those who are unshaken in their courage to be as a part, either in its collectivist or in its conformist form, are disturbed by the expressions of the Existentialist courage of despair. They are unable to understand what is happening in our period. They are unable to distinguish the genuine from the neurotic anxiety in Existentialism. They attack as a morbid longing for negativity what in reality is courageous acceptance of the negative. They call decay what is actually the creative expression of decay. They reject as meaningless the meaningful attempt to reveal the meaninglessness of our situation. It is not the ordinary difficulty of understanding those who break new ways in thinking and artistic expression which produces the widespread resistance to recent Existentialism but the desire to protect a self-limiting courage to be as a part. Somehow one feels that this is not a true safety; one has to suppress inclinations to accept the Existentialist visions, one even enjoys them if they appear in the theater or in novels, but one refuses to take them seriously, that is as revelations of one’s own existential meaninglessness and hidden despair…one does not feel spiritually threatened by something which is not an element of oneself. And since it is a symptom of the neurotic character to resist nonbeing by reducing being, the Existentialist could reply to the frequent reproach that he is neurotic by showing the neurotic defense mechanisms of the anti-Existentialist desire for traditional safety.”

“There should be no question of what Christian theology has to do in this situation. It should decide for truth against safety, even if the safety is consecrated and supported by the churches. Certainly there is a Christian conformism, from the beginning of the Church on, and there is a Christian collectivism–or at least semicollectivism, in several periods of Church history. But this should not induce Christian theologians to identify Christian courage with the courage to be as a part. They should realize that the courage to be as oneself is the necessary corrective to the courage to be as a part–even if they rightly assume that neither of these forms of the courage to be gives the final solution.”

–from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

“Courage and Despair”, an excerpt from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

“…Twentieth-century man has lost a meaningful world and a self which lives in meanings out of a spiritual center. The man-created world of objects has drawn into itself him who created it and who now loses his subjectivity in it. He has sacrificed himself to his own productions. But man still is aware of what he has lost or is continually losing. He is still man enough to experience his dehumanization as despair. He does not know a way out but he tries to save his humanity by expressing the situation as without an “exit.” He reacts with the courage of despair, the courage to take his despair upon himself and to resist the radical threat of nonbeing by the courage to be as oneself. Every analyst of present-day Existentialist philosophy, art, and literature can show their ambiguous structure: the meaninglessness which drives to despair, a passionate denunciation of this situation, and the successful or unsuccessful attempt to take the anxiety of meaninglessness into the courage to be as oneself.”

–from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

“Anxiety, Religion and Medicine”, excerpt from The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich

Principles of existential anxiety and pathological anxiety:

1. Existential anxiety has an ontological character and cannot be removed but must be taken into the courage to be.
2. Pathological anxiety is the consequence of the failure of the self to take the anxiety upon oneself.
3. Pathological anxiety leads to self-affirmation on a limited, fixed, and unrealistic basis and to a compulsory defense of this basis.
4. Pathological anxiety, in relation to the anxiety of fate and death, produces an unrealistic security; in relation to the anxiety of guillt and condemnation, an unrealistic perfection; in relation to the anxiety of doubt and meaninglessness, an unrealistic certitude.
5. Pathological anxiety, once established, is an object of medical healing. Existential anxiety is an object of priestly help. Neither the medical nor the priestly function is bound to its vocational representatives: the minister may be a healer and the psychotherapist a priest, and each human being may be both in relation to the “neighbor”. But the functions should not be confused and the representatives should not try to replace each other. The goal of both of them is helping men to reach full self-affirmation, to attain the courage to be.

–from “The Courage to Be”, by Paul Tillich

Thomas Jefferson, third president and one of most influential founders of United States of America, author of Declaration of Independence, political philosopher

From Wikiquote

Thomas Jefferson (13 April 1743 – 4 July 1826) was the third president of the United States (1801–1809), author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), a political philosopher, and one of the most influential founders of the United States.

Sourced

The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which may greatly afflict us; and, to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes, should be one of the principal studies and endeavours of our lives.

1760s

If I am to succeed, the sooner I know it, the less uneasiness I shall have to go through. If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off: and if I do meet with one, I hope in God, and verily believe; it will be the last. Letter to John Page (15 July 1763); published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1905)

The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which may greatly afflict us; and, to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes, should be one of the principal studies and endeavours of our lives. The only method of doing this is to assume a perfect resignation to the Divine will, to consider that whatever does happen, must happen; and that by our uneasiness, we cannot prevent the blow before it does fall, but we may add to its force after it has fallen. These considerations, and others such as these, may enable us in some measure to surmount the difficulties thrown in our way; to bear up with a tolerable degree of patience under this burthen of life; and to proceed with a pious and unshaken resignation, till we arrive at our journey’s end, when we may deliver up our trust into the hands of him who gave it, and receive such reward as to him shall seem proportioned to our merit. Such, dear Page, will be the language of the man who considers his situation in this life, and such should be the language of every man who would wish to render that situation as easy as the nature of it will admit. Few things will disturb him at all: nothing will disturb him much. Letter to John Page (15 July 1763); published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1905)

Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law. Vol. 1 Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law (1764). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904,, p. 459.

1770s

A lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity, that ever were written.

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness… A lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity, that ever were written. Letter to Robert Skipwith (3 August 1771) ; also in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (19 Vols., 1905) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 4, p. 239.

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them. Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774); The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (19 Vols., 1905) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 1, p. 211.

Let those flatter, who fear: it is not an American art. Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. — We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves. Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775); Jefferson composed the first draft of this document, but the final work was done by John Dickinson, working with his original draft. Full text online

All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution. Draft Constitution for Virginia (June 1776).

No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands]. Draft Constitution for Virginia (June 1776) This quote often appears with the parenthetical omitted and with the spurious extension, “The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government”.

Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known & seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men. Error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force. Truth is the proper & sufficient antagonist to error. Notes on Religion (October 1776), published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson : 1816-1826 (1899) edited by Paul Leicester Ford, v. 2, p. 102

In the middle ages of Christianity opposition to the State opinions was hushed. The consequence was, Christianity became loaded with all the Romish follies. Nothing but free argument, raillery & even ridicule will preserve the purity of religion. Notes on Religion (October 1776), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 2, p. 256.

Compulsion in religion is distinguished peculiarly from compulsion in every other thing. I may grow rich by art I am compelled to follow, I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment, but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve & abhor. Notes on Religion (October 1776), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 2, p. 266.

Locke denies toleration to those who entertain opinions contrary to those moral rules necessary for the preservation of society; as for instance, that faith is not to be kept with those of another persuasion, … that dominion is founded in grace, or who will not own & teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of religion, or who deny the existence of a god (it was a great thing to go so far—as he himself says of the parliament who framed the act of toleration … He says ‘neither Pagan nor Mahomedan nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.’ Shall we suffer a Pagan to deal with us and not suffer him to pray to his god? Why have Christians been distinguished above all people who have ever lived, for persecutions? Is it because it is the genius of their religion? No, its genius is the reverse. It is the refusing toleration to those of a different opinion which has produced all the bustles and wars on account of religion. It was the misfortune of mankind that during the darker centuries the Christian priests following their ambition and avarice combining with the magistrate to divide the spoils of the people, could establish the notion that schismatics might be ousted of their possessions & destroyed. This notion we have not yet cleared ourselves from. Notes on Religion (October, 1776). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 2, pp. 267.

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet choose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to exalt it by its influence on reason alone; that the impious presumption of legislature and ruler, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; … that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; and therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust or emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religions opinion, is depriving him injudiciously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow-citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emolumerits, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminals who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, … and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate ; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them. A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, Chapter 82 (1779). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 1, pp. 438–441. Comparison of Jefferson’s proposed draft and the bill enacted

Declaration of Independence (1776)

For more quotes from and about this document, see United States Declaration of Independence

For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

1780s

It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVII

Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves? Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVII

In a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII (1782); for more quotes from this document see: Notes on the State of Virginia (1781-1785)

He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. Letter to Peter Carr (19 August 1785)

What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment and death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose. Letter to Jean Nicholas Demeunier (24 January 1786) Bergh 17:103

Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost. Letter to Dr. James Currie (28 January 1786) Lipscomb & Bergh 18:ii

We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The Ambassador [of Tripoli] answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise. Letter from the commissioners (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson) to John Jay, 28 March 1786, in Thomas Jefferson Travels: Selected Writings, 1784-1789, by Anthony Brandt, pp. 104-105.

The two principles on which our conduct towards the Indians should be founded, are justice and fear. After the injuries we have done them, they cannot love us . . . . Letter to Benjamin Hawkins (13 August 1786) Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 5:390

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787) Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 6:57

Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (16 January 1787)

I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Letter to James Madison (30 January 1787); referring to Shays’ Rebellion Lipscomb & Bergh ed. 6:65

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere. Letter to Abigail Smith Adams from Paris while a Minister to France (22 February 1787), referring to Shay’s Rebellion. “Jefferson’s Service to the New Nation,” Library of Congress [image]

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Letter to William Stephens Smith (13 November 1787), quoted in Padover’s Jefferson On Democracy

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become corrupt as in Europe. Letter to James Madison (20 December 1787), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (19 Vols., 1905) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. VI, p. 392.

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give. Letter to Alexander Donald (7 February 1788)

Paper is poverty,… it is only the ghost of money, and not money itself. Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington (27 May 1788) ME 7:36

Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights. Letter to Richard Price (8 January 1789)

You say that I have been dished up to you as an antifederalist, and ask me if it be just. My opinion was never worthy enough of notice to merit citing; but since you ask it I will tell it you. I am not a Federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. Therefore I protest to you I am not of the party of federalists. But I am much farther from that than of the Antifederalists. Letter to Francis Hopkinson (13 March 1789)

I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence. Letter to James Madison (6 September 1789) ME 7:455, Papers 15:393

Letter to Peter Carr (1787)

Letter to his nephew Peter Carr from Paris, France, (10 August 1787). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 5, pp. 324–327.

The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body.

I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision. He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong, merely relative to this.
The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted, indeed, in some degree, to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.
Above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, &c. Consider every act of this kind, as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties and increase your worth.
Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object [religion]. In the first place divest yourself of all bias in favour of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, & the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. Scan of the original page at The Library of Congress.

You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy and Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates. For example in the book of Joshua we are told the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, etc. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine therefore candidly what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis as the earth does, should have stopped, should not by that sudden stoppage have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time have resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities?
You will next read the new testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions 1. of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven: and 2. of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, & was Punished capitally for sedition by being gibbeted according to the Roman law which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile or death in furcâ.
Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, and that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a god, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love.
In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision.
When speaking of the new testament that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, & not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some however still extant, collected by Fabricius which I will endeavor to get & send you.

1790s

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it. The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind. Letter to William Hunter (11 March 1790)

We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed. Letter to Lafayette (2 April 1790)

I learn with great satisfaction that you are about committing to the press the valuable historical and State papers you have been so long collecting. Time and accident are committing daily havoc on the originals deposited in our public offices. The late war has done the work of centuries in this business. The last cannot be recovered, but let us save what remains; not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident. Letter to a Mr. Hazard (18 February 1791) published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1853), Vol. 2, edited by Henry Augustine Washington, p. 211

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That “all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.” To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.
The incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill, have not, in my opinion, been delegated to the United States, by the Constitution… They are not among the powers specially enumerated… Opinion against the constitutionality of a National Bank (1791), also quoted in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 3, p. 146

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it. Letter to Archibald Stuart [1] [2], Philadelphia (23 December 1791)

Let what will be said or done, preserve your sang-froid immovably, and to every obstacle, oppose patience, perseverance, and soothing language. Letter to William Short (18 March 1792)

Delay is preferable to error. Letter to George Washington (16 May 1792)

We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it. Letter to William Carmichael and William Short (1793)

The second office of the government is honorable and easy, the first is but a splendid misery. Letter to Elbridge Gerry (13 May 1797)

It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back. Letter to Arthur Campbell (1797)

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake. From a letter to John Taylor (June 1798), after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Resolved […] that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights; that confidence is every where the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power; that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no farther, our confidence may go; […].

In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 (16 November 1798)

War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses. Letter to John Sinclair (1798)

As pure a son of liberty as I have ever known. About Tadeusz Kościuszko, in a letter to Horatio Gates (1798)

I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. Letter to Elbridge Gerry (1799)

Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto. Letter to Thomas Lomax (12 March 1799)

To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement. Letter to William Green Mumford (18 June 1799)

1800s

I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. When the clergy addressed General Washington on his departure from the government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However [Dr. Rush] observed the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the states when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of the benign influence of the Christian religion. I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets & believed himself to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did. The Anas (February 1, 1800). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 1, pp. 352–353.

What an effort, my dear sir, of bigotry in politics and religion have we gone through! The barbarians really flattered themselves they should be able to bring back the times of Vandalism… They believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion. On members of the clergy who sought to establish some form of “official” Christianity in the U.S. government. Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush (23 September 1800)
This has commonly been quoted as “I have sworn upon the altar of God Eternal, hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”, and “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Neither capitalization of “god” and “eternal”, nor a comma before or after “eternal” are apparent in the original. Photograph of the original manuscript at the Library of Congress – LOC transcription
The first portion of this statement has also been widely paraphrased as “The clergy believe that any power confided in me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes, and they believe rightly.”

Yours is one of the few lives precious to mankind, and for the continuance of which every thinking man is solicitous. Bigots may be an exception. What an effort, my dear sir, of bigotry in politics and religion have we gone through! The barbarians really flattered themselves they should be able to bring back the times of Vandalism, when ignorance put everything into the hands of power and priestcraft. All advances in science were proscribed as innovations. They pretended to praise and encourage education, but it was to be the education of our ancestors. We were to look backwards, not forwards, for improvement … This was the real ground of all the attacks on you. Those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy — the most sublime and benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man — endeavored to crush your well-earned & well-deserved fame. Letter to Dr. Joseph Priestley (21 March 1801); published in The Life of Thomas Jefferson (1871) by Henry Stephens Randall, Vol. 2, p. 644; this seems to be the source of a misleading abbreviation: “[Christianity is] the most … perverted system that ever shone on man”.

Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfil. The knowledge of character possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect. Letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven (12 July 1801). Paraphrased in John B. McMaster, History of the People of the United States (ii. 586): “One sentence will undoubtedly be remembered till our republic ceases to exist. ‘No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying,’ [Jefferson] observed, ‘as to put the right man in the right place.'”

If a due participation of office is a matter of right, how are vacancies to be obtained? Those by death are few; by resignation, none. Letter to Elias Shipman and others of New Haven (12 July 1801). Often misquoted as, “few die and none resign”.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and 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 and State. Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT. (1 January 1802) This statement is the origin of the often used phrase “separation of Church and State”.

If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy. Letter to Thomas Cooper (29 November 1802)

To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other. Letter to Benjamin Rush (12 April 1803)

His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent: he was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, & of the sublimest eloquence.
The disadvantages under which his doctrines appear are remarkable.
1. Like Socrates & Epictetus, he wrote nothing himself.
2. But he had not, like them, a Xenophon or an Arrian to write for him. On the contrary, all the learned of his country, entrenched in its power and riches, were opposed to him, lest his labors should undermine their advantages; and the committing to writing his life & doctrines fell on the most unlettered & ignorant men; who wrote, too, from memory, & not till long after the transactions had passed.
3. According to the ordinary fate of those who attempt to enlighten and reform mankind, he fell an early victim to the jealousy & combination of the altar and the throne, at about 33. years of age, his reason having not yet attained the maximum of its energy, nor the course of his preaching, which was but of 3. years at most, presented occasions for developing a complete system of morals.
4. Hence the doctrines which he really delivered were defective as a whole, and fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, & often unintelligible.
5. They have been still more disfigured by the corruptions of schismatising followers, who have found an interest in sophisticating & perverting the simple doctrines he taught by engrafting on them the mysticisms of a Grecian sophist, frittering them into subtleties, & obscuring them with jargon, until they have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust, & to view Jesus himself as an impostor.
Notwithstanding these disadvantages, a system of morals is presented to us, which, if filled up in the true style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man.
The question of his being a member of the Godhead, or in direct communication with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others, is foreign to the present view, which is merely an estimate of the intrinsic merit of his doctrines.
1. He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief of one only God, and giving them juster notions of his attributes and government.
2. His moral doctrines, relating to kindred & friends, were more pure & perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philanthropy, not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.
3. The precepts of philosophy, & of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.
4. He taught, emphatically, the doctrines of a future state, which was either doubted, or disbelieved by the Jews; and wielded it with efficacy, as an important incentive, supplementary to the other motives to moral conduct. “Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus, Compared with Those of Others” in a letter to Benjamin Rush (12 April 1803). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 9 Works Vol. 9 (PDF), pp. 462.

I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others. Letter to Edward Dowse (19 April 1803)

There is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive. Letter to Edward Dowse (19 April 1803)

I observe an idea of establishing a branch bank of the United States in New Orleans. This institution is one of the most deadly hostility existing against the principles and form of our Constitution. The nation is at this time so strong and united in its sentiments that it cannot be shaken at this moment. But suppose a series of untoward events should occur sufficient to bring into doubt the competency of a republican government to meet a crisis of great danger, or to unhinge the confidence of the people in the public functionaries; an institution like this, penetrating by its branches every part of the union, acting by command and in phalanx may, in a critical moment, upset the government. I deem no government safe which is under the vassalage of any self-constituted authorities, or any other authority than that of the nation or its regular functionaries. What an obstruction could not this Bank of the United States, with al its branch banks, be in time of war! It might dictate to us the peace we should accept, or withdraw its aids. Ought we then to give further growth to an institution so powerful, so hostile? Letter to Albert Gallatin (13 December 1803) ME 10:437 : The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 10, p. 437

The Constitution . . . meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch. Letter to Abigail Adams (1804)

Whensoever hostile aggressions…require a resort to war, we must meet our duty and convince the world that we are just friends and brave enemies. Letter to Andrew Jackson (3 December 1806)

To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, “by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.” Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits, than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. . . . I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false. Letter to John Norvell (11 June 1807)

Blest is that nation whose silent course of happiness furnishes nothing for history to say. Letter to Count Diodati (29 March 1807)

My religious reading has long been confined to the moral branch of religion, which is the same in all religions; while in that branch which consists of dogmas, all differ[.] Letter to Thomas Leiper (11 January 1809). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 11, pp. 89.

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. “To the Republican Citizens of Washington County, Maryland” (March 31, 1809).

I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time. Letter to John Wyche (19 May 1809).

Nothing was or is farther from my intentions, than to enlist myself as the champion of a fixed opinion, where I have only expressed doubt. Letter to Joel Barlow (8 October 1809); Jefferson here expresses an aversion to supporting the “fixed opinion” that blacks were not equal to whites in general mental capacities, which he asserts in his Notes on the State of Virginia he had advanced as “a suspicion only”.

It has always been denied by the republican party in this country, that the Constitution had given the power of incorporation to Congress. On the establishment of the Bank of the United States, this was the great ground on which that establishment was combated; and the party prevailing supported it only on the argument of its being an incident to the power given them for raising money. Letter to Dr. Maese (1809) ME 12:231 : The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 12, p. 231; also quoted at “Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government : Money & Banking” at University of Virginia.

The selfish spirit of commerce knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain. Letter to Larkin Smith (1809).

First Inaugural Address (1801)

Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801) All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.
If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world’s best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not.
Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.
A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people — a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.
I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it.
I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts.
I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make.

1810s

He who steadily observes the moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ.

I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. That we are overdone with banking institutions which have banished the precious metals and substituted a more fluctuating and unsafe medium, that these have withdrawn capital from useful improvements and employments to nourish idleness, that the wars of the world have swollen our commerce beyond the wholesome limits of exchanging our own productions for our own wants, and that, for the emolument of a small proportion of our society who prefer these demoralizing pursuits to labors useful to the whole, the peace of the whole is endangered and all our present difficulties produced, are evils more easily to be deplored than remedied. Letter to Abbe Salimankis (1810) ME 12:379 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 12, p. 379; also quoted at “Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government : Money & Banking” at University of Virginia.

Knowing that religion does not furnish grosser bigots than law, I expect little from old judges. Letter to Thomas Cooper (1810)

Politics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error. Letter to James Ogilvie (4 August 1811)

But though an old man, I am but a young gardener. Letter to Charles Willson Peale (20 August 1811)

The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent. Statement during an early stage of the War of 1812, in a letter to William Duane (4 August 1812)

It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. Letter to Isaac McPherson (13 August 1813) ME 13:333

England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices. Letter to Isaac McPherson (13 August 1813).

He who steadily observes the moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ. Letter to William Canby (18 September 1813).

Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus. He who follows this steadily need not, I think, be uneasy, although he cannot comprehend the subtleties and mysteries erected on his doctrines by those who, calling themselves his special followers and favorites, would make him come into the world to lay snares for all understandings but theirs. These metaphysical heads, usurping the judgment seat of God, denounce as his enemies all who cannot perceive the Geometrical logic of Euclid in the demonstrations of St. Athanasius., that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three nor the three one. Letter to William Canby (18 September 1813).

I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Letter to John Adams (28 October 1813).

[I]f ever there was a holy war, it was that which saved our liberties and gave us independence. Letter to John W. Eppes (6 November 1813). Reported in Albert Ellery Bergh, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1907), p. 430.

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. Letter to Alexander von Humboldt (6 December 1813)
Scanned letter at The Library of Congress
Transcript at The Library of Congress.

Religion is 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, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle. Letter to Richard Rush (1813).

The whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills. Letter to John Adams, on Christian scriptures (24 January 1814)

Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains. In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire them, and to effect this, they have perverted the best religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes. With the lawyers it is a new thing. They have, in the mother country, been generally the primest supporters of the free principles of their constitution. But there, too, they have changed. Letter to Horatio G. Spafford (17 March 1814)

If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? …Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God. Letter to Thomas Law (13 June 1814).

The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw in the mysticism of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system, which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child ; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them; and for this obvious reason, that nonsense can never be explained. Letter to John Adams (5 July 1814). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 11, pp. 397–398.

I like well your idea of issuing treasury notes bearing interest, because I am persuaded they would soon be withdrawn from circulation and locked up in vaults & private hoards. It would put it in the power of every man to lend his 100. or 1000 d. tho’ not able to go forward on the great scale, and be the most advantageous way of obtaining a loan. The other idea of creating a National bank, I do not concur in, because it seems now decided that Congress has not that power, (altho’ I sincerely wish they had it exclusively) and because I think there is already a vast redundancy, rather than a scarcity of paper medium. Letter to Thomas Law (6 November 1813) FE 9:433 : The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (10 Vols., 1892-99) edited by Paul Leicester Ford.

A man has a right to use a saw, an axe, a plane, separately; may he not combine their uses on the same piece of wood? He has a right to use his knife to cut his meat, a fork to hold it; may a patentee take from him the right to combine their use on the same subject? Such a law, instead of enlarging our conveniences, as was intended, would most fearfully abridge them, and crowd us by monopolies out of the use of the things we have. Letter to Oliver Evans, (16 January 1814); published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1905) Vol. 13, p. 66.

Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains. Letter to Horatio G. Spafford (17 March 1814)

The hour of emancipation is advancing. . . this enterprise is for the young; for those who can follow it up, and bear it through to its consummation. It shall have all my prayers, and these are the only weapons of an old man. Letter to Edward Coles (25 August 1814)

Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man’s and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend’s or our foe’s, are exactly the right. Letter to Miles King (26 September 1814).

I agree … that a professorship of Theology should have no place in our institution. But we cannot always do what is absolutely best. Those with whom we act, entertaining different views, have the power and the right of carrying them into practice. Truth advances, and error recedes step by step only; and to do to our fellow men the most good in our power, we must lead where we can, follow where we cannot, and still go with them, watching always the favorable moment for helping them to another step. Comment on establishing the University of Virginia, in a letter to Thomas Cooper (7 October 1814); published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1905) edited by Andrew Adgate Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol VII, p. 200.

I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offence against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. Letter to Nicolas Gouin Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller (1814) who had been prosecuted for selling the book Sur la Création du Monde, un Systême d’Organisation Primitive by M. de Becourt, which Jefferson himself had purchased.

Self-interest, or rather self-love, or egoism, has been more plausibly substituted as the basis of morality. But I consider our relations with others as constituting the boundaries of morality. With ourselves, we stand on the ground of identity, not of relation, which last, requiring two subjects, excludes self-love confined to a single one. To ourselves, in strict language, we can owe no duties, obligation requiring also two parties. Self-love, therefore, is no part of morality. Indeed, it is exactly its counterpart. Letter to Thomas Law (1814)

I cannot live without books. Letter to John Adams (10 June 1815)

The priests have so disfigured the simple religion of Jesus that no one who reads the sophistications they have engrafted on it, from the jargon of Plato, of Aristotle & other mystics, would conceive these could have been fathered on the sublime preacher of the sermon on the mount. Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (13 October 1815). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 11, p. 492.

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey (6 January 1816) ME 14:384

Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe. Letter to Charles Yancey, (6 January 1816)

I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature. Letter to Charles Thomson (9 January 1816), on his The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (the “Jefferson Bible”), which omits all Biblical passages asserting Jesus’ virgin birth, miracles, divinity, and resurrection. Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 11, pp. 498–499.

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. Letter to Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours (24 April 1816)

The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our Constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens. Funding I consider as limited, rightfully, to a redemption of the debt within the lives of a majority of the generation contracting it; every generation coming equally, by the laws of the Creator of the world, to the free possession of the earth he made for their subsistence, unincumbered by their predecessors, who, like them, were but tenants for life. Letter to John Taylor (28 May 1816) ME 15:18 : The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 15, p. 18.

We may say with truth and meaning that governments are more or less republican, as they have more or less of the element of popular election and control in their composition; and believing, as I do, that the mass of the citizens is the safest depository of their own rights, and especially, that the evils flowing from the duperies of the people are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents, I am a friend to that composition of government which has in it the most of this ingredient. And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale. Letter to John Taylor (28 May 1816) ME 15:23.

Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him; every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him; and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right. Letter to Francis W. Gilmer (27 June 1816); The Writings of Thomas Jefferson edited by Ford, vol. 10, p. 32

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves were they to rise from the dead. Letter to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval), 12 July 1816 (image at Library of Congress)

I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. Letter to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval), 12 July 1816 (image at Library of Congress)
An abridged version is inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.,[3] as follows: I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. Letter to William Plumer (21 July 1816)

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. Letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp (30 July 1816), denouncing the doctrine of the Trinity

Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education & free discussion are the antidotes of both. Letter to John Adams (1 August 1816)

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past, — so good night! Letter to John Adams (1 August 1816)

It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. Letter to Mrs. Harrison Smith (6 August 1816).

You ask if I mean to publish anything on the subject of a letter of mine to my friend Charles Thompson? Certainly not. I write nothing for publication, and last of all things should it be on the subject of religion. On the dogmas of religion as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarrelling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Were I to enter on that arena, I should only add an unit to the number of Bedlamites. Letter to Mathew Carey (11 November 1816). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, p. 42.

I may say Christianity itself divided into its thousands also, who are disputing, anathematizing and where the laws permit burning and torturing one another for abstractions which no one of them understand, and which are indeed beyond the comprehension of the human mind[.] Letter to George Logan (12 November 1816). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, pp. 43.

I hope we shall take warning from the example [of England] and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws our country. Letter to George Logan (12 November 1816)

There is an error into which most of the speculators on government have fallen, and which the well-known state of society of our Indians ought, before now, to have corrected. In their hypothesis of the origin of government, they suppose it to have commenced in the patriarchal or monarchical form. Our Indians are evidently in that state of nature which has passed the association of a single family… The Cherokees, the only tribe I know to be contemplating the establishment of regular laws, magistrates, and government, propose a government of representatives, elected from every town. But of all things, they least think of subjecting themselves to the will of one man. Letter to Francis W. Gilmer (1816)

Lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly. Do not be frightened into their surrender by the alarms of the timid, or the croakings of wealth against the ascendency of the people. Letter to Samuel Kercheval (1816)

I believe… that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another. Letter to John Adams (1816)

The result of your fifty or sixty years of religious reading in the four words: ‘Be just and good,’ is that in which all our enquiries must end. Letter to John Adams (11 January 1817)

What all agree upon is probably right; what no two agree in most probably is wrong. Letter to John Adams (11 January 1817) This statement has been referred to as “Jefferson’s Axiom”

One of our fan-coloring biographers, who paints small men as very great, inquired of me lately with real affection too, whether he might consider as authentic, the change of my religion much spoken of in some circles. Now this supposed that they knew what had been my religion before, taking for it the word of their priests, whom I certainly never made the confidants of my creed. My answer was “say nothing of my religion. It is known to my God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.” Letter to John Adams (11 January 1817), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, pp. 48–49.

The Pennsylvania legislature, who, on a proposition to make the belief in God a necessary qualification for office, rejected it by a great majority, although assuredly there was not a single atheist in their body. And you remember to have heard, that when the act for religious freedom was before the Virginia Assembly, a motion to insert the name of Jesus Christ before the phrase, “the author of our holy religion,” which stood in the bill, was rejected, although that was the creed of a great majority of them. Letter to Albert Gallatin (16 June 1817). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, p. 73.

I have the consolation to reflect that during the period of my administration not a drop of the blood of a single fellow citizen was shed by the sword of war or of the law. Letter to papal nuncio Count Dugnani (14 February 1818)

Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicines. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain. Letter to John Adams (13 November 1818) regarding the death of Abigail Adams

You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know. Letter to Ezra Stiles Ely (25 June 1819), published in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1983) by Dickinson W. Adams; Attributions of this letter as one to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale College (who died in 1795) are incorrect. See also Positive Atheism’s “Questionable Thomas Jefferson Quotations”

It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law. Letter to Judge Spencer Roane (6 September 1819)

The greatest of all the reformers of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separable from that as the diamond from the dunghill. … The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent moralist, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted from artificial systems, [footnote: e.g. The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, etc. —T.J.] invented by ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by him, is a most desirable object, and one to which Priestley has successfully devoted his labors and learning. It would in time, it is to be hoped, effect a quiet euthanasia of the heresies of bigotry and fanaticism which have so long triumphed over human reason, and so generally and deeply afflicted mankind; but this work is to be begun by winnowing the grain from the chaff of the historians of his life. Letter to William Short (31 October 1819), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, pp. 141–142.

As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. Letter to William Short (31 October 1819)

We were laboring under a dropsical fulness of circulating medium. Nearly all of it is now called in by the banks, who have the regulation of the safety-valves of our fortunes, and who condense and explode them at their will. Lands in this State cannot now be sold for a year’s rent; and unless our Legislature have wisdom enough to effect a remedy by a gradual diminution only of the medium, there will be a general revolution of property in this state. Letter to John Adams (7 November 1819) ME 15:224 : The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 15, p. 224.

Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany (1819)

Letters to John Wayles Eppes (1813)
John Wayles Eppes was a United States Representative and a Senator from Virginia, and Jefferson’s son-in-law. The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead. 24 June 1813

It is a palpable falsehood to say we can have specie for our paper whenever demanded. Instead, then, of yielding to the cries of scarcity of medium set up by speculators, projectors and commercial gamblers, no endeavors should be spared to begin the work of reducing it by such gradual means as may give time to private fortunes to preserve their poise, and settle down with the subsiding medium; and that, for this purpose, the States should be urged to concede to the General Government, with a saving of chartered rights, the exclusive power of establishing banks of discount for paper. 6 November 1813, ME 13:431 : The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 13, p. 431

The States should be urged to concede to the General Government, with a saving of chartered rights, the exclusive power of establishing banks of discount for paper. ME 13:431

If treasury bills are emitted on a tax appropriated for their redemption in fifteen years, and (to insure preference in the first moments of competition) bearing an interest of six per cent, there is no one who would not take them in preference to the bank paper now afloat, on a principle of patriotism as well as interest; and they would be withdrawn from circulation into private hoards to a considerable amount. Their credit once established, others might be emitted, bottomed also on a tax, but not bearing interest; and if ever their credit faltered, open public loans, on which these bills alone should be received as specie. These, operating as a sinking fund, would reduce the quantity in circulation, so as to maintain that in an equilibrium with specie. It is not easy to estimate the obstacles which, in the beginning, we should encounter in ousting the banks from their possession of the circulation; but a steady and judicious alternation of emissions and loans would reduce them in time. ME 13:275

The question will be asked and ought to be looked at, what is to be the resource if loans cannot be obtained? There is but one, “Carthago delenda est.” Bank paper must be suppressed, and the circulating medium must be restored to the nation to whom it belongs. It is the only fund on which they can rely for loans; it is the only resource which can never fail them, and it is an abundant one for every necessary purpose. Treasury bills, bottomed on taxes, bearing or not bearing interest, as may be found necessary, thrown into circulation will take the place of so much gold and silver, which last, when crowded, will find an efflux into other countries, and thus keep the quantum of medium at its salutary level. Let banks continue if they please, but let them discount for cash alone or for treasury notes. 11 September 1813, ME 13:361

It is literally true that the toleration of banks of paper discount costs the United States one-half their war taxes; or, in other words, doubles the expenses of every war. Now think but for a moment, what a change of condition that would be, which should save half our war expenses, require but half the taxes, and enthral us in debt but half the time. ME 13:364

The art and mystery of banks… is established on the principle that ‘private debts are a public blessing.’ That the evidences of those private debts, called bank notes, become active capital, and aliment the whole commerce, manufactures, and agriculture of the United States. Here are a set of people, for instance, who have bestowed on us the great blessing of running in our debt about two hundred millions of dollars, without our knowing who they are, where they are, or what property they have to pay this debt when called on; nay, who have made us so sensible of the blessings of letting them run in our debt, that we have exempted them by law from the repayment of these debts beyond a give proportion (generally estimated at one-third). And to fill up the measure of blessing, instead of paying, they receive an interest on what they owe from those to whom they owe; for all the notes, or evidences of what they owe, which we see in circulation, have been lent to somebody on an interest which is levied again on us through the medium of commerce. And they are so ready still to deal out their liberalities to us, that they are now willing to let themselves run in our debt ninety millions more, on our paying them the same premium of six or eight per cent interest, and on the same legal exemption from the repayment of more than thirty millions of the debt, when it shall be called for. ME 13:420

But it will be asked, are we to have no banks? Are merchants and others to be deprived of the resource of short accommodations, found so convenient? I answer, let us have banks; but let them be such as are alone to be found in any country on earth, except Great Britain. There is not a bank of discount on the continent of Europe (at least there was not one when I was there) which offers anything but cash in exchange for discounted bills. ME 13:277.

No one has a natural right to the trade of a money lender, but he who has the money to lend. Let those then among us who have a moneyed capital and who prefer employing it in loans rather than otherwise, set up banks and give cash or national bills for the notes they discount. Perhaps, to encourage them, a larger interest than is legal in the other cases might be allowed them, on the condition of their lending for short periods only. ME 13:277

If the debt which the banking companies owe be a blessing to anybody, it is to themselves alone, who are realizing a solid interest of eight or ten per cent on it. As to the public, these companies have banished all our gold and silver medium, which, before their institution, we had without interest, which never could have perished in our hands, and would have been our salvation now in the hour of war; instead of which they have given us two hundred million of froth and bubble, on which we are to pay them heavy interest, until it shall vanish into air… We are warranted, then, in affirming that this parody on the principle of ‘a public debt being a public blessing,’ and its mutation into the blessing of private instead of public debts, is as ridiculous as the original principle itself. In both cases, the truth is, that capital may be produced by industry, and accumulated by economy; but jugglers only will propose to create it by legerdemain tricks with paper. ME 13:423

It is said that our paper is as good as silver, because we may have silver for it at the bank where it issues. This is not true. One, two, or three persons might have it; but a general application would soon exhaust their vaults, and leave a ruinous proportion of their paper in its intrinsic worthless form. ME 13:426

To the existence of banks of discount for cash… there can be no objection, because there can be no danger of abuse, and they are a convenience both to merchants and individuals. I think they should even be encouraged, by allowing them a larger than legal interest on short discounts, and tapering thence, in proportion as the term of discount is lengthened, down to legal interest on those of a year or more. Even banks of deposit, where cash should be lodged, and a paper acknowledgment taken out as its representative, entitled to a return of the cash on demand, would be convenient for remittances, travelling persons, etc. But, liable as its cash would be to be pilfered and robbed, and its paper to be fraudulently re-issued, or issued without deposit, it would require skilful and strict regulation. ME 13:431

1820s

The priests of the different religious sects, who dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of day-light; and scowl on it the fatal harbinger announcing the subversion of the duperies on which they live. In this the Presbyterian clergy take the lead. the tocsin is sounded in all their pulpits, and the first alarm denounced is against the particular creed of Doctr. Cooper; and as impudently denounced as if they really knew what it is. Letter to José Correia da Serra (11 April 1820).

Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of His disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of His doctrines, led me to try to sift them apart. Letter to William Short (13 April 1820)

I had for a long time ceased to read newspapers, or pay any attention to public affairs, confident they were in good hands, and content to be a passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am not distant. But this momentous question, like a firebell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. On the Missouri Compromise, in a letter to John Holmes (22 April 1820), published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson : 1816-1826 (1899) edited by Paul Leicester Ford, v. 10, p. 157

We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, self-preservation in the other. On slavery, in a letter to John Holmes (22 April 1820)

I regret that I am now to die in the belief, that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776, to acquire self- government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be, that I live not to weep over it. If they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away, against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves, and of treason against the hopes of the world. To yourself, as the faithful advocate of the Union, I tender the offering of my high esteem and respect. Letter to John Holmes (22 April 1820)

My aim in that was, to justify the character of Jesus against the fictions of his pseudo-followers, which have exposed him to the inference of being an impostor. For if we could believe that he really countenanced the follies, the falsehoods and the charlatanisms which his biographers father on him, and admit the misconstructions, interpolations and theorizations of the fathers of the early, and fanatics of the latter ages, the conclusion would be irresistible by every sound mind, that he was an impostor. I give no credit to their falsifications of his actions and doctrines, and to rescue his character, the postulate in my letter asked only what is granted in reading every other historian. … I say, that this free exercise of reason is all I ask for the vindication of the character of Jesus. We find in the writings of his biographers matter of two distinct descriptions. First, a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications. Intermixed with these, again, are sublime ideas of the Supreme Being, aphorisms and precepts of the purest morality and benevolence, sanctioned by a life of humility, innocence and simplicity of manners, neglect of riches, absence of worldly ambition and honors, with an eloquence and persuasiveness which have not been surpassed. These could not be inventions of the groveling authors who relate them. They are far beyond the powers of their feeble minds. They shew that there was a character, the subject of their history, whose splendid conceptions were above all suspicion of being interpolations from their hands. Can we be at a loss in separating such materials, and ascribing each to its genuine author? The difference is obvious to the eye and to the understanding, and we may read as we run to each his part; and I will venture to affirm, that he who, as I have done, will undertake to winnow this grain from its chaff, will find it not to require a moment’s consideration. The parts fall asunder of themselves, as would those of an image of metal and clay. … There are, I acknowledge, passages not free from objection, which we may, with probability, ascribe to Jesus himself; but claiming indulgence from the circumstances under which he acted. His object was the reformation of some articles in the religion of the Jews, as taught by Moses. That sect had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust. Jesus, taking for his type the best qualities of the human head and heart, wisdom, justice, goodness, and adding to them power, ascribed all of these, but in infinite perfection, to the Supreme Being, and formed him really worthy of their adoration. Moses had either not believed in a future state of existence, or had not thought it essential to be explicitly taught to his people. Jesus inculcated that doctrine with emphasis and precision. Moses had bound the Jews to many idle ceremonies, mummeries and observances, of no effect towards producing the social utilities which constitute the essence of virtue; Jesus exposed their futility and insignificance. The one instilled into his people the most anti-social spirit towards other nations; the other preached philanthropy and universal charity and benevolence. The office of reformer of the superstitions of a nation, is ever dangerous. Jesus had to walk on the perilous confines of reason and religion: and a step to right or left might place him within the gripe of the priests of the superstition, a blood thirsty race, as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel. They were constantly laying snares, too, to entangle him in the web of the law. He was justifiable, therefore, in avoiding these by evasions, by sophisms, by misconstructions and misapplications of scraps of the prophets, and in defending himself with these their own weapons, as sufficient, ad homines, at least. That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore. But that he might conscientiously believe himself inspired from above, is very possible. Letter to William Short (4 August 1820) on his reason for composing a Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus and referring to Jesus’ biographers, the Gospel writers. Published in Thomas Jefferson: Writings, Merrill D. Peterson, ed., New York: Library of America, 1994, pp. 1435–1440.

To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But heresy it certainly is. Letter to John Adams (15 August 1820)

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. Letter to William Charles Jarvis, (28 September 1820).

The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. This will lay all things at their feet, and they are too well versed in English law to forget the maxim, boni judicis est ampliare juris-dictionem. We shall see if they are bold enough to take the daring stride their five lawyers have lately taken. If they do, then, with the editor of our book, in his address to the public, I will say, that “against this every man should raise his voice,” and more, should uplift his arm. Who wrote this admirable address? Sound, luminous, strong, not a word too much, nor one which can be changed but for the worse. That pen should go on, lay bare these wounds of our constitution, expose the decisions seriatim, and arouse, as it is able, the attention of the nation to these bold speculators on its patience. Having found, from experience, that impeachment is an impracticable thing, a mere scare-crow, they consider themselves secure for life; they sculk from responsibility to public opinion, the only remaining hold on them, under a practice first introduced into England by Lord Mansfield. An opinion is huddled up in conclave, perhaps by a majority of one, delivered as if unanimous, and with the silent acquiescence of lazy or timid associates, by a crafty chief judge, who sophisticates the law to his mind, by the turn of his own reasoning Letter to Thomas Ritchie (25 December 1820)

We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it. Letter to William Roscoe (December 27, 1820).

You seem to consider the federal judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions, a very dangerous doctrine, indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have with others the same passions for the party, for power and the privilege of the corps. Their power is the more dangerous, as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves. Letter to William Charles Jarvis (1820).

That one hundred and fifty lawyers should do business together ought not to be expected. On the U.S. Congress, in his Autobiography (6 January 1821)

And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and libraries of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. In short, the flames kindled on the fourth of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them. Letter to John Adams (12 September 1821)

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination. Autobiography (1821), in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom.

Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free; nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion have drawn indelible lines of distinction between them. Autobiography (1821) in notes describing some of the debates of 1779 on slavery.

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.
1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect. 2, That there is a future state of rewards and punishments. 3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion. These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin. 1. That there are three Gods. 2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing. 3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith. 4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use. 5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save. Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian? He who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus? Or the impious dogmatists, as Athanasius and Calvin? Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet. Their blasphemies have driven thinking men into infidelity, who have too hastily rejected the supposed author himself, with the horrors so falsely imputed to him. Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian. I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Waterhouse, (26 June 1822), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, pp. 241–243.
They might need a preparatory discourse on the text of ‘prove all things, hold fast that which is good,’ in order to unlearn the lesson that reason is an unlawful guide in religion. They might startle on being first awaked from the dreams of the night, but they would rub their eyes at once, and look the spectres boldly in the face. Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (19 July 1822), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, p. 244.

In our university [of Virginia] you know there is no Professorship of Divinity. A handle has been made of this, to disseminate an idea that this is an institution, not merely of no religion, but against all religion. Occasion was taken at the last meeting of the Visitors, to bring forward an idea that might silence this calumny, which weighed on the minds of some honest friends to the institution. Letter to Thomas Cooper (3 November 1822), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, p. 272.

No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity … Nor was the unity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the fanatic Athanasius. The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands of martyrs … The Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such person, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck. Letter to James Smith (1822)

I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5 points is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin. Indeed I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to Atheism by their general dogma that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a god. Letter to John Adams (11 April 1823) (Scan at The Library of Congress)

The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter … But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors. Letter to John Adams (11 April 1823) (Scan at The Library of Congress).

I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country. Letter to Hugh P. Taylor (4 October 1823)

I thank you, Sir, for the copy you were so kind as to send me of the revd. Mr. Bancroft’s Unitarian sermons. I have read them with great satisfaction, and always rejoice in efforts to restore us to primitive Christianity, in all the simplicity in which it came from the lips of Jesus. Had it never been sophisticated by the subtleties of Commentators, nor paraphrased into meanings totally foreign to its character, it would at this day have been the religion of the whole civilized world. But the metaphysical abstractions of Athanasius, and the maniac ravings of Calvin, tinctured plentifully with the foggy dreams of Plato, have so loaded it with absurdities and incomprehensibilities, as to drive into infidelity men who had not time, patience, or opportunity to strip it of its meretricious trappings[.] Letter to John Davis (18 January 1824). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, pp. 331–332.

Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, liberals and serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, whigs and tories, republicans and federalists, aristocrats and democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last appellation of aristocrats and democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all. Letter to Henry Lee (10 August 1824)

I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. Letter to William Ludlow (6 September 1824)

It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it, and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams. … what has no meaning admits no explanation. Letter to General Alexander Smyth, on the book of Revelation (or The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine) (17 January 1825) [4]

“A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life”
1.Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.
2.Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3.Never spend your money before you have it.
4.Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
5.Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
6.We never repent of having eaten too little.
7.Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8.How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
9.Take things always by their smooth handle.
10.When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

Letter to the infant Thomas Jefferson Smith (21 February 1825)] (Image at Library of Congress)

An opinion prevails that there is no longer any distinction, that the republicans & Federalists are completely amalgamated but it is not so. The amalgamation is of name only, not of principle. All indeed call themselves by the name of Republicans, because that of Federalists was extinguished in the battle of New Orleans. But the truth is that finding that monarchy is a desperate wish in this country, they rally to the point which they think next best, a consolidated government. Their aim is now therefore to break down the rights reserved by the constitution to the states as a bulwark against that consolidation, the fear of which produced the whole of the opposition to the constitution at its birth. Hence new Republicans in Congress, preaching the doctrines of the old Federalists, and the new nick-names of Ultras and Radicals. But I trust they will fail under the new, as the old name, and that the friends of the real constitution and union will prevail against consolidation, as they have done against monarchism. I scarcely know myself which is most to be deprecated, a consolidation, or dissolution of the states. The horrors of both are beyond the reach of human foresight. Thomas Jefferson to William B. Giles, December 26, 1825

The good old Dominion, the blessed mother of us all. “Thoughts on Lotteries” (1826)

There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world. Letter to Henry Lee (15 May 1826)

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. Letter to Roger C. Weightman, on the decision for Independence made in 1776, often quoted as if in reference solely to the document the Declaration of Independence (24 June 1826)

All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them. Letter to Roger C. Weightman, declining to attend July 4th ceremonies in Washington D.C. celebrating the 50th anniversary of Independence, because of his health. This was Jefferson’s last letter. (24 June 1826)

This is the Fourth? Last words (Jefferson died on 4 July 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence)
A few accounts declare that he asked on the night of the third: “Is it the fourth?” Most accounts declare the cited words were his last, and that he died a few hours before John Adams, whose last words are reported to have been: “Thomas — Jefferson — still surv — ” or “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”

Posthumous publications

I have ever deemed it more honorable and profitable, too, to set a good example than to follow a bad one.

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia. It is not by the consolidation or concentration, of powers, but by their distribution that good government is effected. Memoirs, Correspondence and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1829) edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph, p. 70

The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers. … Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1853-1854), edited by H. A. Washington, Vol. 7, pp. 210, 257

I have ever deemed it more honorable and profitable, too, to set a good example than to follow a bad one. As quoted in The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson : Including All of His Important Utterances on Public Questions (1900) by Samuel E. Forman, p. 429

I never consider a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. As quoted in The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson : Including All of His Important Utterances on Public Questions (1900) by Samuel E. Forman, p. 429

Good wine is a necessity of life for me. As quoted in The Man from Monticello : An Intimate Life of Thomas Jefferson (1969) by Thomas J. Fleming, p. 250

Whatever be their degree of talents, it is no measure of their rights. Quoted in The Science and Politics of Racial Research by William H. Tucker (1994), p. 11.

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia. Epitaph, upon his instructions to erect a “a plain die or cube … surmounted by an Obelisk” with “the following inscription, and not a word more…because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.” It omits that he had been President of the United States, a position of political power and prestige, and celebrates his involvement in the creation of the means of inspiration and instruction by which many human lives have been liberated from oppression and ignorance.

On financial matters

This section was added by an editor primarily citing The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors) (ME) 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., (1903-04) as the source.

The idea of creating a national bank I do not concur in, because it seems now decided that Congress has not that power…

I am an enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but coin.

Necessity, as well as patriotism and confidence, will make us all eager to receive treasury notes, if founded on specific taxes.

There can be no safer deposit on earth than the Treasury of the United States. The incorporation of a bank and the powers assumed [by legislation doing so] have not, in my opinion, been delegated to the United States by the Constitution. They are not among the powers specially enumerated. Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bill for Establishing a National Bank., 1791. ME 3:146

The government of the United States have no idea of paying their debt in a depreciated medium, and… in the final liquidation of the payments which shall have been made, due regard will be had to an equitable allowance for the circumstance of depreciation. Letter to Jean Baptiste de Ternant, 1791. ME 8:247

I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing. Letter to John Taylor (26 November 1798), shortened in The Money Masters to “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution … taking from the federal government their power of borrowing.”

The monopoly of a single bank is certainly an evil. The multiplication of them was intended to cure it; but it multiplied an influence of the same character with the first, and completed the supplanting the precious metals by a paper circulation. Between such parties the less we meddle the better. Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1802. ME 10:323

In order to be able to meet a general combination of the banks against us in a critical emergency, could we not make a beginning towards an independent use of our own money, towards holding our own bank in all the deposits where it is received, and letting the treasurer give his draft or note for payment at any particular place, which, in a well-conducted government, ought to have as much credit as any private draft or bank note or bill, and would give us the same facilities which we derive from the banks? Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1803. ME 10:439

[The] Bank of the United States… is one of the most deadly hostility existing, against the principles and form of our Constitution… An institution like this, penetrating by its branches every part of the Union, acting by command and in phalanx, may, in a critical moment, upset the government. I deem no government safe which is under the vassalage of any self-constituted authorities, or any other authority than that of the nation, or its regular functionaries. What an obstruction could not this bank of the United States, with all its branch banks, be in time of war! It might dictate to us the peace we should accept, or withdraw its aids. Ought we then to give further growth to an institution so powerful, so hostile? Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1803. ME 10:437

The principle of rotation… in the body of [bank] directors… breaks in upon the esprit de corps so apt to prevail in permanent bodies; it gives a chance for the public eye penetrating into the sanctuary of those proceedings and practices, which the avarice of the directors may introduce for their personal emolument, and which the resentments of excluded directors, or the honesty of those duly admitted, might betray to the public; and it gives an opportunity at the end of the year, or at other periods, of correcting a choice, which on trial, proves to have been unfortunate. Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1803. ME 10:437

It has always been denied by the republican party in this country, that the Constitution had given the power of incorporation to Congress. On the establishment of the Bank of the United States, this was the great ground on which that establishment was combated; and the party prevailing supported it only on the argument of its being an incident to the power given them for raising money. Letter to Dr. Maese, 1809. ME 12:231

That we are overdone with banking institutions which have banished the precious metals and substituted a more fluctuating and unsafe medium, that these have withdrawn capital from useful improvements and employments to nourish idleness, that the wars of the world have swollen our commerce beyond the wholesome limits of exchanging our own productions for our own wants, and that, for the emolument of a small proportion of our society who prefer these demoralizing pursuits to labors useful to the whole, the peace of the whole is endangered and all our present difficulties produced, are evils more easily to be deplored than remedied. Letter to Abbe Salimankis, 1810. ME 12:379

The idea of creating a national bank I do not concur in, because it seems now decided that Congress has not that power (although I sincerely wish they had it exclusively), and because I think there is already a vast redundancy rather than a scarcity of paper medium. Letter to Thomas Law, 1813. FE 9:433

Everything predicted by the enemies of banks, in the beginning, is now coming to pass. We are to be ruined now by the deluge of bank paper. It is cruel that such revolutions in private fortunes should be at the mercy of avaricious adventurers, who, instead of employing their capital, if any they have, in manufactures, commerce, and other useful pursuits, make it an instrument to burden all the interchanges of property with their swindling profits, profits which are the price of no useful industry of theirs. Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:61

I am an enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but coin. Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:61

Necessity, as well as patriotism and confidence, will make us all eager to receive treasury notes, if founded on specific taxes. Congress may borrow of the public, and without interest, all the money they may want, to the amount of a competent circulation, by merely issuing their own promissory notes, of proper denominations for the larger purposes of circulation, but not for the small. Leave that door open for the entrance of metallic money. Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:189

The State legislatures should be immediately urged to relinquish the right of establishing banks of discount. Most of them will comply, on patriotic principles, under the convictions of the moment; and the non-complying may be crowded into concurrence by legitimate devices. Letter to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:190

Instead of funding issues of paper on the hypothecation of specific redeeming taxes (the only method of anticipating, in a time of war, the resources of times of peace, tested by the experience of nations), we are trusting to tricks of jugglers on the cards, to the illusions of banking schemes for the resources of the war, and for the cure of colic to inflations of more wind. Letter to José Correia da Serra (1814) ME 14:224

Treasury notes of small as well as high denomination, bottomed on a tax which would redeem them in ten years, would place at our disposal the whole circulating medium of the United States… The public… ought never more to permit its being filched from them by private speculators and disorganizers of the circulation. Letter to William H. Crawford, 1815. ME 14:242

Put down the banks, and if this country could not be carried through the longest war against her most powerful enemy without ever knowing the want of a dollar, without dependence on the traitorous classes of her citizens, without bearing hard on the resources of the people, or loading the public with an indefinite burden of debt, I know nothing of my countrymen. Not by any novel project, not by any charlatanerie, but by ordinary and well-experienced means; by the total prohibition of all private paper at all times, by reasonable taxes in war aided by the necessary emissions of public paper of circulating size, this bottomed on special taxes, redeemable annually as this special tax comes in, and finally within a moderate period. Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1815. ME 14:356

Our people… will give you all the necessaries of war they produce, if, instead of the bankrupt trash they now are obliged to receive for want of any other, you will give them a paper promise funded on a specific pledge, and of a size for common circulation. Letter to James Monroe, 1815. ME 14:228

The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens. Letter to John Taylor (28 May 1816): The Writings of Thomas Jefferson “Memorial Edition” (20 Vols., 1903-04) edited by Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 15, p. 18)

The bank mania… is raising up a moneyed aristocracy in our country which has already set the government at defiance, and although forced at length to yield a little on this first essay of their strength, their principles are unyielded and unyielding. These have taken deep root in the hearts of that class from which our legislators are drawn, and the sop to Cerberus from fable has become history. Their principles lay hold of the good, their pelf of the bad, and thus those whom the Constitution had placed as guards to its portals, are sophisticated or suborned from their duties. Letter to Josephus B. Stuart (1817) ME 15:112.

Nearly all of it is now called in by the banks, who have the regulation of the safety-valves of our fortunes, and who condense and explode them at their will. Letter to John Adams (1819) ME 15:224

Certainly no nation ever before abandoned to the avarice and jugglings of private individuals to regulate according to their own interests, the quantum of circulating medium for the nation — to inflate, by deluges of paper, the nominal prices of property, and then to buy up that property at 1s. in the pound, having first withdrawn the floating medium which might endanger a competition in purchase. Yet this is what has been done, and will be done, unless stayed by the protecting hand of the legislature. The evil has been produced by the error of their sanction of this ruinous machinery of banks; and justice, wisdom, duty, all require that they should interpose and arrest it before the schemes of plunder and spoliation desolate the country. Letter to William C. Rives (1819) ME 15:232

Put down all banks, admit none but a metallic circulation that will take its proper level with the like circulation in other countries, and then our manufacturers may work in fair competition with those of other countries, and the import duties which the government may lay for the purposes of revenue will so far place them above equal competition. Letter to Charles Pinckney, (1820) ME 15:280.

There can be no safer deposit on earth than the Treasury of the United States. Letter to Lafayette (1825) ME 19:281

Attributed

I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands. Attributed to Jefferson by Daniel Webster in a letter of 15 June 1852 addressed to Professor Pease, recalling a Sunday spent with Jefferson more than a quarter of a century before.

Disputed

In matters of style, swim with the current: in matters of principle, stand like a rock. As quoted in Careertracking: 26 success Shortcuts to the Top (1988) by James Calano and Jeff Salzman; though used in an address by Bill Clinton (31 March 1997), and sometimes cited to Notes on the State of Virginia (1787) no earlier occurence of this has yet been located.

Misattributed

When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny First attributed to Jefferson in 1945, this does not appear in any known Jefferson document[5]. It first appears in 1914, by John Basil Barnhill, in Indictment of Socialism #3[6].

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Often attributed to Jefferson, no original source for this has been found in his writings, and the earliest established source for similar remarks are those of John Philpot Curran in a speech upon the Right of Election (1790), published in Speeches on the late very interesting State trials (1808):

It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt. A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither. This has actually become a common paraphrase of a statement that is believed to have originated with Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.
Variation: Disobedience to tyranny is obedience to God. This statement has often been attributed to Jefferson, as well as to Benjamin Franklin, who has been said to have proposed it as the motto of the United States, and sometimes to English theologian William Tyndale, or Susan B. Anthony, who used it, but cited it as an “old revolutionary maxim” — it was widely used as an abolitionist and feminist slogan in the 19th century. The earliest definite citations of a source yet found in research for Wikiquote indicates that the primary formulation was declared by Massachusetts Governor Simon Bradstreet after the overthrow of Dominion of New England Governor Edmund Andros in relation to the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, as quoted in Official Report of the Debates and Proceedings in the State Convention: assembled May 4th, 1853 (1853) by the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, p. 502. It is also quoted as a maxim that arose after the overthrow of Andros in A Book of New England Legends and Folk Lore (1883) by Samuel Adams Drake. p.426

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Various; earliest source The Use of Force in International Affairs, (Philadelphia: Friends Peace Committee, 1961), 6, and popularized by various users in the 1960s: If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, is dissent the highest form of patriotism? Dissent is the highest form of patriotism, Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Other form by historian Howard Zinn Dissent In Pursuit Of Equality, Life, Liberty And Happiness: An Interview With Historian Howard Zinn by Sharon Basco, TomPaine.com, July 03 2002 (The quote can be found in the first sentence of Mr. Zinn’s first answer; nowhere in that article does Howard Zinn attribute that quote to Jefferson.): While some people think that dissent is unpatriotic, I would argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Law professor Jim Lindgren of The Volokh Conspiracy has traced the possible origin of this saying back as far as the 11 November 1984 obituary of pacifist activist Dorothy Hewitt Hutchinson in the Philadelphia Inquirer, quoting a 1965 interview. The direct quote there is: “Dissent from public policy can be the highest form of patriotism,” she said in an interview in 1965. “I don’t think democracy can survive without it, even though you may be crucified by it at times.” According to the professor’s research, the misattribution was popularized in the 1990’s by ACLU president Nadine Strossen. Bill Mullins of the American Dialect Society did further research.

Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have … The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases. Commonly quoted on many websites, this quotation is actually from an address by President Gerald Ford to the US Congress (12 August 1974)

The best government is that which governs least. Motto of United States Magazine and Democratic Review. First used in introductory essay by editor John L. O’Sullivan in the premier issue (October, 1837, p. 6). Attributed to Jefferson by Henry David Thoreau, this statement is cited in his essay on civil disobedience, but the quote has not been found in Jefferson’s own writings. It is also commonly attributed to Thomas Paine, perhaps because of its similarity in theme to many of his well-documented expressions such as “Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”
Variant: That government is best which governs least.

The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites. See the Positive Atheism site on the extreme unlikelihood of this quote being authentic. It actually contains some known phrases of Jefferson’s, but they are compounded with almost certainly false statements into a highly misrepresentative whole. Jefferson’s own opinions on Jesus, God, Christianity and general opinions about them were far more complex than is indicated in this statement.

Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty. Barnhill, John Basil (1914). “Indictment of Socialism No. 3” (PDF). Barnhill-Tichenor Debate on Socialism. Saint Louis, Missouri: National Rip-Saw Publishing. pp. p. 34. Retrieved on 2008-10-16.
Variant: When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. According to the Jefferson Library, this is among the many statements misattributed to Jefferson.

Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not. According to the Jefferson Library, this is misattributed to Jefferson.

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and the corporations which grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. Respectfully Quoted says this is “obviously spurious”, noting that the OED’s earliest citation for the word “deflation” is from 1920. The earliest known appearance of this quote is from 1935 (Testimony of Charles C. Mayer, Hearings Before the Committee on Banking and Currency, House of Representatives, Seventy-fourth Congress, First Session, on H.R. 5357, p. 799)

I sincerely believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a money aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs. The earliest known appearance of this quote is from 1895 (Joshua Douglass, “Bimetallism and Currency”, American Magazine of Civics, 7:256). It is apparently a combination of paraphrases or approximate quotations from three separate letters of Jefferson (longer excerpts in sourced section):
I sincerely believe, with you, that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies… Letter to John Taylor, 1816

The bank mania…is raising up a moneyed aristocracy in our country which has already set the government at defiance… Letter to Josephus B. Stuart, 1817

Bank paper must be suppressed, and the circulating medium must be restored to the nation to whom it belongs. Letter to John W. Eppes, 1813

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. Has been attributed to Stephen Leacock’s “Literary Lapses” (1910), but the quote does not appear in the Project Gutenberg edition of this work.
Variant: I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49. There are no indications that Jefferson ever stated anything like this; slight variants of this statement seem to have become widely attributed to Jefferson only since its appearance in three books of 2004: The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible : A Free Market Odyssey (2004) by Ken Schoolland, p. 235; Damn-ocracy — Government From Hell! : The Political, Economic And Money System (2004) by Wendall Dennis and Reason And Reality : A Novel (2004) by Mishrilal Jain, p. 232; see also info at Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia.

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. This quotation first appeared in Dreams Come Due: Government and Economics as if Freedom Mattered (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), p. 312, written under the pseudonym of John Galt. It is there attributed to Jefferson, but is not found anywhere in his works. See the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia.

Quotes about Jefferson

Virtue is not long darkened by the clouds of calumny.

When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property, and justly liable to the inspection and vigilance of public opinion…

Example, you know, far outweighs precept… Your character in history may easily be foreseen. Your administration will be quoted by philosophers as a model of profound wisdom; by politicians, as weak, superficial, and shortsighted. Mine, like Pope’s woman, will have no character at all. John Adams, in a letter to Jefferson (July 1813), published in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1903) Vol. 13, edited by Andrew Adgate Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, p. 301

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. John F. Kennedy, in an address at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners (29 April 1962), quoted in The White House Diary, at the JFK Library

When Mr. Jefferson wrote that one of his associates in Washington’s cabinet was “a fool and a blabber,” his words, taken in their context, make exactly the same impression of calm, disinterested and objective appraisal as if he had remarked that the man had black hair and brown eyes. Albert Jay Nock, in “Free Speech and Plain Language” in The Atlantic Monthly (January 1936)

“True,” replied M. de —, “he considers a free press as the paladium of liberty. I went today an hour before his time of dining, and was received in his cabinet while he was finishing a letter; I took up one of your public journals which lay upon his table, and was astonished and shocked to find its columns filled with the lowest abuse, and vilest of calumnies of the President. I threw it down with indignation, exclaiming, why do you not have the fellow hung who dares to write these abominable lies! He smiled at my warmth, and replied, ‘hang the guardian of public morals? no, sir; rather would I protect the spirit of freedom which dictates even that abuse. Put that paper into your pocket, my good friend, and when you hear any one doubt the reality of American liberty, show them that paper, and tell them where you found it; you cannot have a better proof of its existence. Sir, the country where public men are amenable to public opinion; where not only their official measures, but their private morals, are open to the scrutiny and animadversion of every citizen, is more secure from despotism and corruption, than it could be rendered by the wisest code of laws, or best formed constitution. Party spirit may sometimes blacken, and its erroneous opinions may sometimes injure; but, in general, it will prove the best guardian of a pure and wise administration; it will detect and expose vice and corruption, check the encroachments of power, and resist oppression; sir, it is an abler protector of the people’s rights, than arms or laws.’
‘But is it not shocking that virtuous characters should be defamed?’
‘Let their actions refute such libels. Believe me, virtue is not long darkened by the clouds of calumny. In its course, it will shine forth like the sun at noon-day, and with its brightness disperse the fogs and vapours which obscured its rising light. When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property, and justly liable to the inspection and vigilance of public opinion; and the more sensibly he is made to feel his dependence, the less danger will there be of his abuse of power — The abuse of power, that rock on which good governments, and the people’s rights, have been so often wrecked.’
‘Such doctrines would never be recognised in the old world,’ I observed.
‘Our example,’ he replied, ‘may enforce these doctrines, which your philosophers have so long preached in vain; example, you know, far outweighs precept.'” An unnamed European visitor, in dialogue with Jefferson, as quoted in A Winter in Washington : or, Memoirs of the Seymour Family (1824) by Margaret Bayard Smith, Vol. 2, p. 37; a few years later Sketches of the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Thomas Jefferson (1832) by B. L. Rayner presents a slightly different rendition of this dialogue, and identifies the visitor as Baron Alexander von Humboldt, who visited Washington in June 1804:

The celebrated traveller, Baron Humboldt, calling on the President one day, was received into his cabinet. On taking up one of the public journals which lay upon the table, he was shocked to find its columns teeming with the most wanton abuse and licentious calumnies of the President. He threw it down with indignation, exclaiming, “Why do you not have the fellow hung who dares to write these abominable lies?” The President smiled at the warmth of the Baron, and replied — “What! hang the guardians of the public morals? No sir, — rather would I protect the spirit of freedom which dictates even that degree of abuse. Put that paper into your pocket, my good friend, carry it with you to Europe, and when you hear any one doubt the reality of American freedom, show them that paper, and tell them where you found it’ “But is it not shocking that virtuous characters should be defamed?” replied the Baron. “Let their actions refute such libels. Believe me,” continued the President, “virtue is not long darkened by the clouds of calumny; and the temporary pain which it causes is infinitely overweighed by the safety it insures against degeneracy in the principles and conduct of public functionaries. When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.”
[edit] Primary sources
Thomas Jefferson: Writings: Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters (1984, ISBN 0-940450-16-X) Library of America edition; see discussion of sources at [7]. There are numerous one-volume collections; this is perhaps the best place to start.
Thomas Jefferson, Political Writings ed by Joyce Appleby and Terence Ball. Cambridge University Press. 1999
Lipscomb, Andrew A. and Albert Ellery Bergh, eds. The Writings Of Thomas Jefferson 19 vol. (1907) not as complete nor as accurate as Boyd edition, but covers TJ from 1801 to his death. It is out of copyright, and so is online free.
Boyd, Julian P. et al, eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. The definitive multivolume edition; available at major academic libraries. 31 volumes covers TJ to 1800, with 1801 due out in 2006. See description at [8]
The Jefferson Cyclopedia (1900) large collection of TJ quotations arranged by 9000 topics; searchable; copyright has expired and it is online free.
The Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606-1827, 27,000 original manuscript documents at the Library of Congress. online collection
Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), London: Stockdale. This was Jefferson’s only book. online edition

Adams, Dickinson W., ed. Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels (1983). All three of Jefferson’s versions of the Gospels, with relevant correspondence about his religious opinions. Valuable introduction by Eugene Sheridan.
Bear, Jr., James A., ed. Jefferson’s Memorandum Books, 2 vols. (1997). Jefferson’s account books with records of daily expenses.
Cappon, Lester J., ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters (1959).
Smith, James Morton, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826, 3 vols. (1995).

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Albert Einstein, agnostic Jewish German-Swiss-Austrian-American physicist

From Wikiquote

Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was an agnostic Jewish German-Swiss-Austrian-American physicist who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time. He is best-known for his Special and General Theories of Relativity, but contributed in other areas of physics. He became famous for his explanation of the photoelectric effect (for which he received the Nobel Prize).

General sources

Mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind.

Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens.

Youth

A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future. “My Future Plans” an essay written at age 17 for school exam (18 September 1896) The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Vol. 1 (1987) Doc. 22

1900s

Dear Habicht, / Such a solemn air of silence has descended between us that I almost feel as if I am committing a sacrilege when I break it now with some inconsequential babble… / What are you up to, you frozen whale, you smoked, dried, canned piece of soul…? Opening of a letter to his friend Conrad Habicht in which he describes his four revolutionary “Annus Mirabilis” papers. (May 1905)

E = mc² The equivalence of matter and energy was originally expressed by the equation m = L/c², which easily translates into the far more well known E = mc² in Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? published in the Annalen der Physik (27 September 1905) : “If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass diminishes by L/c².”
In a later statement explaining the ideas expressed by this equation, Einstein summarized: “It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation E = mc², in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa. The mass and energy were in fact equivalent, according to the formula mentioned before. This was demonstrated by Cockcroft and Walton in 1932, experimentally.” Atomic Physics (1948) by the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, Ltd. (mp3 audio file of Einstein’s voice)

We shall therefore assume the complete physical equivalence of a gravitational field and a corresponding acceleration of the reference system. Statement of the equivalence principle in Yearbook of Radioactivity and Electronics (1907)

1910s

It is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analyzing long-held commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend…

If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew. How does it happen that a properly endowed natural scientist comes to concern himself with epistemology? Is there not some more valuable work to be done in his specialty? That’s what I hear many of my colleagues ask, and I sense it from many more. But I cannot share this sentiment. When I think about the ablest students whom I have encountered in my teaching — that is, those who distinguish themselves by their independence of judgment and not just their quick-wittedness — I can affirm that they had a vigorous interest in epistemology. They happily began discussions about the goals and methods of science, and they showed unequivocally, through tenacious defense of their views, that the subject seemed important to them .
Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens. Thus they might come to be stamped as “necessities of thought,” “a priori givens,” etc. The path of scientific progress is often made impassable for a long time by such errors. Therefore it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analysing long-held commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend, and how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. Thus their excessive authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, or replaced if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason. Obituary for physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, Physikalische Zeitschrift 17 (1916)

I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever. Letter to Alfred Kneser (7 June 1918); Doc. 560 in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Vol. 8

I have also considered many scientific plans during my pushing you around in your pram! Letter to his son Hans Albert Einstein (June 1918)

Make a lot of walks to get healthy and don’t read that much but save yourself some until you’re grown up. Letter to his son Eduard Einstein (June 1918)

Dear mother! Today a joyful notice. H. A. Lorentz has telegraphed me that the English expeditions have really proven the deflection of light at the sun. Postcard to his mother Pauline Einstein (1919)

By an application of the theory of relativity to the taste of readers, today in Germany I am called a German man of science, and in England I am represented as a Swiss Jew. If I come to be represented as a bête noire, the descriptions will be reversed, and I shall become a Swiss Jew for the Germans and a German man of science for the English! Statement to The Times [London] (28 November 1919), quoted in The New Quotable Einstein (2005) by Alice Calaprice ISBN 0-691-12075-7
Variant: If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew. (Address to the French Philosophical Society at the Sorbonne (6 April 1922); French press clipping (7 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 36-378] and Berliner Tageblatt (8 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 79-535])
Variant translation: If my theory of relativity is proven correct, Germany will claim me as a German and France will say I am a man of the world. If it’s proven wrong, France will say I am a German and Germany will say I am a Jew.
Variant: If relativity is proved right the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss will call me a Swiss citizen, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity is proved wrong the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German and the Germans will call me a Jew.

1920s

How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words…

Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.

The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the “old one.” I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.

Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.

I believe in Spinoza’s God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind. How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he’ll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own. Poem by Einstein on Spinoza (1920), as quoted in Einstein and Religion (1999) by Max Jammer “Einstein’s Poem on Spinoza” (with scans of original German manuscript) at Leiden Institute of Physics, Leiden University

We may assume the existence of an aether; only we must give up ascribing a definite state of motion to it, i.e. we must by abstraction take from it the last mechanical characteristic which Lorentz had still left it. … But this ether may not be thought of as endowed with the quality characteristic of ponderable inedia, as consisting of parts which may be tracked through time. The idea of motion may not be applied to it. On the irrelevance of the luminiferous aether hypothesis to physical measurements, in an address at the University of Leiden (5 May 1920)

I am neither a German citizen, nor do I believe in anything that can be described as a “Jewish faith.” But I am a Jew and glad to belong to the Jewish people, though I do not regard it in any way as chosen. Letter to Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, 3 [5] April 1920, as quoted in Alice Calaprice, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010), p. 195; citing Israelitisches Wochenblatt, 42 September 1920, CAPE, Vol. 7, Doc. 37, and Vol. 9, Doc 368.

Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht. Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.
Remark made during Einstein’s first visit to Princeton University. (April 1921)] as quoted in Einstein (1973) by R.W. Clark, Ch. 14. “God is slick, but he ain’t mean” is a variant translation of this (1946) Unsourced variant: “God is subtle but he is not malicious.”
When asked what he meant by this he replied. “Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse.” (Die Natur verbirgt ihr Geheimnis durch die Erhabenheit ihres Wesens, aber nicht durch List.) As quoted in Subtle is the Lord — The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (1982) by Abraham Pais einsteinandreligion.com Originally said to Princeton University mathematics professor Oscar Veblen, May 1921, while Einstein was in Princeton for a series of lectures, upon hearing that an experimental result by Dayton C. Miller of Cleveland, if true, would contradict his theory of gravitation. But the result turned out to be false. Some say by this remark Einstein meant that Nature hides her secrets by being subtle, while others say he meant that nature is mischievous but not bent on trickery. [The Yale Book of Quotations, ed. Fred R. Shapiro, 2006]

Variant translation: God may be sophisticated, but he’s not malicious. As quoted in Cherished Illusions (2005) by Sarah Stern, p. 109

I have second thoughts. Maybe God is malicious.
Said to Vladimir Bargmann, as quoted in Einstein in America (1985) by Jamie Sayen , indicating that God leads people to believe they understand things that they actually are far from understanding; also in The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), ed. Fred R. Shapiro

I was sitting in a chair in the patent office at Bern when all of sudden a thought occurred to me: If a person falls freely he will not feel his own weight. I was startled. This simple thought made a deep impression on me. It impelled me toward a theory of gravitation. Einstein in his Kyoto address (14 December 1922), talking about the events of “probably the 2nd or 3rd weeks” of October 1907, quoted in Why Did Einstein Put So Much Emphasis on the Equivalence Principle? by Dr. Robert J. Heaston in Equivalence Principle – April 2008 (15th NPA Conference) who cites A. Einstein. “How I Constructed the Theory of Relativity,” Translated by Masahiro Morikawa from the text recorded in Japanese by Jun Ishiwara, Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies (AAPPS) Bulletin, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 17-19 (April 2005).

Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the “old one.” I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice. Letter to Max Born (4 December 1926); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7. This quote is commonly paraphrased “God does not play dice” or “God does not play dice with the universe”, and other slight variants.

Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed. Objecting to the placing of observables at the heart of the new quantum mechanics, during Heisenberg’s 1926 lecture at Berlin; related by Heisenberg, quoted in Unification of Fundamental Forces (1990) by Abdus Salam ISBN 0521371406

Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious. Response to atheist Alfred Kerr in the winter of 1927, who after deriding ideas of God and religion at a dinner party in the home of the publisher Samuel Fischer, had queried him “I hear that you are supposed to be deeply religious” as quoted in The Diary of a Cosmopolitan (1971) by H. G. Kessler

I believe in Spinoza’s God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind. In response the telegrammed question of New York’s Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein in (24 April 1929): “Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid 50 words.” Einstein replied in only 25 (German) words. Spinoza’s ideas of God are often characterized as being pantheistic.
Expanding on this he later wrote: “I can understand your aversion to the use of the term ‘religion’ to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza… I have not found a better expression than ‘religious’ for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason.” As quoted in Einstein : Science and Religion by Arnold V. Lesikar

If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut. Said to Samuel J Woolf, Berlin, Summer 1929. Cited with additional notes in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice and Freeman Dyson, Princeton UP (2010) p 230

1930s

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

I believe that whatever we do or live for has its causality; it is good, however, that we cannot see through to it. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Letter to his son Eduard (5 February 1930), as quoted in Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), p. 367

I believe that whatever we do or live for has its causality; it is good, however, that we cannot see through to it. Interview with Rabindranath Tagore (14 April 1930), published in The Religion of Man (1930) by Rabindranath Tagore, p. 222, and in The Tagore Reader (1971) edited by Amiya Chakravarty

The really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed. Interview with Rabindranath Tagore (14 April 1930), published in The Religion of Man (1930) by Rabindranath Tagore, p. 222, and in The Tagore Reader (1971) edited by Amiya Chakravarty

To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself. Aphorism for a friend (18 September 1930) [Einstein Archive 36-598]; as quoted in Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel (1988) by Banesh Hoffman

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough. Attributed in The Encarta Book of Quotations to an interview at Belgenland (December 1930), which was the ship on which he arrived in New York that month.[specific citation needed]

It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind. Letter to Vegetarian Watch-Tower (27 December 1930)

I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war. Interview with George Sylvester Viereck (January 1931)

I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research. Cosmic Religion : With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931) by Albert Einstein, p. 97; also in Transformation : Arts, Communication, Environment (1950) by Harry Holtzman, p. 138

I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one ? From Cosmic religion: with other opinions and aphorisms (1931), Albert Einstein, pub. Covici-Friede. Quoted in The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press; 2nd edition (May 30, 2000); Page 208, ISBN 0691070210

For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible. Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have any hold on him. As quoted in Has Science Discovered God? : A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931) by Edward Howe Cotton, p. 101

Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing that people do — but gravitation cannot be held responsible for it. As an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents… I congratulate you on the great successes of your life’s work. Einstein’s letter to Nikola Tesla for Tesla’s 75th birthday (1931)

Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing that people do — but gravitation cannot be held responsible for it. Jotted (in German) on the margins of a letter to him (1933). As quoted in Albert Einstein, The Human Side : New Glimpses From His Archives (1981) ISBN 0691023689
Unsourced variants: Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. / You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.

Our experience hitherto justifies us in trusting that nature is the realization of the simplest that is mathematically conceivable. I am convinced that purely mathematical construction enables us to find those concepts and those lawlike connections between them that provide the key to the understanding of natural phenomena. Useful mathematical concepts may well be suggested by experience, but in no way can they be derived from it. Experience naturally remains the sole criterion of the usefulness of a mathematical construction for physics. But the actual creative principle lies in mathematics. Thus, in a certain sense, I take it to be true that pure thought can grasp the real, as the ancients had dreamed. from On the Method of Theoretical Physics, p. 183. The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933). Quoted in Einstein’s Philosophy of Science

I am the one to whom you wrote in care of the Belgian Academy… Read no newspapers, try to find a few friends who think as you do, read the wonderful writers of earlier times, Kant, Goethe, Lessing, and the classics of other lands, and enjoy the natural beauties of Munich’s surroundings. Make believe all the time that you are living, so to speak, on Mars among alien creatures and blot out any deeper interest in the actions of those creatures. Make friends with a few animals. Then you will become a cheerful man once more and nothing will be able to trouble you.
Bear in mind that those who are finer and nobler are always alone — and necessarily so — and that because of this they can enjoy the purity of their own atmosphere.
I shake your hand in heartfelt comradeship, E. Response to a letter from an unemployed professional musician (5 April 1933) as quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689
The editors precede this passage thus, “Early in 1933, Einstein received a letter from a professional musician who presumably lived in Munich. The musician was evidently troubled and despondent, and out of a job, yet at the same time, he must have been something of a kindred spirit. His letter is lost, all that survives being Einstein’s reply….Note the careful anonymity of the first sentence — the recipient would be safer that way:” Albert Einstein: The Human Side concludes with this passage, followed by the original passages in German.

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience. It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience. “On the Method of Theoretical Physics” The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933); also published in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 1934), pp. 163-169., p. 165. [thanks to Dr. Techie @ http://www.wordorigins.org and JSTOR]
There is a quote attributed to Einstein that may have arisen as a paraphrase of the above quote, commonly given as “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” or “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
This may seem very similar to Occam’s razor which advocates the simplest solution. However, it is normally taken to be a warning against too much simplicity. Dubbed ‘Einstein’s razor’, it is used when an appeal to Occam’s razor results in an over-simplified explanation that leads to a false conclusion.
The earliest known appearance of Einstein’s razor is an essay by Roger Sessions in the New York Times (8 January 1950)[1], where Sessions appears to be paraphrasing Einstein: “I also remember a remark of Albert Einstein, which certainly applies to music. He said, in effect, that everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.”
Another early appearance, from Time magazine (14 December 1962)[2]: “We try to keep in mind a saying attributed to Einstein—that everything must be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will. “Atom Energy Hope is Spiked By Einstein / Efforts at Loosing Vast Force is Called Fruitless,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (29 December 1934) It was following the breakthroughs by Enrico Fermi and others did the use of nuclear power become plausible.

All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking. “Physics and Reality” in the Journal of the Franklin Institute Vol. 221, Issue 3 (March 1936)

It has often been said, and certainly not without justification, that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why then should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let the philosopher do the philosophizing? Such might indeed be the right thing to do a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental laws which are so well established that waves of doubt can’t reach them; but it cannot be right at a time when the very foundations of physics itself have become problematic as they are now. At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation, the physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of theoretical foundations; for he himself knows best and feels more surely where the shoe pinches. In looking for an new foundation, he must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities. “Physics and Reality” in the Journal of the Franklin Institute Vol. 221, Issue 3 (March 1936)

All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree… The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
While this often-quoted version is given in Einstein: A Biography (1954) by Antonina Vallentin, p. 24, as from Einstein’s article “Physics and Reality” in Journal of the Franklin Institute (March 1936), in the actual article “Physics and Reality,” reprinted in Out of My Later Years (1956), the quote is: One may say “the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.” (This rendition reads as if he is quoting or paraphrasing the statement of someone else — perhaps Immanuel Kant, whom he cites in the next sentence.)
Other variants: The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility… The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.
One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility. As quoted in Disturbing the Universe (1979)], by Freeman Dyson Ch. 5

The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible. As quoted in Speaking of Science (2000) by Michael Fripp

Human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
The essential unity of ecclesiastical and secular institutions was lost during the 19th century, to the point of senseless hostility. Yet there was never any doubt as to the striving for culture. No one doubted the sacredness of the goal. It was the approach that was disputed. “Moral Decay” (1937); Later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)

Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.
What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living. Written statement (September 1937) as quoted in Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689

By the way, there are increasing signs that the Russian trials are not faked, but that there is a plot among those who look upon Stalin as a stupid reactionary who has betrayed the ideas of the revolution. Though we find it difficult to imagine this kind of internal thing, those who know Russia best are all more or less of the same opinion. I was firmly convinced to begin with that it was a case of a dictator’s despotic acts, based on lies and deception, but this was a delusion. Letter to Max Born (no date, 1937 or 1938); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7. Born commented: “The Russian trials were Stalin’s purges, with which he attempted to consolidate his power. Like most people in the West, I believed these show trials to be the arbitrary acts of a cruel dictator. Einstein was apparently of a different opinion: he believed that when threatened by Hitler the Russians had no choice but to destroy as many of their enemies within their own camp as possible. I find it hard to reconcile this point of view with Einstein’s gentle, humanitarian disposition.”

I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and, also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field. In a comment explaining why he joined the American Federation of Teachers local number 552 as a charter member (1938)

What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living. Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth. The Evolution of Physics (1938) (co-written with Leopold Infeld)

Fundamental ideas play the most essential role in forming a physical theory. Books on physics are full of complicated mathematical formulae. But thought and ideas, not formulae, are the beginning of every physical theory. The ideas must later take the mathematical form of a quantitative theory, to make possible the comparison with experiment. The Evolution of Physics (1938) (co-written with Leopold Infeld)

Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth. Statement on the occasion of Gandhi’s 70th birthday (1939) Einstein archive 32-601, published in Out of My Later Years (1950).
Variant: Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.

1940s

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds… Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly. Letter to Morris Raphael Cohen, professor emeritus of philosophy at the College of the City of New York, defending the appointment of Bertrand Russell to a teaching position (19 March 1940).
Variant: Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thoughts in clear form.

Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater. Letter to Barbara Lee Wilson (7 January 1943), Einstein Archives 42-606

Why is it that nobody understands me and everybody likes me? Statement (12 March 1944), as quoted in Space (1978; 2007) by Jean de Climont
Variants:
Why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me? As quoted in The Dark Side of Shakespeare : An Elizabethan Courtier, Diplomat, Spymaster, & Epic Hero (2003) by W. Ron Hess

Everyone likes me, yet nobody understands me. As quoted in “The culture of Einstein” at MSNBC (18 March 2005)

I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is — in my opinion — the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth. Letter to Robert A. Thorton, Physics Professor at University of Puerto Rico (7 December 1944) [EA-674, Einstein Archive, Hebrew University, Jerusalem]. Thorton had written to Einstein on persuading colleagues of the importance of philosophy of science to scientists (empiricists) and science.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is. As quoted in Journal of France and Germany (1942 – 1944) by Gilbert Fowler White, in excerpt published in Living with Nature’s Extremes : The Life of Gilbert Fowler White (2006) by Robert E. Hinshaw, p. 62. From the context it seems that White did not specify whether he had heard Einstein himself say this or whether he was repeating a quote that had been passed along by someone else, so without a primary source the validity of this quote should be considered questionable, especially given that elsewhere Einstein defined a “miracle” as a type of event he did not believe was possible—Einstein on Religion by Max Jammer (1999) quotes on p. 89 from a 1931 conversation Einstein had with David Reichinstein, where Reichinstein brought up philosopher Arthur Liebert’s argument that the indeterminism of quantum mechanics might allow for the possibility of miracles, and Einstein replied that Liebert’s argument dealt “with a domain in which lawful rationality [determinism] does not exist. A ‘miracle,’ however, is an exception from lawfulness; hence, there where lawfulness does not exist, also its exception, i.e., a miracle, cannot exist.” (‘Dort, wo eine Gesetzmässigkeit nicht vorhanden ist, kann auch ihre Ausnahme, d.h. ein Wunder, nicht existieren.’ D. Reichenstein, Die Religion der Gebildeten (1941), p. 21)
Variant: There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. As quoted in From Yale to Jail : The Life Story of a Moral Dissenter‎ (1993) by David T. Dellinger, p. 418

I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (2 July 1945), responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had caused Einstein to convert to Christianity, quoted in an article by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2, (1997)

When the expected course of everyday life is interrupted, we are like shipwrecked people on a miserable plank in the open sea, having forgotten where they came from and not knowing whither they are drifting… For the most part we humans live with the false impression of security and a feeling of being at home in a seemingly trustworthy physical and human environment. But when the expected course of everyday life is interrupted, we are like shipwrecked people on a miserable plank in the open sea, having forgotten where they came from and not knowing whither they are drifting. But once we fully accept this, life becomes easier and there is no longer any disappointment. Letter (26 April 1945); as quoted in Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689

Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparallel catastrophe. From the article “Atomic Education Urged by Einstein”, New York Times (25 May 1946). The article reported on a telegram sent out by Einstein to “several hundred prominent Americans”, asking for contributions to a nationwide campaign by the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists to “to let the people know that a new type of thinking is essential” in the age of atomic weapons.

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels. From “Atomic Education Urged by Einstein”, New York Times (25 May 1946), and later quoted in the article “The Real Problem is in the Hearts of Man” by Michael Amrine, from the New York Times Magazine (23 June 1946). A slightly modified version of the 23 June article was reprinted in Einstein on Peace by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (1960), and it was also reprinted in Einstein on Politics by David E. Rowe and Robert Schulmann (2007), p. 383.
In The New Quotable Einstein (2005), editor Alice Calaprice suggests that two quotes attributed to Einstein which she could not find sources for, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them” and “The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them,” may both be paraphrases of the 1946 quote above.
In the 23 June article Einstein expanded somewhat on the original quote from the 25 May article: Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.” Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we knew it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking. In the light of new knowledge, a world authority and an eventual world state are not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, they are necessary for survival. In previous ages a nation’s life and culture could be protected to some extent by the growth of armies in national competition. Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.

The position in which we are now is a very strange one which in general political life never happened. Namely, the thing that I refer to is this: To have security against atomic bombs and against the other biological weapons, we have to prevent war, for if we cannot prevent war every nation will use every means that is at their disposal; and in spite of all promises they make, they will do it. At the same time, so long as war is not prevented, all the governments of the nations have to prepare for war, and if you have to prepare for war, then you are in a state where you cannot abolish war.
This is really the cornerstone of our situation. Now, I believe what we should try to bring about is the general conviction that the first thing you have to abolish is war at all costs, and every other point of view must be of secondary importance. Address to the symposium “The Social Task of the Scientist in the Atomic Era” at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (17 November 1946)

It is a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy. Er ist eine Skala der Proportionen, die das Schlechte schwierig und das Gute leicht macht. It is a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy. On the Modulor. Letter sent to Le Corbusier (1946); quoted in Modulor (1953)

Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger. Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger. Discussing the letter he sent Roosevelt raising the possibility of atomic weapons. from “Atom: Einstein, the Man Who Started It All,” Newsweek Magazine (10 March 1947)

When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge. Cited as conversation between Einstein and János Plesch in János : The Story of a Doctor (1947), by János Plesch, translated by Edward FitzGerald

“In December, 1947, it was reported that Einstein stated the following: ‘I came to America because of the great, great, freedom which I heard existed in this country. I made a mistake in selecting America as a land of freedeom, a mistake I cannot repair in the balance of my life.’” Attributed in FBI Memo, February 13, 1950 (item 61-4099-25 in Einstein’s FBI file—Page 74 in FBI FOIA PDF file 1a). There is no other information in the FBI’s released files as to the source of this.

I agree with your remark about loving your enemy as far as actions are concerned. But for me the cognitive basis is the trust in an unrestricted causality. “I cannot hate him, because he must do what he does.” That means for me more Spinoza than the prophets. On the Christian maxim “Love thy enemy”, in a letter to Michele Besso (6 January 1948)

A wonder of such nature I experienced as a child of 4 or 5 years, when my father showed me a compass. That this needle behaved in such a determined way did not at all fit into the nature of events, which could find a place in the unconscious world of concepts (effect connected with direct “touch”). I can still remember—or at least believe I can remember—that this experienced made a deep and lasting impression upon me. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things. What man sees before him from infancy causes no reaction of this kind; he is not surprised over the falling of bodies, concerning wind and rain, nor concerning the moon or about the fact that the moon does not fall down, nor concerning the differences between living and non-living matter.
At the age of 12 I experienced a second wonder of a totally different nature: in a little book dealing with Euclidean plane geometry, which came into my hands at the beginning of a schoolyear. Here were assertions, as for example the intersection of the three altitudes of a triangle in one point, which—though by no means evident—could nevertheless be proved with such certainty that any doubt appeared to be out of the question. This lucidity and certainty made an indescribable impression upon me. That the axioms had to be accepted unproved did not disturb me. In any case it was quite sufficient for me if I could peg proofs upon propositions the validity of which did not seem to me to be dubious. From Einstein’s “Autobiographical Notes” in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp, reprinted in A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion: The Essential Scientific Works of Albert Einstein

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it. As quoted by Virgil Henshaw in Albert Einstein : Philosopher Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp

Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore. As quoted in the essay “To Albert Einstein’s Seventieth Birthday” by Arnold Sommerfeld, in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp (p. 102). The essay, originally published as “Zum Siebzigsten Geburtstag Albert Einsteins” in Deutsche Beiträge (Eine Zweimonatsschrift) Vol III, No 2, 1949, was translated specifically for the book by Schilpp.

I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth—rocks! From an interview with Alfred Werner, Liberal Judaism 16 (April-May 1949), 12. Einstein Archive 30-1104. Sourced in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2005), p. 173.
Different versions are attributed to conversations as early as 1948 (e.g. The Rotarian, 72 (6), June 1948, p. 9: “I don’t know. But I can tell you what they’ll use in the fourth. They’ll use rocks!”); perhaps in the Werner interview he was repeating a quip that he had thought of earlier. Another variant (‘I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones’) is attributed to an unidentified letter to Harry S. Truman in “The culture of Einstein” by Alex Johnson, MSNBC, (18 April 2005)

A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience. Letter to Dr. H. L. Gordon (May 3, 1949 – AEA 58-217) as quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007) by Walter Isaacson ISBN 9780743264730

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (28 September 1949), from article by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1997)

The reciprocal relationship of epistemology and science is of noteworthy kind. They are dependent on each other. Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme. Science without epistemology is — insofar as it is thinkable at all — primitive and muddled. However, no sooner has the epistemologist, who is seeking a clear system, fought his way through to such a system, than he is inclined to interpret the thought-content of science in the sense of his system and to reject whatever does not fit into his system. The scientist, however, cannot afford to carry his striving for epistemological systematic that far. He accepts gratefully the epistemological conceptual analysis; but the external conditions, which are set for him by the facts of experience, do not permit him to let himself be too much restricted in the construction of his conceptual world by the adherence to an epistemological system. He therefore must appear to the systematic epistemologist as a type of unscrupulous opportunist: he appears as realist insofar as he seeks to describe a world independent of the acts of perception; as idealist insofar as he looks upon the concepts and theories as free inventions of the human spirit (not logically derivable from what is empirically given); as positivist insofar as he considers his concepts and theories justified only to the extent to which they furnish a logical representation of relations among sensory experiences. He may even appear as Platonist or Pythagorean insofar as he considers the viewpoint of logical simplicity as an indispensible and effective tool of his research. Contribution in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, P.A. Schilpp, ed. (The Library of Living Philosophers, Evanston, IL (1949), p. 684). Quoted in Einstein’s Philosophy of Science.

1950s

Taken on the whole, I would believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit… not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in what we believe is evil. United Nations radio interview recorded in Einstein’s study, Princeton, New Jersey, (1950)

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. Letter of 1950, as quoted in The New York Times (29 March 1972) and The New York Post (28 November 1972). However, The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (Princeton University Press, 2005: ISBN 0691120749), p. 206, has a different and presumably more accurate version of this letter, which she dates to February 12, 1950 and describes as “a letter to a distraught father who had lost his young son and had asked Einstein for some comforting words”:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of piece of mind.

I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs. Statement upon joining the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club. (1950)

I have found no better expression than “religious” for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism. Letter to Maurice Solovine, (1 January 1951) [Einstein Archive 21-174]; published in Letters to Solovine (1993)

I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual attitude, often directed solely to the practical and factual, in our education, has led directly to the impairment of ethical values. I am not thinking so much of the dangers with which technical progress has directly confronted mankind, as of the stifling of mutual human considerations by a “matter-of-fact” habit of thought which has come to lie like a killing frost upon human relations. … The frightful dilemma of the political world situation has much to do with this sin of omission on the part of our civilization. Without “ethical culture,” there is no salvation for humanity. “The Need for Ethical Culture” celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Ethical Culture Society, founded by Felix Adler (5 January 1951).

Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it. Letter to California student E. Holzapfel (March 1951) Einstein Archive 59-1013, quoted in Albert Einstein, the Human Side (1979) by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, and in The New Quotable Einstein (2005) by Alice Calaprice

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. Letter to Carl Seelig (11 March 1952), Einstein Archives 39-013

A truly rational theory would allow us to deduce the elementary particles (electron,etc.) and not be forced to state them a priori. Letter to Michele Besso (10 September 1952), Letter n°190, Correspondance, 1903-1955, by Pierre Speziali, Michele Angelo Besso, published by Hermann, 1972

What lead me more or less directly to the special theory of relativity was the conviction that the electromotive force acting on a body in motion in a magnetic field was nothing else but an electric field. Letter to the Michelson Commemorative Meeting of the Cleveland Physics Society (1952), as quoted by R.S.Shankland, Am J Phys 32, 16 (1964), p35, republished in A P French, Special Relativity, ISBN 0177710756

Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down by the mind before you reach eighteen. As quoted in Mathematics, Queen and Servant of the Sciences (1952) by Eric Temple Bell. Bell did not indicate if he heard the quote from Einstein himself though, and The Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice lists this as “probably not by Einstein”, so its accuracy is questionable.
Unsourced variant : Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

What I particularly admire in him is the firm stand he has taken, not only against the oppressors of his countrymen, but also against those opportunists who are always ready to compromise with the Devil. He perceives very clearly that the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it. Einstein’s tribute to Pablos Casals (30 March 1953), in Conversations with Casals (1957), by Josep Maria Corredor, translated from Conversations avec Pablo Casals : souvenirs et opinions d’un musicien (1955).
Variant: The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them. Gutkind Letter (3 January 1954), “Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear”. The Guardian. 13 May 2008.

If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances. Letter to the editor of The Reporter about the situation of scientists in America (13 October 1954).

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. Letter to an atheist (1954) as quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689

The idea of achieving security through national armament is, at the present state of military technique, a disastrous illusion. Ideas and Opinions (1954)

The theory of relativity is a beautiful example of the basic character of the modern development of theory. That is to say, the hypotheses from which one starts become ever more abstract and more remote from experience. But in return one comes closer to the preeminent goal of science, that of encompassing a maximum of empirical contents through logical deduction with a minimum of hypotheses or axioms. The intellectual path from the axioms to the empirical contents or to the testable consequences becomes, thereby, ever longer and more subtle. The theoretician is forced, ever more, to allow himself to be directed by purely mathematical, formal points of view in the search for theories, because the physical experience of the experimenter is not capable of leading us up to the regions of the highest abstraction. Tentative deduction takes the place of the predominantly inductive methods appropriate to the youthful state of science. Such a theoretical structure must be quite thoroughly elaborated in order for it to lead to consequences that can be compared with experience. It is certainly the case that here, as well, the empirical fact is the all-powerful judge. But its judgment can be handed down only on the basis of great and difficult intellectual effort that first bridges the wide space between the axioms and the testable consequences. The theorist must accomplish this Herculean task with the clear understanding that this effort may only be destined to prepare the way for a death sentence for his theory. One should not reproach the theorist who undertakes such a task by calling him a fantast; instead, one must allow him his fantasizing, since for him there is no other way to his goal whatsoever. Indeed, it is no planless fantasizing, but rather a search for the logically simplest possibilities and their consequences. Ideas and Opinions (1954), pp. 238-239. Quoted in Einstein’s Philosophy of Science

Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. Letter to the family of his lifelong friend Michele Besso, after learning of his death, (March 1955) as quoted in Science and the Search for God Disturbing the Universe (1979) by Freeman Dyson Ch. 17 “A Distant Mirror” ; also quoted at Einstein’s God (NPR)

The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity. Statement to William Miller, as quoted in LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)

Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value. As quoted by LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)

That is simple my friend: because politics is more difficult than physics. Response to being asked why people could discover atomic power, but not the means to control it, as quoted in The New York Times (22 April 1955)

Posthumous publications

These can be particularly problematic, especially where earlier sources are not cited at all. Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity. Helle Zeit, Dunkle Zeit: In Memoriam Albert Einstein (1956) edited by Carl Seelig, p. 71

Was mich eigentlich interessiert, ist, ob Gott die Welt hätte anders machen können; das heisst, ob die Forderung der logischen Einfachheit überhaupt eine Freiheit lässt. Quoted by Ernst G. Straus, who was Einstein’s assistant from 1944 to 1948, in Carl Seelig, Helle Zeit—Dunkel Zeit (Europa Verlag, Zurich, 1956), p. 72
What I am really interested in is knowing whether God could have created the world in a different way; in other words, whether the requirement of logical simplicity admits a margin of freedom. As translated in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (PrincetonUniversity Press, 1999), p. 124

What I’m really interested in is whether God could have made the world in a different way; that is, whether the necessity of logical simplicity leaves any freedom at all. As translated in Gerald Holton, The Scientific Imagination: Case Studies (Cambridge University Press, 1978), p. xii.

When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity. An explanation of relativity which he gave to his secretary Helen Dukas to convey to non-scientists and reporters, as quoted in Best Quotes of ’54, ’55, l56 (1957) by James B. Simpson; also in Expandable Quotable Einstein (2005) edited by Alice Calaprice
This was also quoted by Steve Mirsky in Scientific American (September 2002). Vol. 287, Iss. 3; pg. 102, but within a satirical piece, where the “original source” is cited as being a fictitious magazine:

Amazingly, the pretty girl/hot stove quote is actually the abstract from a short paper written by Einstein that appeared in the now defunct Journal of Exothermic Science and Technology (JEST, Vol. 1, No. 9; 1938). Paraphrased variant: Put your hand on a hot stove and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.

What is thought to be a “system” is after all, just conventional, and I do not see how one is supposed to divide up the world objectively so that one can make statements about parts. I just want to explain what I mean when I say that we should try to hold on to physical reality.
We are … all aware of the situation regarding what will turn out to be the basic foundational concepts in physics: the point-mass or the particle is surely not among them; the field, in the Faraday-Maxwell sense, might be, but not with certainty. But that which we conceive as existing (“real”) should somehow be localized in time and space. That is, the real in one part of space, A, should (in theory) somehow “exist” independently of that which is thought of as real in another part of space, B. If a physical system stretches over A and B, then what is present in B should somehow have an existence independent of what is present in A. What is actually present in B should thus not depend the type of measurement carried out in the part of space A; it should also be independent of whether or not a measurement is made in A.
If one adheres to this program, then one can hardly view the quantum-theoretical description as a complete representation of the physically real. If one attempts, nevertheless, so to view it, then one must assume that the physically real in B undergoes a sudden change because of a measurement in A. My physical instincts bristle at that suggestion.
However, if one renounces the assumption that what is present in different parts of space has an independent, real existence, then I don’t see at all what physics is supposed to be describing. For what is thought to be a “system” is after all, just conventional, and I do not see how one is supposed to divide up the world objectively so that one can make statements about parts. “What must be an essential feature of any future fundamental physics?” Letter to Max Born; published in Albert Einstein-Hedwig und Max Born (1969) “Briefwechsel 1916-55”

On quantum theory I use up more brain grease (rough translation of German idiom) than on relativity. Quoted by Otto Stern, a colleague of Einstein in Zurich from 1912 to 1914, in a 1962 oral history interview with Thomas S. Kuhn

In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views. Statement to German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Prince Hubertus zu Lowenstein around 1941, as quoted in his book Towards the Further Shore : An Autobiography (1968)

Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment — an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections. Autobiographical Notes (1979) Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp

Then I would have felt sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct. As quoted in Reality and Scientific Truth : Discussions with Einstein, von Laue, and Planck (1980) by Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider, p. 74
When asked by a student what he would have done if Sir Arthur Eddington’s famous 1919 gravitational lensing experiment, which confirmed relativity, had instead disproved it.

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects. As quoted by Ernst Straus in Einstein: A Centenary Volume by A.P. French (1980), p. 32.

In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither. Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size. As quoted by Abraham Pais in Subtle is the Lord:The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (1982) ISBN 0-192-80672-6

I said before, the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. As quoted in The Private Albert Einstein (1992) by Peter A. Bucky and Allen G. Weakland, p. 86

Development of Western Science is based on two great achievements — the invention of the formal logical system (in Euclidean geometry) by the Greek philosophers, and the discovery of the possibility to find out causal relationships by systematic experiment (during the Renaissance). In my opinion, one has not to be astonished that the Chinese sages have not made these steps. The astonishing thing is that these discoveries were made at all. As quoted in Cleopatra’s Nose, Essays on the Unexpected (1995) by Daniel J Boorstin, p. 3

Deep religiosity… found an abrupt ending at the age of twelve, through the reading of popular scientific books. As quoted in Einstein, History, and Other Passions (1996), by Gerald Holton, p. 172

There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap. As quoted in Futurevision : Ideas, Insights, and Strategies (1996) by Howard F. Didsbury, p. 104

Never memorize what you can look up in books. As quoted in “Recording the Experience” (10 June 2004) at The Library of Congress

Working on the final formulation of technological patents was a veritable blessing for me. It enforced many-sided thinking and also provided important stimuli to physical thought. [Academia] places a young person under a kind of compulsion to produce impressive quantities of scientific publications — a temptation to superficiality. As quoted in “Who Knew?” at NationalGeographic.com (May 2005)

Even on the most solemn occasions I got away without wearing socks and hid that lack of civilisation in high boots. Albert Einstein in a letter to his cousin and second wife Elsa, during a visit to the University of Oxford, in collection donated to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel by Einstein’s stepdaughter Margot, as quoted in “Einstein in no-sock shock”, New Scientist (15 July 2006)

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. As quoted in The Rhythm of Life : Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose (2004) by Matthew Kelly, p. 80

Principles of Research (1918)

Address at the Physical Society, Berlin, for Max Planck’s 60th birthday

The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart. In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither. Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside. Our Planck is one of them, and that is why we love him.
I am quite aware that we have just now lightheartedly expelled in imagination many excellent men who are largely, perhaps chiefly, responsible for the buildings of the temple of science; and in many cases our angel would find it a pretty ticklish job to decide. But of one thing I feel sure: if the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have come to be, any more than a forest can grow which consists of nothing but creepers. For these people any sphere of human activity will do, if it comes to a point; whether they become engineers, officers, tradesmen, or scientists depends on circumstances.
Now let us have another look at those who have found favor with the angel. Most of them are somewhat odd, uncommunicative, solitary fellows, really less like each other, in spite of these common characteristics, than the hosts of the rejected. What has brought them to the temple? That is a difficult question and no single answer will cover it.
The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.
Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience. Variant translation: One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought. With this negative motive goes a positive one. Man seeks to form for himself, in whatever manner is suitable for him, a simplified and lucid image of the world, and so to overcome the world of experience by striving to replace it to some extent by this image. This is what the painter does, and the poet, the speculative philosopher, the natural scientist, each in his own way. Into this image and its formation, he places the center of gravity of his emotional life, in order to attain the peace and serenity that he cannot find within the narrow confines of swirling personal experience.
As quoted in The Professor, the Institute, and DNA (1976) by Rene Dubos; also in The Great Influenza (2004) by John M. Barry

The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. In this methodological uncertainty, one might suppose that there were any number of possible systems of theoretical physics all equally well justified; and this opinion is no doubt correct, theoretically. But the development of physics has shown that at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself decidedly superior to all the rest. Variant, from Preface to Max Planck’s Where is Science Going? (1933): The supreme task of the physicist is the discovery of the most general elementary laws from which the world-picture can be deduced logically. But there is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance, and this Einfühlung [literally, empathy or ‘feeling one’s way in’]’ is developed by experience.

I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.

Viereck interview (1929)

“What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck” The Saturday Evening Post (26 October 1929) p. 17. As reported in Einstein — A Life (1996) by Denis Brian, when asked about a clipping from a magazine article reporting his comments on Christianity as taken down by Viereck, Einstein carefully read the clipping and replied, “That is what I believe.” As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.
Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.
No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
It’s possible to be both. Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind. When asked by Viereck if he considered himself to be a German or a Jew. Quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 386.

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin. As quoted in “What Life Means to Einstein : An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck” in The Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 202 (26 October 1929), p. 113 , also in Glimpses of the Great (1930) by George Sylvester Viereck

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. As quoted in “What Life Means to Einstein : An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck” in The Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 202 (26 October 1929), p. 117

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things. As quoted in Glimpses of the Great (1930) by G. S. Viereck There have been disputes on the accuracy of this quotation.
Variant, from Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 386: I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written these books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.

I am a determinist. I do not believe in free will. Jews believe in free will. They believe that man shapes his own life. I reject that doctrine. In that respect I am not a Jew. Quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 387

I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism, but I admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things. Quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 387

Wisehart interview (1930?)

Every man knows that in his work he does best and accomplishes most when he has attained a proficiency that enables him to work intuitively. That is, there are things which we come to know so well that we do not know how we know them. So it seems to me in matters of principle. Perhaps we live best and do things best when we are not too conscious of how and why we do them.
I do not believe in a God who maliciously or arbitrarily interferes in the personal affairs of mankind. My religion consists of an humble admiration for the vast power which manifests itself in that small part of the universe which our poor, weak minds can grasp!
Much reading after a certain age diverts the mind from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theaters is apt to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.
I have only two rules which I regard as principles of conduct. The first is: Have no rules. The second is: Be independent of the opinion of others.
M. K. Wisehart, A Close Look at the World’s Greatest Thinker, American Magazine, June 1930. Quotes from the interview appear on pp. 52-53 of The Twelve Powers of Man by Charles Fillmore

Religion and Science (1930)

New York Times Magazine (9 November 1930)

Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain.

It is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves to us.
The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believer’s outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even of life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.
The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, a development continued in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in peoples’ lives. And yet, that primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The truth is that all religions are a varying blend of both types, with this differentiation: that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates. Variant translation: It is easy to follow in the sacred writings of the Jewish people the development of the religion of fear into the moral religion, which is carried further in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially those of the Orient, are principally moral religions. An important advance in the life of a people is the transformation of the religion of fear into the moral religion.

Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. In general, only individuals of exceptional endowments, and exceptionally high-minded communities, rise to any considerable extent above this level. But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.
The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.

It is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it. How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.
The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events — provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death. Variant: “It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere” has been cited as a statement that precedes the last three sentences here, but this might have originated in a paraphrase, a transcription error, or a misquotation; it does not appear in any editions of the essay which have thus far been checked.

It is therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.
The scientific organization and comprehensive exposition in accessible form of the Talmud has a twofold importance for us Jews. It is important in the first place that the high cultural values of the Talmud should not be lost to modern minds among the Jewish people nor to science, but should operate further as a living force. In the second place, The Talmud must be made an open book to the world, in order to cut the ground from under certain malevolent attacks, of anti-Semitic origin, which borrow countenance from the obscurity and inaccessibility of certain passages in the Talmud.
To support this cultural work would thus mean an important achievement for the Jewish people.
From a letter by Albert Einstein to Professor Chaim Tchernowitz of the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York (Hebrew Union College). December 31. 1930, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (Jewish Daily Bulletin)[fix citation]

Schopenhauer’s saying, that “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,” has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life…

Mein Weltbild (1931)

“Mein Weltbild” (1931) [i.e. My World-view, or My View of the World or The World As I See It (as translated for the title essay of the 1949 book: “The World As I See It”) ] Various translated editions have been published of this essay; or portions of it, including one titled “What I Believe”; another compilation which includes it is Ideas and Opinions (1954) How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…
In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer’s saying, that “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,” has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others’. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.
I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.

My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. Variant translation: I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind, of preoccupation with the objective, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific research, life would have seemed to me empty. The ordinary objects of human endeavor — property, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.

My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities.
I gang my own gait and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude — a feeling which increases with the years. Variant translation: I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude…

My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader.

The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality… An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels. For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to systems such as we see in Italy and Russia to-day. Variant translation: In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality…

The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.
This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.
He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilisation should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science… The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man. Variant translations: The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms — it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.
The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties — this knowledge, this feeling … that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.
As quoted in After Einstein : Proceedings of the Einstein Centennial Celebration (1981) by Peter Barker and Cecil G. Shugart, p. 179

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. As quoted in Introduction to Philosophy (1935) by George Thomas White Patrick and Frank Miller Chapman, p. 44

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.
He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Variant translation: I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms. As quoted in his obituary in The New York Times (19 April 1955)

It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature. As quoted in Introduction to Philosophy (1935) by George Thomas White Patrick and Frank Miller Chapman, p. 44

Variant translations:
I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.

My Credo (1932)

Speech to the German League of Human Rights, Berlin (Autumn 1932); as published in Einstein: A Life in Science (1994) by Michael White and John Gribbin This repeats or revises some statements and ideas of Mein Weltbild (1931). (Full text online) Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.
I do not believe in freedom of the will. Schopenhauer’s words: “Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills” accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of freedom of will preserves me from taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper.
My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as did my aversion to any obligation and dependence I do not regard as absolutely necessary. I always have a high regard for the individual and have an insuperable distaste for violence and clubmanship.
All these motives made me into a passionate pacifist and anti-militarist. I am against any nationalism, even in the guise of mere patriotism. Privileges based on position and property have always seemed to me unjust and pernicious, as did any exaggerated personality cult.
I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I well know the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual appeared to me always as the important communal aims of the state.
Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.
The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness.
In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.

Obituary for Emmy Noether (1935)

Emmy Noether, letter to the Editor of The New York Times, published May 5, 1935 Full text online The efforts of most human-beings are consumed in the struggle for their daily bread, but most of those who are, either through fortune or some special gift, relieved of this struggle are largely absorbed in further improving their worldly lot. Beneath the effort directed toward the accumulation of worldly goods lies all too frequently the illusion that this is the most substantial and desirable end to be achieved; but there is, fortunately, a minority composed of those who recognize early in their lives that the most beautiful and satisfying experiences open to humankind are not derived from the outside, but are bound up with the development of the individual’s own feeling, thinking and acting. The genuine artists, investigators and thinkers have always been persons of this kind. However inconspicuously the life of these individuals runs its course, none the less the fruits of their endeavors are the most valuable contributions which one generation can make to its successors.
In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.
Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.

Science and Religion (1941)
Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium, published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York (1941); later published in Out of My Later Years (1950) Full text online

A religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. But when asking myself what religion is I cannot think of the answer so easily. And even after finding an answer which may satisfy me at this particular moment, I still remain convinced that I can never under any circumstances bring together, even to a slight extent, the thoughts of all those who have given this question serious consideration.
A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
A conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs. On the other hand, representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect to values and ends on the basis of scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. These conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Though I have asserted above that in truth a legitimate conflict between religion and science cannot exist, I must nevertheless qualify this assertion once again on an essential point, with reference to the actual content of historical religions. This qualification has to do with the concept of God. During the youthful period of mankind’s spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man’s own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.

A doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?
The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God.

Science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life. When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails us. One need only think of the weather, in which case prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible. Nevertheless no one doubts that we are confronted with a causal connection whose causal components are in the main known to us.
Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature.
The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.
But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task.
Science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.
The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.

Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster.

Only Then Shall We Find Courage (1946)

New York Times Magazine (23 June 1946) Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.”
Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we know it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking.
In light of new knowledge…an eventual world state is not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, it is necessary for survival… Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.
As the issues are greater than men ever sought to realize before, the recriminations will be fiercer and pride more desperately hurt. It may help to recall that many recognized before the bomb ever fell that the time had already come when we must learn to live in One World.
The stakes are immense, the task colossal, the time is short. But we may hope — we must hope — that man’s own creation, man’s own genius, will not destroy him. Scholars, indeed all men, must move forward in the faith of that philosopher who held that there is no problem the human reason can propound which the human reason cannot reason out.

Religion and Science: Irreconcilable? (1948)

The Christian Register (June 1948); republished in Ideas and Opinions (1954) Full text online Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? The answers to these questions have, for centuries, given rise to considerable dispute and, indeed, bitter fighting. Yet, in my own mind there can be no doubt that in both cases a dispassionate consideration can only lead to a negative answer. What complicates the solution, however, is the fact that while most people readily agree on what is meant by “science,” they are likely to differ on the meaning of “religion.”

Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship. Science, in the immediate, produces knowledge and, indirectly, means of action. It leads to methodical action if definite goals are set up in advance. For the function of setting up goals and passing statements of value transcends its domain. While it is true that science, to the extent of its grasp of causative connections, may reach important conclusions as to the compatibility and incompatibility of goals and evaluations, the independent and fundamental definitions regarding goals and values remain beyond science’s reach.
As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship. These ideals religion attempts to attain by exerting an educational influence on tradition and through the development and promulgation of certain easily accessible thoughts and narratives (epics and myths) which are apt to influence evaluation and action along the lines of the accepted ideals.
It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with science. This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of the religious aims.
The moral attitudes of a people that is supported by religion need always aim at preserving and promoting the sanity and vitality of the community and its individuals, since otherwise this community is bound to perish. A people that were to honor falsehood, defamation, fraud, and murder would be unable, indeed, to subsist for very long.
The great moral teachers of humanity were, in a way, artistic geniuses in the art of living.
While religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. Everywhere, in economic as well as in political life, the guiding principle is one of ruthless striving for success at the expense of one’s fellow men. This competitive spirit prevails even in school and, destroying all feelings of human fraternity and cooperation, conceives of achievement not as derived from the love for productive and thoughtful work, but as springing from personal ambition and fear of rejection.
There are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarily inherent in human nature; it is those who propound such views that are the enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that religious teachings are Utopian ideals and unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs. The study of the social patterns in certain so-called primitive cultures, however, seems to have made it sufficiently evident that such a defeatist view is wholly unwarranted.
While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza’s Amor Dei Intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements.

The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.

The World As I See It (1949)

For the title essay in this work see Mein Weltbild (1931) above.

The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.

Good and Evil

The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self.

Society and Personality

When we survey our lives and endeavors we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings. We see that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have grown, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human society, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.

The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. A man’s value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.
And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine — each was discovered by one man.
Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society — nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.
The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close political cohesion.

Of Wealth

I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it.
Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?

Religion in Science

You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe. But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.

Greeting to G. Bernard Shaw

There are few enough people with sufficient independence to see the weaknesses and follies of their contemporaries and remain themselves untouched by them. And these isolated few usually soon lose their zeal for putting things to rights when they have come face to face with human obduracy. Only to a tiny minority is it given to fascinate their generation by subtle humour and grace and to hold the mirror up to it by the impersonal agency of art. To-day I salute with sincere emotion the supreme master of this method, who has delighted — and educated — us all.

Some Notes on my American Impressions

first published as “My First Impression of the U.S.A.” (1921)

The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law… The cult of individual personalities is always, in my view, unjustified. To be sure, nature distributes her gifts variously among her children. But there are plenty of the well-endowed ones too, thank God, and I am firmly convinced that most of them live quiet, unregarded lives. It strikes me as unfair, and even in bad taste, to select a few of them for boundless admiration, attributing superhuman powers of mind and character to them. This has been my fate, and the contrast between the popular estimate of my powers and achievements and the reality is simply grotesque. The consciousness of this extraordinary state of affairs would be unbearable but for one great consoling thought: it is a welcome symptom in an age which is commonly denounced as materialistic, that it makes heroes of men whose ambitions lie wholly in the intellectual and moral sphere. This proves that knowledge and justice are ranked above wealth and power by a large section of the human race. My experience teaches me that this idealistic outlook is particularly prevalent in America, which is usually decried as a particularly materialistic country.
The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this.
The United States is the most powerful technically advanced country in the world to-day. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today. This must be changed, if only in the essential interests of the Americans. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.

If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity.
Christianity and Judaism
If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity.
It is the duty of every man of good will to strive steadfastly in his own little world to make this teaching of pure humanity a living force, so far as he can. If he makes an honest attempt in this direction without being crushed and trampled under foot by his contemporaries, he may consider himself and the community to which he belongs lucky.

Unconfirmed:

The following quotes have been cited as being from The World As I See It but are not in later abridged editions of the original 1949 book and thus these citations are not yet confirmed. May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers!
The state is made for man, not man for the state. And in this respect science resembles the state.

“Why Socialism?” (1949)

Monthly Review New York (May 1949) Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. In so far as the labor contract is free what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor — not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralisation of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service. Referring to the Monthly Review, in which the essay was published.

On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation (1950)

Scientific American (April 1950) This is the reason why all attempts to obtain a deeper knowledge of the foundations of physics seem doomed to me unless the basic concepts are in accordance with general relativity from the beginning. This situation makes it difficult to use our empirical knowledge, however comprehensive, in looking for the fundamental concepts and relations of physics, and it forces us to apply free speculation to a much greater extent than is presently assumed by most physicists.
I do not see any reason to assume that the heuristic significance of the principle of general relativity is restricted to gravitation and that the rest of physics can be dealt with separately on the basis of special relativity, with the hope that later on the whole may be fitted consistently into a general relativistic scheme. I do not think that such an attitude, although historically understandable, can be objectively justified. The comparative smallness of what we know today as gravitational effects is not a conclusive reason for ignoring the principle of general relativity in theoretical investigations of a fundamental character. In other words, I do not believe that it is justifiable to ask: What would physics look like without gravitation?

Out of My Later Years (1950)

A collection of Einstein’s essays which cover a period of 1934 to 1950. Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
For scientific endeavor is a natural whole the parts of which mutually support one another in a way which, to be sure, no one can anticipate. On scientific freedom and holism or holistic science, p. 12

The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. On religion and society, p. 27.

I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity. p.13

Everyone is aware of the difficult and menacing situation in which human society — shrunk into one community with a common fate — now finds itself, but only a few act accordingly. Most people go on living their every-day life: half frightened, half indifferent, they behold the ghostly tragi-comedy which is being performed on the international stage before the eyes and ears of the world. But on that stage, on which the actors under the floodlights play their ordained parts, our fate of tomorrow, life or death of the nations, is being decided. “The Menace of Mass Destruction” in Out of My Later Years (1950)

And certainly we should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no presonality. It cannot lead, it can only serve; and it is not fastidious in its choice of a leader. This characteristic is reflected in the qualities of its priests, the intellectuals. The intellect has a sharp eye for methods and tools, but is blind to ends and values. So it is no wonder that this fatal blindness is handed on from old to young and today involves a whole generation. wonder that this fatal blindness is handed on from old to young and today involves a whole generation. p. 260 Out of My Later Years – Revised reprint edition (1995)

Essay to Leo Baeck (1953)

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. Statements by Einstein from Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954), p. 26; Baeck’s birthday was 23 May 1953; Einstein Archives 28-962, as quoted in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2005) edited by Alice Calaprice, p. 188 Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
In order to be a perfect member of a flock of sheep, one has to be foremost, a sheep.
Hail to the man who went through life always helping others, knowing no fear, and to whom aggressiveness and resentment are alien. Such is the stuff of which the great moral leaders are made.
The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful, and then only for a short while.
Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions. Also in Ideas and Opinions (1954)

Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1954)

Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions.

The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion.

Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men and towards objective things. Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions. p. 38

I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it. p. 39 – 17 July 1953 – unsent letter

The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning. p. 40 – 5 Feb 1921

Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men and towards objective things. p. 46 – 30 July 47 – letter

In my opinion, condemning the Zionist movement as “nationalistic” is unjustified. Consider the path by which Herzl came to his mission. Initially he had been completely cosmopolitan. But during the Dreyfus trial in Paris he suddenly realized with great clarity how precarious was the situation of the Jews in the western world. And courageously he drew the conclusion that we are discriminated against or murdered not because we are Germans, Frenchmen, Americans, etc. of the “Jewish faith” but simply because we are Jews. Thus already our precarious situation forces us to stand together irrespective of our citizenship.
Zionism gave the German Jews no great protection against annihilation. But it did give the survivors the inner strength to endure the debacle with dignity and without losing their healthy self respect. Keep in mind that perhaps a similar fate could be lying in wait for your children. pp. 63-64 – c. 1946

It seems hard to sneak a look at God’s cards. But that He plays dice and uses “telepathic” methods… is something that I cannot believe for a single moment. p. 68 – letter to Cornel Lanczos, 21 Mar 1942

Philosophy is like a mother who gave birth to and endowed all the other sciences. Therefore, one should not scorn her in her nakedness and poverty, but should hope, rather, that part of her Don Quixote ideal will live on in her children so that they do not sink into philistinism. p. 106 – 28 Sep 32

There has been an earth for a little more than a billion years. As for the question of the end of it I advise: Wait and see! p. 34 – 19 Jun 51

If the believers of the present-day religions would earnestly try to think and act in the spirit of the founders of these religions then no hostility on the basis of religion would exist among the followers of the different faiths. Even the conflicts and the realm of religion would be exposed as insignificant. p. 96 – 27 Jan 47 – statement to Christian conference

Albert Einstein: A guide for the perplexed (1979)

The most important tool of the theoretical physicist is his wastebasket. –Told by P. Morrison in “Albert Einstein: 14 March, 1879—18 April, 1955 A guide for the perplexed” by Kenneth Brecher, in Nature 278, 215-218 (15 March 1979). The article is described as “A brief collection of direct and indirect quotations by or about Albert Einstein.
Physics is essentially an intuitive and concrete science. Mathematics is only a means for expressing the laws that govern phenomena. — From Lettre à Maurice Solvine, by A. Einstein (Gauthier-Villars: Paris 1956). In Brecher, Ibid.
Who would have thought around 1900 that in fifty years time we would know so much more and understand so much less. — Albert Einstein and the Cosmic World Order, by C. Lanczos (Wiley, New York, 1956). In Brecher, Ibid.

Sidelights on Relativity (1983)

ISBN 048624511X How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things?
One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem, above all other sciences, is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts.
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
I never commit to memory anything that can easily be looked up in a book.

Einstein’s God (1997)

Einstein’s God — Albert Einstein’s Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God (1997) by Robert N. Goldman ISBN 1568219830 The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer.

I have always believed that Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God the small group scattered all through time of intellectually and ethically valuable people. A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant. At the least, he is to feel pity for the adherent of another religion but usually it does not stop there. The faithful adherent of a religion will try first of all to convince those that believe in another religion and usually he goes on to hatred if he is not successful. However, hatred then leads to persecution when the might of the majority is behind it.
In the case of a Christian clergyman, the tragic-comical is found in this: that the Christian religion demands love from the faithful, even love for the enemy. This demand, because it is indeed superhuman, he is unable to fulfill. Thus intolerance and hatred ring through the oily words of the clergyman. The love, which on the Christian side is the basis for the conciliatory attempt towards Judaism is the same as the love of a child for a cake. That means that it contains the hope that the object of the love will be eaten up… Letter to Rabbi Solomon Goldman of Chicago’s Anshe Emet Congregation

If I would follow your advice and Jesus could perceive it, he, as a Jewish teacher, surely would not approve of such behavior. Reply to a Roman Catholic student urging him to pray to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and convert to Christianity.

The fact that man produces a concept “I” besides the totality of his mental and emotional experiences or perceptions does not prove that there must be any specific existence behind such a concept. We are succumbing to illusions produced by our self-created language, without reaching a better understanding of anything. Most of so-called philosophy is due to this kind of fallacy.
One has a feeling that one has a kind of home in this timeless community of human beings that strive for truth. … I have always believed that Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God the small group scattered all through time of intellectually and ethically valuable people.
To take those fools in clerical garb seriously is to show them too much honor. Comment on the Union of Orthodox Rabbis after expelling a rabbi because of his disbelief in God as a personal entity.

Einstein and Religion (1999)

Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (1999) by Max Jammer ISBN 069110297X when I was a fairly precocious young man, the nothingness of the hopes and strivings which chases most men restlessly through life came to my consciousness with considerable vitality. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach, everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. Moreover, it was possible to satisfy the stomach by such participation, but not man insofar as he is a thinking and feeling being. As the first way out, there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education machine. Thus I came—despite the fact that I was the son of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiosity. From Einstein’s “Autobiographical Notes” in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp (p. 3).

Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Suspicion against every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude towards the convictions which were alive in any specific social environment—an attitude which has never again left me, even though later on, because of a better insight into the causal connections, it lost some of its original poignancy. From Einstein’s “Autobiographical Notes” in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp (p. 5).

It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the “merely personal,” from an existence which is dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings. Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned like a liberation, and I soon noticed that many a man whom I had learned to esteem and to admire had found inner freedom and security in devoted occupation with it. The mental grasp of this extrapersonal world within the frame of the given possibilites swam as [the] highest aim half consciously and half unconsciously before my mind’s eye. Similar motivated men of the present and of the past, as well as the insights which they had achieved, were the friends which could not be lost. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has proved itself as trustworthy, and I have never regretted having chosen it. From Einstein’s “Autobiographical Notes” in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp (p. 5).

We followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and lawfulness of all that exists and in its soul (“Beseeltheit”) as it reveals itself in man and animal. It is a different question whether belief in a personal God should be contested. Freud endorsed this view in his latest publication. I myself would never engage in such a task. For such a belief seems to me preferable to the lack of any transcendental outlook of life, and I wonder whether one can ever successfully render to the majority of mankind a more sublime means in order to satisfy its metaphysical needs. From a letter to Eduard Büsching (25 October 1929) after Büsching sent Einstein a copy of his book Es gibt keinen Gott [There Is no God]. Einstein responded that the book only dealt with the concept of a personal God.

Speaking of the spirit that informs modern scientific investigations, I am of the opinion that all the finer speculations in the realm of science spring from a deep religious feeling, and that without such a feeling they would not be fruitful. I also believe that, this kind of religiousness, which makes itself felt today in scientific investigations, is the only creative religious activity of our time. The art of today can hardly be looked upon at all as expressive of our religious instincts. From a 1930 interview with J. Murphy and J. W. N. Sullivan.

Scientific research is based on the assumption that all events, including the actions of mankind, are determined by the laws of nature. Therefore, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, that is, by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being. However, we have to admit that our actual knowledge of these laws is only an incomplete piece of work (unvollkommenes Stückwerk), so that ultimately the belief in the existence of fundamental all-embracing laws also rests on a sort of faith. All the same, this faith has been largely justified by the success of science. On the other hand, however, every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. The pursuit of science leads therefore to a religious feeling of a special kind, which differs essentially from the religiosity of more naive people. 24 January 1936 letter in response to a sixth-grader (Phyllis Wright) asking whether scientists pray, and if so, what they pray for

I was barked at by numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it. Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional “opium for the people”—cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims. From a 7 August 1941 letter discussing responses to his essay “Science and Religion” (1941)

I have found no better expression than “religious” for confidence in the rational nature of reality as it is accessible to human reason. Wherever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism. … I cannot accept your opinion concerning science and ethics or the determination of aims. What we call science has the sole purpose of determining what is. The determining of what ought to be is unrelated to it and cannot be accomplished methodically. Science can only arrange ethical propositions logically and furnish the means for the realization of ethical aims, but the determination of aims is beyond its scope. At least that is the way I see it. From a letter to his friend Maurice Solovine, 1 January 1951

The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive. However, I am also not a “Freethinker” in the usual sense of the word because I find that this is in the main an attitude nourished exclusively by an opposition against naive superstition. My feeling is insofar religious as I am imbued with the consciousness of the insufficiency of the human mind to understand deeply the harmony of the Universe which we try to formulate as “laws of nature.” It is this consciousness and humility I miss in the Free-thinker mentality. From a letter to Beatrice F. in response to a question about whether he was a “free thinker”, 17 December 1952

About God, I cannot accept any concept based on the authority of the Church. As long as I can remember, I have resented mass indoctrination. I do not believe in the fear of life, in the fear of death, in blind faith. I cannot prove to you that there is no personal God, but if I were to speak of him, I would be a liar. I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws. From an interview with William Hermanns in the summer of 1954

I want to know how God created this world. I’m not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details. E. Salaman, “A Talk with Einstein,” The Listener 54 (1955): 370-371

It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near to those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems. From a letter to Murray W. Gross, 26 April 1947

Disputed

It is high time the ideal of success should be replaced with the ideal of service … Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. With no known citation to an Einstein work, this statement appears in this form in the Bulletin of the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, Vol. 45, (1961); variant: “Only a life in the service of others is worth living”. The second part of the quote appears in A Treasury of Jewish Quotations by Joseph L. Baron (1977), p. 7, where it is attributed to “Youth, June 1932,” but it isn’t clear what source this is referring to.

It’s become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity. As quoted in Voices of Truth : Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers, and Healers (2000) by Nina L. Diamond, p. 429; no publication of this statement has been located prior to it’s use in the film Powder (1995) written by Victor Salva, where it is presented as a quote of Einstein.

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. As quoted in How to Think like Einstein : Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius (2000); in the earliest occurence of this yet located, in The Art of the Shmooze (1998) by Bret Saxon and Steve Stein, p. 156, it is implied to be something said by Conan O’Brien, but no definite citation is provided.

Misattributed

Contempt prior to investigation is what enslaves a mind to Ignorance. This or similiar statements are more often misattributed to Herbert Spencer, but the source of the phrase “contempt prior to investigation” seems to have been William Paley, in A View of the Evidences of Christianity (1794): The infidelity of the gentile world, and that more especially of men of rank and learning in it, is resolved into a principle which, in my judgement, will account for the inefficacy of any argument, or any evidence whatever, viz. contempt prior to examination.

Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Then I looked to individual writers who, as literary guides of Germany, had written much and often concerning the place of freedom in modern life; but they, too, were mute.

Only the church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.
Attributed in “The Conflict Between Church And State In The Third Reich”, by S. Parkes Cadman, La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press (28 October 1934)[3]. The quote is preceded by “In this connection it is worth quoting in free translation a statement made by Professor Einstein last year to one of my colleagues who has been prominently identified with the Protestant church in its contacts with Germany.” [Emphasis added.] While based on something that Einstein said, Einstein himself stated that the quote was not an accurate record of his words or opinion. After the quote appeared in Time magazine, (23 December 1940), p. 38, a minister in Harbor Springs, Michigan wrote to Einstein to check if the quote was real. Eintein wrote back “It is true that I made a statement which corresponds approximately with the text you quoted. I made this statement during the first years of the Nazi-Regime — much earlier than 1940 — and my expressions were a little more moderate.” (March 1943) [4]
In a later letter to Rev. Cornelius Greenway of Brooklyn, who asked if Einstein would write out the statement in his own hand, Einstein was more vehement in his repudiation of the statement (14 November 1950) [5]:

The wording of the statement you have quoted is not my own. Shortly after Hitler came to power in Germany I had an oral conversation with a newspaper man about these matters. Since then my remarks have been elaborated and exaggerated nearly beyond recognition. I cannot in good conscience write down the statement you sent me as my own.

The matter is all the more embarrassing to me because I, like yourself, I am predominantly critical concerning the activities, and especially the political activities, through history of the official clergy. Thus, my former statement, even if reduced to my actual words (which I do not remember in detail) gives a wrong impression of my general attitude.

In his original statement Einstein was probably referring to the actions of the Emergency Covenant of Pastors organized by Martin Niemöller, and the Confessing Church which he and other prominent churchmen such as Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer established in opposition to Nazi policies. Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Variant: The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.
These two statements are very similar, widely quoted, and seem to paraphrase some ideas in the essay “Religion and Science”, but neither has been properly sourced. Notable Einstein scholars such as John Stachel and Thomas J. McFarlane (author of Buddha and Einstein: The Parallel Sayings) know of this statement but have not found any source for it. Any information on any definite original sources for these is welcome.
This quote does not actually appear in “Albert Einstein: The Human Side” as is sometimes claimed.

Evil is the absence of God. This statement has been attributed to others before Einstein; its first attribution to Einstein appears to have been in an email story that began circulating in 2004. See the Urban Legends Reference Pages for more discussion.

Two things inspire me to awe: the starry heavens and the moral universe within. If Einstein said this, he was almost certainly quoting philosopher Immanuel Kant (from the conclusion to the Critique of Pure Reason (1788).

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. This is similar to a quote attributed to Mark Twain: “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education”.

You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother. variant: If you can’t explain something to a six-year-old, you really don’t understand it yourself.
Frequently attributed to Richard Feynman
Probably based on a similar quote about explaining physics to a “barmaid” by Ernest Rutherford
P. 418 of Einstein: His Life and Times by Ronald W. Clark says that Louis de Broglie did attribute a similar statement to Einstein: To de Broglie, Einstein revealed an instinctive reason for his inability to accept the purely statistical interpretation of wave mechanics. It was a reason which linked him with Rutherford, who used to state that “it should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Einstein, having a final discussion with de Broglie on the platform of the Gare du Nord in Paris, whence they had traveled from Brussels to attend the Fresnel centenary celebrations, said “that all physical theories, their mathematical expressions apart ought to lend themselves to so simple a description ‘that even a child could understand them.’ ”
Clark’s book does not give a reference for this specific statement by de Broglie, but it follows a quote by de Broglie in the previous paragraph which is attributed to de Broglie’s book New Perspectives in Physics, so this may come from the same source. Cf. this from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle:

Dr. Hoenikker used to say that any scientist who couldn’t explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan. Die Astrologie ist eine Wissenschaft für sich. Aber eine wegweisende. Ich habe viel aus ihr gelernt und vielen Nutzen aus ihr ziehen können. Die physikalischen Erkenntnisse unterstreichen die Macht der Sterne über irdisches Geschick. Die Astrologie aber unterstreicht in gewissem Sinne wiederum die physikalischen Erkenntnisse. Deshalb ist sie eine Art Lebens-elixier für die Gesellschaft!
English: Astrology is a science in itself and contains an illuminating body of knowledge. It taught me many things, and I am greatly indebted to it. Geophysical evidence reveals the power of the stars and the planets in relation to the terrestrial. In turn, astrology reinforces this power to some extent. This is why astrology is like a life-giving elixir to mankind. German quote attributed to Einstein in Huters astrologischer Kalender 1960 [A]
Translated by Tad Mann, unidentified 1987 work
Contradicted by Denis Hamel, The End of the Einstein-Astrology-Supporter Hoax, Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 31, No. 6 (Nov-Dec 2007), pp. 39-43
Alice Calaprice, The Expanded Quotable Einstein: “Attributed to Einstein […] An excellent example of a quotation someone made up and attributed to Einstein in order to lend an idea credibility.”

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men! A variant – “Professor Einstein, the learned scientist, once calculated that if all bees disappeared off the earth, four years later all humans would also have disappeared” – appears in The Irish Beekeeper, v.19-20, 1965-66, p74, citing Abeilles et Fleurs (Bees and Flowers, the house magazine of Union Nationale de l’Apiculture Française) for June 1965. Snopes.com mentions its use in a beekeepers’ protest in 1994 in Europe [6] suggesting invention and attribution to Einstein for political reasons.

The most fundamental question we can ever ask ourselves is whether or not the universe we live in is friendly or hostile. This has been quoted in a relatively few places on the internet, but seems to have no earlier source than an obscure web essay “Reinventing Failure: Designing Success” by Harald Anderson, where the statement seems to have been a loose summation of Einstein’s ideas rather than a quote: “Albert Einstein once commented that the most fundamental question we can ever ask ourselves is whether or not the universe we live in is friendly or hostile. He hypothesized that your answer to that question would determine your destiny.
Quoted in Morris Berman: Coming to Our Senses (1989) pp. 41

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Variously misattributed to figures also including Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. The earliest known occurrence, and probable origin, cites to Rita Mae Brown.

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. As quoted in Breakthrough : Israel in a Changing World (1996) by Gad Yaacobi, p. 98
Variant: The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. As quoted in Conscious Courage : Turning Everyday Challenges Into Opportunities (2004) by Maureen Stearns, p. 99

Though widely attributed in these forms, they are apparently paraphrased from the quote in Conversations with Casals (1957) listed above.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. From William Bruce Cameron’s Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963), p. 13. The comment is part of a longer paragraph and does not appear in quotations in Cameron’s book, and other sources such as The Student’s Companion to Sociology (p. 92) attribute the quote to Cameron. A number of recent books claim that Einstein had a sign with these words in his office in Princeton, but until a reliable historical source can be found to support this, skepticism is warranted. The earliest source on google books that mentions the quote in association with Einstein and Princeton is Charles A. Garfield’s 1986 book Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business, in which he wrote on p. 156: Albert Einstein liked to underscore the micro/macro partnership with a remark from Sir George Pickering that he chalked on the blackboard in his office at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. This was simply cited as an anonymous saying in the earliest publication which has been located: How to Give a Damn Good Speech: Even When You Have No Time to Prepare (2000) by Philip R. Theibert; the earliest attribution of this to Einstein yet located is in Miracles (2003) by W. Sumner Davis, p. 5, it has since become attributed to Einstein in several publications, but without citation of an original source.

If only I had known, I should have become a watch-maker. According to The Quote Verifier (2006) by Ralph Keyes, Einstein never said any such thing. Keyes notes that Einstein “did use similar words to make a very different point” when he wrote, in a 1954 letter to the editor at The Reporter magazine, “If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”

Quotes about Einstein

Arranged alphabetically by author I was particularly won over by his sweet disposition, by his general kindness, by his simplicity, and by his friendliness. Occasionally, gaiety would gain the upper hand and he would strike a more personal note and even disclose some detail of his day-to-day life. Then again, reverting to his characteristic mood of reflection and meditation, he would launch into a profound and original discussion of a variety of scientific and other problems. I shall always remember the enchantment of all those meetings, from which I carried away an indelible impression of Einstein’s great human qualities. Louis de Broglie, New Perspectives in Physics, p. 182

Like many other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him. … It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions … but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion. John Brooke, as quoted in “Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear” in The Guardian (13 May 2008)

Einstein was a giant. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were on the ground. Those of us who are not so tall have to choose! Richard Feynman, as quoted in Collective Electrodynamics : Quantum Foundations of Electromagnetism (2002) by Carver A. Mead, p. xix

Much later, when I was discussing cosmological problems with Einstein, he remarked that the introduction of the cosmological term was the biggest blunder he ever made in his life. George Gamow, in his autobiography My World Line: An Informal Autobiography (1970), p. 44. Here the “cosmological term” refers to the cosmological constant in the equations of general relativity, whose value Einstein initially picked to ensure that his model of the universe would neither expand nor contract; if he hadn’t done this he might have theoretically predicted the universal expansion that was first observed by Edwin Hubble.

I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Because nobody dares contradict you. Studs Terkel, as quoted in “Voice of America” in The Guardian (1 March 2002)

Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and on my arrival I was fully convinced that he understood it. Attributed to Chaim Weizmann, after a long trans-Atlantic journey; Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations (6822) credits Nigel Calder, Einstein’s Universe (1979); a slightly different version appears in David Bodanis, E=mc², which credits Carl Seelig, Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography (1956), pp. 80–81

[H]is work revolved around three rules which apply to all science, our problems, and times: 1. Out of clutter, find simplicity; 2. From discord make harmony; and finally 3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. John Archibald Wheeler, interviewed in Cosmic Search Vol. 1, No. 4 (1979). The three principles are sometimes attributed to Einstein himself, but no source can be found showing that Einstein stated them, and Wheeler didn’t indicate in the interview whether he was quoting something Einstein had told him or giving his own description of how Einstein worked.

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens, pen name Mark Twain, American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer

From Wikiquote

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American humorist, novelist, writer, and lecturer.

I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices whatsoever. “Answers to Correspondents”, The Californian, 17 June 1865. Anthologized in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1867)

I’ll risk fifty two dollars that he can outjump any frog in Calaveras county. “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”; first published as “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” in the New York Saturday Press, 18 November 1865; revised by the author and reprinted the following month in The Californian; first anthologized in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1867), ed. John Paul.

I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog. “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1865).

He was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie. “Brief Biographical Sketch of George Washington”, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1867), ed. John Paul

Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run. “The Facts Concerning the Recent Resignation”, described by the author as written about 1867, first published in Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old‎ (1875).

Tomorrow night I appear for the first time before a Boston audience — 4000 critics. Letter to Pamela Clemens Moffet, 9 November 1869, in Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain’s Letters: Arranged with Comment (1917), Vol. 1, p. 168

He is now fast rising from affluence to poverty. “Rev. Henry Ward Beecher’s Farm” (1869), anthologized in Mark Twain’s Sketches (1872)

Barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough. “A Mysterious Visit”, Buffalo Express, 19 March 1870. Anthologized in Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old‎ (1875).

Formerly, if you killed a man, it was possible that you were insane—but now, if you, having friends and money, kill a man, it is evidence that you are a lunatic. “A New Crime”, first published as “The New Crime” in the Buffalo Express, 16 April 1870. Anthologized in Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old‎ (1875).

Is not this insanity plea becoming rather common? Is it not so common that the reader confidently expects to see it offered in every criminal case that comes before the courts? […] Really, what we want now, is not laws against crime, but a law against insanity. “A New Crime” (1870)

Benjamin Franklin did a great many notable things for his country, and made her young name to be honored in many lands as the mother of such a son. It is not the idea of this memoir to ignore that or cover it up. No; the simple idea of it is to snub those pretentious maxims of his, which he worked up with a great show of originality out of truisms that had become wearisome platitudes as early as the dispersion from Babel. “The Late Benjamin Franklin”, The Galaxy, Vol. 10, No. 1, July 1870[1]. Anthologized in Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old‎ (1875).

This poor little one-horse town. “The Undertaker’s Chat”, first published as “A Reminiscence of the Back Settlements” in The Galaxy, Vol. 10, No. 5, November 1870[2]. Anthologized in Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old‎ (1875).

All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason. On the Book of Mormon, Roughing It (published 1872), pp. 58-59.

A crowded police docket is the surest of all signs that trade is brisk and money plenty. Roughing It (published 1872).

A baby is an inestimable blessing and bother. Letter to Annie Moffett Webster (September 1, 1876).[specific citation needed]

The funniest things are the forbidden. “Notebook 18 (February–September 1879)” in Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals, Vol. 2 (1975), ed. Frederick Anderson, ISBN 0520025423, p. 304

We haven’t all had the good fortune to be ladies; we haven’t all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the toast works down to the babies, we stand on common ground. Answering a toast, “To the Babies,” at a banquet in honor of General U.S. Grant (November 14, 1879).
The Writings of Mark Twain, Vol. 20 (1899), ed. Charles Dudley Warner, p. 397

Among the three or four million cradles now rocking in the land are some which this nation would preserve for ages as sacred things, if we could know which ones they are. “To the Babies” (November 14, 1879).

We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that the savage has, because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter. A Tramp Abroad (1880).

You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use. A Tramp Abroad (1880).

Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. Draft manuscript (c.1881), quoted by Albert Bigelow Paine in Mark Twain: A Biography (1912), p. 724.

Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any. “Advice to Youth”, speech to The Saturday Morning Club, Boston, 15 April 1882. Mark Twain Speaking (1976), ed. Paul Fatout, p. 169

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning. When the doctrine of allegiance to party can utterly up-end a man’s moral constitution and make a temporary fool of him besides, what excuse are you going to offer for preaching it, teaching it, extending it, perpetuating it? Shall you say, the best good of the country demands allegiance to party? Shall you also say it demands that a man kick his truth and his conscience into the gutter, and become a mouthing lunatic, besides? “Consistency”, paper read at the Hartford Monday Evening Club on 5 December 1887. The Complete Essays of Mark Twain, p. 582 (First published in the 1923 edition of Mark Twain’s Speeches, ed. Albert Bigelow Paine, pp. 120-130, where it is incorrectly dated “following the Blaine-Cleveland campaign, 1884.” (See Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals (1979), ed. Frederick Anderson, Vol. 3, p. 41, footnote 92) Many reprints repeat Paine’s dating.)

Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will. “Consistency” (5 December 1887). This quote is engraved on Twain’s bust in the National Hall of Fame.

He [George Washington Cable] has taught me to abhor and detest the Sabbath day and hunt up new and troublesome ways to dishonor it. Letter to William Dean Howells, 27 February 1885, in Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain’s letters: Arranged with Comment (1917), Vol. 2, p. 450

An experienced, industrious, ambitious, and often quite picturesque liar. “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed”, The Century, Vol. 31, No. 2, December 1885[3]. Anthologized in The American Claimant, and Other Stories and Sketches (1898)

It does look as if Massachusetts were in a fair way to embarrass me with kindnesses this year. In the first place, a Massachusetts judge has just decided in open court that a Boston publisher may sell, not only his own property in a free and unfettered way, but also may as freely sell property which does not belong to him but to me; property which he has not bought and which I have not sold. Under this ruling I am now advertising that judge’s homestead for sale, and, if I make as good a sum out of it as I expect, I shall go on and sell out the rest of his property. Letter of acceptance of membership to Concord Free Trade Club (March 28, 1885): Mark Twain, his life and work: a biographical sketch (1892), William Montgomery Clemens, Clemens Pub. Co.

As I slowly grow wise I briskly grow cautious. “English as She Is Taught”, The Century, Vol. 33, No. 6, April 1887[4]. A slightly abridged version was reprinted as Introduction to Caroline B. Le Row, English as She Is Taught: Genuine Answers to Some Examination Questions Asked in Our Public Schools (1901)

A circle is a round straight line with a hole in the middle. Quoting a schoolchild in “English as She Is Taught”

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning. Letter to George Bainton, 15 October 1888, solicited for and printed in George Bainton, The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners (1890), pp. 87–88.
Twain repeated the lightning bug/lightning comparison in several contexts, and credited Josh Billings for the idea: Josh Billings defined the difference between humor and wit as that between the lightning bug and the lightning. Speech at the 145th annual dinner of St. Andrew’s Society, New York, 30 November 1901, Mark Twain Speaking (1976), ed. Paul Fatout, p. 424

Billings’ original wording was characteristically affected: Don’t mistake vivacity for wit, thare iz about az much difference az thare iz between lightning and a lightning bug. Josh Billings’ Old Farmer’s Allminax, “January 1871”. Also in Everybody’s Friend, or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor (1874), p. 304.

Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article on it. The American Claimant, foreword (1892).

I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position. American Claimant (1892)

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. Notebook entry, January or February 1894, Mark Twain’s Notebook, ed. Albert Bigelow Paine (1935), p. 240

James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration. Reported by Frank Marshall White, “Mark Twain Amused,” New York Journal, 2 June 1897. White also recounts the incident in “Mark Twain as a Newspaper Reporter,” The Outlook, Vol. 96, 24 December 1910
Variant: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. In “Chapters from My Autobiography”, The North American Review, 21 September 1906, p. 160, Twain wrote, “I said—’Say the report is greatly exaggerated’.” The resulting misquote is more popular than the original.

A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape. More Tramps Abroad (1897).

[Citing a familiar “American joke”:] In Boston they ask, How much does he know? In New York, How much is he worth? In Philadelphia, Who were his parents? “What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us?”, in How to Tell a Story and Other Essays (1897).

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away and a sunny spirit takes their place. “What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us?” (1897).

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Commonly quoted as: “First get your facts, then you can distort them at your leisure.”

Rudyard Kipling, An Interview with Mark Twain, p. 180, From sea to sea: letters of travel, 1899, Doubleday & McClure Company. eBooks@Adelaide I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spencer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I’m not feeling so well myself. Speech to the Savage Club, 9 June 1899, in Mark Twain’s Speeches (1910), ed. William Dean Howells, pp. 277–278. (Possibly fabricated from a paraphrase in Aaron Watson, The Savage Club: a Medley of History, Anecdote, and Reminiscence (1907), pp. 126–129.)

It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites. Following the equator: a journey around the world (1899), 2:149
referencing the Kumbh Mela

He had only one vanity; he thought he could give advice better than any other person. “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”, in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories and Essays (1900)

Definition of a classic — something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. Quoting or paraphrasing a Professor Winchester in “Disappearance Of Literature”, speech at the Nineteenth Century Club, New York, 20 November 1900, in Mark Twain’s Speeches (1910), ed. William Dean Howells, p. 194

The silent colossal National Lie that is the support and confederate of all the tyrannies and shams and inequalities and unfairnesses that afflict the peoples — that is the one to throw bricks and sermons at. “My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It”, in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories and Essays (1900)

Your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug,—push it a little—crowd it a little—weaken it a little, century by century: but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand. “The Chronicle of Young Satan” (ca. 1897–1900, unfinished), published posthumously in Mark Twain’s Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (1969), ed. William Merriam Gibson (pp. 165–166 in the 2005 paperback printing, ISBN 0520246950)

Whose property is my body? Probably mine. I so regard it. If I experiment with it, who must be answerable? I, not the State. If I choose injudiciously, does the State die? Oh no. “Osteopathy” (1901), in Mark Twain’s Speeches, p. 253.

…[H]eaven for climate, Hell for society. Speech to the Acorn Society (1901)

also given as: Heaven for climate, Hell for companionship. unsourced

Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it. Speech to Eastman College (1901)

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it — they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization. To the Person Sitting in Darkness (1901)

Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest. To the Young People’s Society, Greenpoint Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn (February 16, 1901)

To create man was a fine and original idea; but to add the sheep was a tautology. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (30 May 1902); also in Mark Twain : A Life, p. 611

Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernal, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances’— is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men — but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly smail portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite — that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.
Letter to Helen Keller, after she had been accused of plagiarism for one of her early stories (17 March 1903), published in Mark Twain’s Letters, Vol. 1 (1917) edited by Albert Bigelow Paine, p. 731

Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno. Was the World Made for Man? (1903): also p.106, What is man?: and other philosophical writings, Volume 19 of Works, 1993, Mark Twain, Paul Baender, University of California Press.

To put it in rude, plain, unpalatable words — true patriotism, real patriotism: loyalty not to a Family and a Fiction, but a loyalty to the Nation itself!
…”Remember this, take this to heart, live by it, die for it if necessary: that our patriotism is medieval, outworn, obsolete; that 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.” [Czar Nicholas II] (1905)
Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays, 1891-1910 (1992) ed. Louis J. Budd

He is a stranger to me, but he is a most remarkable man — and I am the other one. Between us, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest. (1906)
Mark Twain in Eruption: Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940) ed. Bernard DeVoto

The only reason why God created man is because he was disappointed with the monkey. Autobiographical Dictation (1906)

A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words in a book or a newspaper the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt. Essay on William Dean Howells (1906)

Customs do not concern themselves with right or wrong or reason. But they have to be obeyed; one reasons all around them until he is tired, but he must not transgress them, it is sternly forbidden. The Gorky Incident (1906)

Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment. The Gorky Incident (1906)

Most writers regard truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use. In full: A critic never made or killed a book or a play. The people themselves are the final judges. It is their opinion that counts. After all, the final test is truth. But the trouble is that most writers regard truth as their most valuable possession and therefore are most economical in its use.
Said to portrait painter Samuel Johnson Woolf, cited in Here am I (1941), Samuel Johnson Woolf, Random House.

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare. Mark Twain in Eruption: Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940) ed. Bernard DeVoto

The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane. Christian Science (1907)

I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough. speech, September 23, 1907

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work. Letter to an Unidentified Person (1908)

When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself. Is Shakespeare Dead? (1909), §11, as reprinted in Essays and Sketches of Mark Twain (1995), ed. Stuart Miller, ISBN 1566198798

Adam’s temperament was the first command the Deity ever issued to a human being on this planet. And it was the only command Adam would never be able to disobey. It said, “Be weak, be water, be characterless, be cheaply persuadable.” The later command, to let the fruit alone, was certain to be disobeyed. Not by Adam himself, but by his temperament — which he did not create and had no authority over. “The Turning Point of my Life”, §3, Harper’s Bazar, February 1910, as reprinted in Essays and Sketches of Mark Twain (1995), ed. Stuart Miller, ISBN 1566198798

The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. marginal note in Moncure D. Conway’s Sacred Anthology
quoted by Albert Bigelow Paine in Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)

You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is. Europe and Elsewhere. Corn Pone Opinions (1925)

We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God. Corn-Pone Opinions (1925)

The lack of money is the root of all evil. More Maxims of Mark (1927) edited by Merle Johnson

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. More Maxims of Mark (1927) edited by Merle Johnson

Always acknowledge a fault frankly. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you opportunity to commit more. More Maxims of Mark (1927) edited by Merle Johnson

Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever. By forever, I mean thirty years. Mark Twain in eruption: hitherto unpublished pages about men and events, 1940, Mark Twain, Bernard Augustine De Voto, Harper & brothers. This appears to be the origin of the variant:
If you would have your work last forever, and by forever I mean fifty years, it must neither overtly preach nor overtly teach, but it must covertly preach and covertly teach.
Attributed to Twain by J. Michael Straczynski in The complete book of scriptwriting, 2002, Writer’s Digest Books.

Jesus died to save men — a small thing for an immortal to do, & didn’t save many, anyway; but if he had been damned for the race that would have been act of a size proper to a god, & would have saved the whole race. However, why should anybody want to save the human race, or damn it either? Does God want its society? Does Satan? Notebook #42

A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar. Mark Twain and I by Opie Read

I do not take any credit to my better-balanced head because I never went crazy on Presbyterianism. We go too slow for that. You never see us ranting and shouting and tearing up the ground, You never heard of a Presbyterian going crazy on religion. Notice us, and you will see how we do. We get up of a Sunday morning and put on the best harness we have got and trip cheerfully down town; we subside into solemnity and enter the church; we stand up and duck our heads and bear down on a hymn book propped on the pew in front when the minister prays; we stand up again while our hired choir are singing, and look in the hymn book and check off the verses to see that they don’t shirk any of the stanzas; we sit silent and grave while the minister is preaching, and count the waterfalls and bonnets furtively, and catch flies; we grab our hats and bonnets when the benediction is begun; when it is finished, we shove, so to speak. No frenzy, no fanaticism –no skirmishing; everything perfectly serene. You never see any of us Presbyterians getting in a sweat about religion and trying to massacre the neighbors. Let us all be content with the tried and safe old regular religions, and take no chances on wildcat. “The New Wildcat Religion”

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others. But for the Civil War, Lincoln and Grant and Sherman and Sheridan would not have been discovered, nor have risen into notice. … I have touched upon this matter in a small book which I wrote a generation ago and which I have not published as yet — Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven. When Stormfield arrived in heaven he … was told that … a shoemaker … was the most prodigious military genius the planet had ever produced. The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959 edition, edited by Charles Neider)

Adam, at Eve’s grave: Wheresoever she was, THERE was Eden. Eve’s Diary

The Innocents Abroad (1869)

I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up. Ch. 7

They spell it “Vinci” and pronounce it “Vinchy”. Foreigners always spell better than they pronounce. Ch. 19

I used to worship the mighty genius of Michael Angelo — that man who was great in poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture — great in every thing he undertook. But I do not want Michael Angelo for breakfast — for luncheon — for dinner — for tea — for supper — for between meals. I like a change, occasionally. Ch. 27

Enough, enough, enough! Say no more! Lump the whole thing! say that the Creator made Italy from designs by Michael Angelo! Ch. 27

Guides cannot master the subtleties of the American joke. Ch. 27

I wish Europe would let Russia annihilate Turkey a little–not much, but enough to make it difficult to find the place again without a divining-rod or a diving-bell. Ch. 42

In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language. Ch. 61

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Conclusion

“The Danger of Lying in Bed” (1871)

The Galaxy, Vol. 11, No. 2, February 1871[5] The Erie railroad kills 23 to 46; the other 845 railroads kill an average of one-third of a man each; and the rest of that million, amounting in the aggregate to that appalling figure of 987,631 corpses, die naturally in their beds! You will excuse me from taking any more chances on those beds. The railroads are good enough for me.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)

Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Ch. 2

He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain. Ch. 2

Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and…Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. Ch. 2

The minister gave out his text and droned along monotonously through an argument that was so prosy that many a head by and by began to nod — and yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and brimstone and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be hardly worth the saving. Ch. 5

There was no getting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats was only “hooking,” while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plain simple stealing — and there was a command against that in the Bible. So they inwardly resolved that so long as they remained in the business, their piracies should not again be sullied with the crime of stealing. Ch. 13

To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing. Ch. 22

She makes me get up just at the same time every morning; she makes me wash, they comb me all to thunder; she won’t let me sleep in the woodshed; I got to wear them blamed clothes that just smothers me, Tom; they don’t seem to let any air git through ’em, somehow; and they’re so rotten nice that I can’t set down, nor lay down, nor roll around anywher’s; I hain’t slid on a cellar-door for — well, it ‘pears to be years; I got to go to church and sweat and sweat — I hate them ornery sermons! I can’t ketch a fly in there, I can’t chaw. I got to wear shoes all Sunday. The widder eats by a bell; she goes to bed by a bell; she gits up by a bell — everything’s so awful reg’lar a body can’t stand it. Ch. 35

New England Weather, speech to the New England Society (December 22, 1876)

There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration — and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of twenty-four hours.
Probable nor’east to sou’west winds, varying to the soutard and westard and eastard and points between; high and low barometer, sweeping round from place to place; probable areas of rain, snow, hail, and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes with thunder and lightning.
One of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR. Notice

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. Ch. 1

Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches. Ch. 2

We catched fish and talked, and we took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn’t ever feel like talking loud, and it warn’t often that we laughed, only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all, that night, nor the next, nor the next. Ch. 12

Pilgrim’s Progress, about a man that left his family, it didn’t say why. I read considerable in it now and then. The statements was interesting, but tough. Ch. 17

There warn’t anybody at the church, except maybe a hog or two, for there warn’t any lock on the door, and hogs likes a puncheon floor in summer-time because it’s cool. If you notice, most folks don’t go to church only when they’ve got to; but a hog is different. Ch. 18

We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft. Ch. 18

To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin. Ch. 21

H’aint we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town? Ch. 26

I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, “All right, then, I’ll GO to hell.” Ch. 31

But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before. Ch. 43

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

Why, it was like reading about France and the French, before the ever memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villany away in one swift tidal-wave of blood — one: a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell. There were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror — that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves. Ch. 13

The citizen who thinks he sees that the commonwealth’s political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal, he is a traitor. That he may be the only one who thinks he sees this decay, does not excuse him: it is his duty to agitate anyway, and it is the duty of others to vote him down if they do not see the matter as he does. Ch. 13

My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. Ch. 13

The pilgrims were human beings. Otherwise they would have acted differently. They had come a long and difficult journey, and now when the journey was nearly finished, and they learned that the main thing they had come for had ceased to exist, they didn’t do as horses or cats or angle-worms would probably have done — turn back and get at something profitable — no, anxious as they had before been to see the miraculous fountain, they were as much as forty times as anxious now to see the place where it had used to be. There is no accounting for human beings. Ch. 22

Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising. Ch. 22

Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth. Ch. 22

It is a mystery that is hidden from me by reason that the emergency requiring the fathoming of it hath not in my life-days occurred, and so, not having no need to know this thing, I abide barren of the knowledge. Ch 25

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. Ch. 43

How To Tell A Story (1895)

The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it.
To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct.

Which was the Dream? (1898)

Unfinished manuscript begun in 1898. First published in Mark Twain’s “Which Was the Dream?” and Other Symbolic Writings of the Later Years, ed. John S Tuckey, 1967 Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.

Concerning the Jews (Harper’s Magazine, Sept. 1899)

I have no race prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.
I have no special regard for Satan; but, I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind, this is irregular. It is un-English, it is un-American; it is French.
The Jew is not a disturber of the peace of any country. Even his enemies will concede that. He is not a loafer, he is not a sot, he is not noisy, he is not a brawler nor a rioter, he is not quarrelsome. In the statistics of crime his presence is conspicuously rare — in all countries. With murder and other crimes of violence he has but little to do: he is a stranger to the hangman. In the police court’s daily long roll of “assaults” and “drunk and disorderlies” his name seldom appears …
A Jewish beggar is not impossible, perhaps; such a thing may exist, but there are few men that can say they have seen that spectacle.
These facts are all on the credit side of the proposition that the Jew is a good and orderly citizen. Summed up, they certify that he is quiet, peaceable, industrious, unaddicted to high crimes and brutal dispositions; that his family life is commendable; that he is not a burden upon public charities; that he is not a beggar; that in benevolence he is above the reach of competition. These are the very quintessentials of good citizenship.
If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvellous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Mark Twain’s Notebook (1902)

Everybody’s private motto: It’s better to be popular than right. A comment on an unlined sheet of note paper in Twain’s papers.

What Is Man? (1906)

It may be called the Master Passion, the hunger for self-approval. Ch. 6

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot. Ch. 6

Letter to Mrs. F. G. Whitmore (February 7, 1907)

But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.

True Citizenship at the Children’s Theater 1907

Citizenship? We have none! In place of it we teach patriotism which Samuel Johnson said a hundred and forty or a hundred and fifty years ago was the last refuge of the scoundrel — and I believe that he was right. I remember when I was a boy and I heard repeated time and time again the phrase, ‘My country, right or wrong, my country!’ How absolutely absurd is such an idea. How absolutely absurd to teach this idea to the youth of the country.

Christian Science 1907

When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic–for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his. All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.

A Horse’s Tale (1907)
Herodotus says, “Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects”. Acknowledgements
Twain does not quote Herodotus here, he only sums up what he believes to have been Herodotus’ approach to the writing of history. Nevertheless, these are now often quoted as being the very words of Herodotus.

Albert Bigelow Paine’s Mark Twain, A Biography (1912)

He [Mark Twain] spoke of humor, and thought it must be one of the chief attributes of God. He cited plants and animals that were distinctly humorous in form and in their characteristics. These he declared were God’s jokes.

The Mysterious Stranger (1916)

Online text There has never been a just one, never an honorable one — on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful — as usual — will shout for the war. The pulpit will — warily and cautiously — object — at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, “It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.” Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers — as earlier — but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation — pulpit and all — will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception. originally in The Chronicle of Satan (1905)

Only laughter can blow [a colossal humbug] to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell — mouths mercy, and invented hell — mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!
There is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a Dream, a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And You are but a Thought — a vagrant Thought, a useless Thought, a homeless Thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities.

Taming the Bicycle (1917)

What is Man? and Other Essays

The bicycle had what is called the ‘wabbles’, and had them very badly. In order to keep my position, a good many things were required of me, and in every instance the thing required was against nature. Against nature, but not against the laws of nature.
Try as you may, you don’t get down as you would from a horse, you get down as you would from a house afire. You make a spectacle of yourself every time.
The self-taught man seldom knows anything accurately, and he does not know a tenth as much as he could have known if he had worked under teachers;
There are those who imagine that the unlucky accidents of life—life’s “experiences”—are in some way useful to us. I wish I could find out how. I never know one of them to happen twice. They always change off and swap around and catch you on your inexperienced side.
Before taking final leave of me, my instructor inquired concerning my physical strength, and I was able to inform him that I hadn’t any.
I started out alone to seek adventures. You don’t really have to seek them—that is nothing but a phrase—they come to you.
I have seen it stated that no expert is quick enough to run over a dog; that a dog is always able to skip out of his way. I think that that may be true; but I think that the reason he couldn’t run over the dog was because he was trying to. I did not try to run over any dog. But I ran over every dog that came along.
Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.

Bible Teaching and Religious Practice (1923)

We began to stir against slavery. Hearts grew soft, here, there, and yonder. There was no place in the land where the seeker could not find some small budding sign of pity for the slave. No place in all the land but one—the pulpit. It yielded at last; it always does. It fought a strong and stubborn fight, and then did what it always does, joined the procession—at the tail end. Slavery fell. The slavery text remained; the practice changed, that was all. Bible Teaching and Religious Practice

During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. the Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. Who discovered that there was no such thing as a witch—the priest, the parson? No, these never discover anything. … There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain. Bible Teaching and Religious Practice

Mark Twain’s Autobiography (1924)

Biographies are but clothes and buttons of the man — the biography of the man himself cannot be written. Vol. I, p. 2

Of all the creatures that were made he [man] is the most detestable. Of the entire brood he is the only one — the solitary one — that possesses malice. That is the basest of all instincts, passions, vices — the most hateful…He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain…Also — in all the list he is the only creature that has a nasty mind. Vol. II, p. 7

The trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades. Vol. II, p. 69

There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry. p. 98

In religion and politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue, but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing. In revised edition, chapter 78, p. 401, The Autobiography of Mark Twain, 1959, Charles Neider, Harper & Row.

Mark Twain’s Notebook (1935)

France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country.
God’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.
France has usually been governed by prostitutes.
The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.
Familiarity breeds contempt — and children.
Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.
Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.
Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all — the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved. Memorandum written on his deathbed

Surely the test of a novel’s characters is that you feel a strong interest in them and their affairs—the good to be successful, the bad to suffer failure. Well, in John Ward, you feel no divided interest, no discriminating interest—you want them all to land in hell together, and right away. About Margaret Deland’s book John Ward, Preacher

None but the dead have free speech. p.393

Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, & over these ideals they dispute & cannot unite — but they all worship money. p.343

You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus. p.344

Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned. p.346

Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet. p.381

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform. p.393 Alternate (also Twain’s): Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause & reflect.

“In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot” p.413

Papers of the Adams Family (1939)

In the posthumous Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings, ed. Bernard DeVoto, 1939. First published in 1962 when the author’s daughter, Clara Clemens, withdrew her objection.[ http://books.google.com/books?id=RHoQ1hPuUt4C&pg=PR7%5D Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object — robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician’s trick — a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor — none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, “Our Country, right or wrong,” and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?
For in a republic, who is “the Country”? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant — merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is “the country?” Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Is it the school-superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Part VI: “Two Fragments from a Suppressed Book Called ‘Glances at History’ or ‘Outlines of History’ ”

In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. 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 it 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.
Only when a republic’s life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.
This Republic’s life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands. Part VI: “Two Fragments from a Suppressed Book Called ‘Glances at History’ or ‘Outlines of History’ ”

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (2010)

edited by Harriet Elinor Smith
…when you recollect something which belonged in an earlier chapter, do not go back, but jam it in where you are. Discursiveness does not hurt an autobiography in the least. advice to his brother Orion, p. 8

You cannot lay bare your private soul and look at it. You are too much ashamed of yourself. It is too disgusting. For that reason I confine myself to drawing the portraits of others. p. 16

…an Autobiography is the truest of all books; for while it inevitably consists mainly of extinctions of the truth, shirkings of the truth, partial revealments of the truth, with hardly an instance of plain straight truth, the remorseless truth is there, between the lines, where the author-cat is raking dust upon it which hides from the disinterested spectator neither it nor its smell…—the result being that the reader knows the author in spite of his wily diligences. pp. 21–22

His grammar is foolishly correct, offensively precise. It flaunts itself in the reader’s face all along, and struts and smirks and shows off, and is in a dozen ways irritating and disagreeable. To be serious, I write good grammar myself, but not in that spirit, I am thankful to say. That is to say, my grammar is of a high order, though not at the top. Nobody’s is. Perfect grammar—persistent, continuous, sustained—is the fourth dimension, so to speak: many have sought it, but none has found it. p. 120

We have been housekeeping a fortnight, now—long enough to have learned how to pronounce the servants’ names, but not how to spell them. We shan’t ever learn to spell them; they were invented in Hungary and Poland, and on paper they look like the alphabet out on a drunk. p. 121

….it is not wise to keep the fire going under a slander unless you can get some large advantage out of keeping it alive. Few slanders can stand the wear of silence. p. 161

For many years I believed that I remembered helping my grandfather drink his whisky toddy when I was six weeks old, but I do not tell about that any more, now; I am grown old, and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying, now, and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the latter. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it. p. 210

The late Bill Nye once said “I have been told that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” p. 288

All creatures kill—there seems to be no exception; but of the whole list, man is the only one that kills for fun; he is the only one that kills in malice, the only one that kills for revenge. p. 312

We are always anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess. upon being told he had a good head for business, p. 378

Persons who think there is no such thing as luck—good or bad—are entitled to their opinion, although I think they ought to be shot for it. p. 380

Howells applauded, and was full of praises and endorsement, which was wise in him and judicious. If he had manifested a different spirit I would have thrown him out of the window. I like criticism, but it must be my way. p. 441

Unsourced/ Possible Fakes

Twain is one of those major iconic figures to whom many statements become attributed; unsourced attributions to him should usually be treated with some skepticism, and often a great deal of it.

Writing and speaking

Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing. This quote, in both this and a slightly different form, is also attributed to Robert Benchley.

Few sinners are saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon. Commonly attributed, but not found in any collection of Twain’s writings. The earliest known attribution is Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips (1948), which cites the Hannibal Courier-Post, 6 March 1935—twenty-five years after his death. Later sources cite the 1 March or 6 March 1835 editions of the Hannibal Courier-Post, which was nine months before his birth.

I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way. Although attributed to Twain as early as 1875, the earliest appearances of this joke, in 1855, are not from Twain. This quote does not appear in his writing and there is no specific evidence that Twain ever said it. For more information, see Quotation Investigator.

Only presidents, editors and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial “we”. Attributed to Twain as “only editors and people with tapeworms should say ‘we’ in writing” on p.247, Business Education World, Volume 24, 1944, Gregg Publ. Co., but predated by:
…three orders of men, by right, speak of themselves as “we”. These are editors, royal personages, and people with tapeworms.
“Mr Prentice”, p.138, The Louisville Medical News, Volumes 15-16, 1883.

If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed. Commonly attributed to Twain, but no evidence so far

Education

Never let your schooling interfere with your education. Variants: Don’t let your son’s/boy’s schooling interfere too much with his education. I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Not directly traceable to Twain; first attributed to him in early 1900s in latter form, as in Outing: sport, adventure, travel, fiction, Volume 50, 1907, ed. Caspar Whitney, Albert Britt.

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want. First appears in post-2000 self-help and inspirational books such as Wake Up … Live the Life You Love: Seizing Your Success, 2002, Steven E., Lee Beard, 58 Micro LLC, 2002

I was born intelligent, education ruined me. No known citation to Twain. Also quoted without attribution or to “a student”, as in Architecture + design, Volume 21, 2004, pub. S.K. Bhayana for Media Transasia (I) Pvt. Ltd.

Government and politics

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Abridged modern version of “Remember this, take it to heart, live by it, die for it if necessary: that our patriotism is medieval, outworn, obsolete; that 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” – spoken by Tsar Nicholas II in Twain’s The Czar’s Soliloquy, 1905.

If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it. No known attribution to Twain. This has also been attributed to Emma Goldman. “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

All you have to fear is your mother’s cooking. No known attribution to Twain.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it. This is never given with a source, and said source has not so far been located online, including in searches of his online works, for example here

History

The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. Also quoted as “History does not repeat itself, It rhymes” and “History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot.”
According to this notes on sourcing, Twain scholars agree that it sounds like something he would say, but they have been unable to find the actual quote in his writing. Twain did write: “It is not worth while to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.” (Mark Twain in Eruption: Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940), ed. Bernard DeVoto.)

Humor

To my embarrassment, I was born in bed with a lady. Not by Twain but by Wilson Mizner.

Religion

It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand. Not attributed to Twain until the 1970s, as in p.214, Christ the liberator. 1971, John R. W. Stott, Inter Varsity Press.

Truth

A lie can make it half way around the world before the truth has time to put its boots on. Attributed to Twain as “a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on”, Standard player monthly, 1918, Volumes 3-4, Standard Pneumatic Action Co. An uncredited variant, “A lie will cover leagues while truth is putting on its boots”, appears in The Judge, Volume 67, 1914, Judge Publishing Company. The oldest known attribution (1831) is to Fisher Ames: “falsehood proceeds from Maine to Georgia, while truth is pulling on his boots.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon said similar, adding “if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly: it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it”, in 1855.
This has also been attributed to Winston Churchill.

‘I once sent a telegram to 12 of my friends saying ALL IS DISCOVERED – FLEE AT ONCE. They all left town immediately. (This has also been attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle, with the caveat that only one of his friends disappeared.)

Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Chap. V (1876)

A mine is a hole in the ground owned by a liar. Alternatively, “with a liar on top”
Attributed to Twain in The Autobiography of John Hays Hammond (Farrar & Rinehart, 1935), p. 97, who knew Twain. Not recorded as actually having been said (Mark Twain quotations – Miner). Also attributed to contemporaries Bill Nye and Eli Perkins (A Hole in the Ground).

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth is not. (This appears to be from Following the Equator.)

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. Frequently attributed to Twain, and often to Will Rodgers, Satchel Paige, Artemus Ward, as well as others. ([6])

Weather

If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes. According to the Yale Book of Quotations, ed. Fred R. Shapiro (2006), Yale University Press, attributed to Twain in Try and Stop Me (1944), Bennett Cerf.

Statistics

Figures don’t lie, but liars figure. Attributed to Twain by Yates, Department of the Interior and related agencies appropriations for 1984: hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Ninety-eighth Congress, first session, Parts 9-10, 1983, U.S. G.P.O., 1983.

Miscellaneous

This is petrified truth. A Complaint about Correspondents (1866).

Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare:
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

Chorus: Punch, brothers, punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare. Jingle written in 1876 by Isaac Bromley and Noah Brooks of the New York Tribune. Twain quoted it in his 1876 A Literary Nightmare (a.k.a. Punch, Brothers, punch) describing the catchiness of the meme, and became mistakenly known as the author: see p.422, Mark Twain: the complete interviews (2006), Mark Twain, Gary Scharnhorst, University of Alabama Press.

Every generalization is false, including this one. This has also been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Winston Churchill, George Barnard Shaw and Douglas MacArthur.

I’ve never killed a man, but I’ve read many an obituary with a great deal of satisfaction. Also attributed to Clarence Darrow.

I admire the serene assurance of those who have religious faith. It is wonderful to observe the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces. Also attributed to Artemus Ward.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. Quoted in Dawkins, Richard (2006). “A Much Needed Gap?”. The God Delusion. Bantam Press. pp. p. 396. ISBN 0-618-68000-4.

Misattributed

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. Aphorism 146 from Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) an 1886 book by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Translated from: Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.
Source: Gutenberg-DE
Translation source: Hollingdale

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. Attributed to Markus Herz by Ernst von Feuchtersleben, Zur Diätetik der Seele (1841), p. 95. First attributed to Twain in 1980s, as in The 637 best things anybody ever said, (1982), Robert Byrne, Atheneum. See talk page for more info.

Wagner’s music is better than it sounds. Actually by Bill Nye, possibly confused due to Twain quoting Nye in More tramps abroad, 1897.

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light —
Good-night, dear heart, good-night, good-night. Epitaph for his daughter, Olivia Susan Clemens (1896), this is actually a slight adaptation of the poem “Annette” by Robert Richardson; more details are available at “The Poem on Susy Clemens’ Headstone”

The minority is always in the right. The majority is always in the wrong. Attributed to Twain, but never sourced. Suspiciously close to “A minority may be right, and the majority is always in the wrong.” — Henrik Ibsen “Enemy of the People,” as well as a famous quote from Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Often attributed to Twain, but he said it was attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and this itself is probably a misattribution: see Lies, damned lies, and statistics and Leonard H. Courtney. Twain did, however, popularize this saying in the United States. His attribution is in the following passage from Twain’s Autobiography (1924), Vol. I, p. 246 (apparently written in Florence in 1904) [7]: Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. Often attributed to Twain, but of unknown origin.[8] [9] [10]
Twain did write, in Roughing It: The climate of San Francisco is mild and singularly equable. The thermometer stands at about seventy degrees the year round. It hardly changes at all. You sleep under one or two light blankets Summer and Winter, and never use a mosquito bar. Nobody ever wears Summer clothing. You wear black broadcloth–if you have it–in August and January, just the same. It is no colder, and no warmer, in the one month than the other. You do not use overcoats and you do not use fans. It is as pleasant a climate as could well be contrived, take it all around, and is doubtless the most unvarying in the whole world. The wind blows there a good deal in the summer months, but then you can go over to Oakland, if you choose–three or four miles away–it does not blow there.

Golf is a good walk spoiled. “Twain probably never uttered [these] words,” according to R. Kent Rasmussen, editor of The Quotable Mark Twain (1998)

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. Often misattributed to Twain, this is actually by Blaise Pascal, “Lettres provinciales”, letter 16, 1657: Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.
Translation: I have only made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over. It seems likely that the attribution to Twain is apocryphal. It is not listed as authentic on Twainquotes, and is not listed at all in either R. Ken Ramussen’s The Quotable Mark Twain (1998) or David W. Barber’s Quotable Twain (2002).

A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain. According to R. Ken Rasmussen in The Quotable Mark Twain” (1998) this is most probably not Twain’s.

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Notes on sourcing
Twain did say: “There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration — and regret. The weather is always doing something there … In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. …
Yes, one of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.” (Speech at the dinner of New England Society in New York City, December 22, 1876))

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. This quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but the attribution cannot be verified. The quote should not be regarded as authentic. — Twainquotes

Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India. Max Müller, India: What Can India Teach Us? (1883), p. 15

Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it. Often attributed to Twain online, but unsourced. Alternate source: “The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t have steak.” — Robert Heinlein “The Man Who Sold the Moon” p.188.

It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt. Cited as an example of “What Mark Twain Didn’t Say” in Mark Twain by Geoffrey C. Ward, et. al.

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld. Actual Source: A letter to The Economist (16 January 1971), written by one M.J. Shields (or M.J. Yilz, by the end of the letter). The letter is quoted in full in one of Willard Espy’s Words at Play books

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. Commonly attributed to Twain in computer contexts and post-2000 inspirational books — the first sentence has also been attributed to Agatha Christie and Sally Berger.