Presidents Say

There was a lot I wanted to get done today, but it is President’s Day. I thanked the calendar for the break, and the opportunity for procrastination. I also grumbled a bit about being able to get some things done because of the official holiday. (Really, no dancing? Rats!) A couple of us joked about how all of the presidents are lumped into what was Washington’s and Lincoln’s combined birthday parties. Then I realized that some of them should be celebrated too. Why not have one day for all of them? Of course, I don’t think we should shut down the banks for that reason, but we can at least acknowledge that they were smart (most of them) men (no women so far) doing their best in circumstances that are best judged from their perspectives, not ours. I applaud their efforts, well, except for a few that make me go huh!? Andrew Johnson got elected?

I decided to read a few of their quotes, decided not to leave any of them out, and found myself launched into this long post of copied wikiquotes (

Somethings stood out.
1) They said a lot.
2) The farther back they go the better they said it.
3) there were many common themes:
– Thank God I’m out of office.
– God and government should be separated.
– Government is for the people, not the elite.
– Peace is preferable to war.
– Wealth carries responsibilities.

They said a lot more and I encourage Americans to read a few and dive into their official (non-wiki) histories. We got here because of them. Thanks guys. (Okay, now about electing a woman – Hey Oprah . . .)

“My manner of living is plain. I do not mean to be put out of it. … Those, who expect more, will be disappointed, but no change will be effected by it.”
“Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!”

“The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”
“Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.”

“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. ”
“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.”
“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”
“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.”

“The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge the wants or feelings of the day-laborer. ”
“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”
“Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary”

JAMES MONROE (unsourced)
“Our country may be likened to a new house. We lack many things, but we possess the most precious of all — liberty!”
“The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil.”

“To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is … the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind.”
“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.”

“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes.”
“The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate with perfect equality.”
“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

“I tread in the footsteps of illustrious men… in receiving from the people the sacred trust confided to my illustrious predecessor.”
“All the lessons of history and experience must be lost upon us if we are content to trust alone to the peculiar advantages we happen to possess.”

“The only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.”

“Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette – the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace.”

“Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between church and state.”
“One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights.”

ZACHARY TAYLOR (Not a very talkative fellow – according to wikiquote.)

“An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory.”
“Let us remember that revolutions do not always establish freedom. Our own free institutions were not the offspring of our Revolution. They existed before.”

“Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion.”
“The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution.”

“What is right and what is practicable are two different things.”

“The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.”
“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time.”
“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”
“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.”
“I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.”
“…no man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”
“With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”
“— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

ANDREW JOHNSON (I couldn’t find a quote I liked, and then noticed that he was impeached. Hey, the system worked!)

“The war is over — the rebels are our countrymen again.”
“I rise only to say that I do not intend to say anything.”
“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the State forever separate.”
“Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.”
“It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies.”

“Abolish plutocracy if you would abolish poverty. As millionaires increase, pauperism grows.”

“The world’s history is a divine poem, of which the history of every nation is a canto, and every man a word.”
“Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.”

“Madam, I may be President of the United States, but my private life is nobody’s damn business. ”

“Public officers are the servants and agents of the people, to execute the laws which the people have made.”
“A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.”

“We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.”
“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”

“War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.”
“Let us ever remember that our interest is in concord, not in conflict; and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace, not those of war. ”

“Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.”
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

“We are all imperfect. We can not expect perfect government.”
“The world is not going to be saved by legislation. ”

“We are not put into this world to sit still and know; we are put into it to act.”
“I always remember that America was established not to create wealth . . . but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal. ”
“If you think too much about being re-elected, it is very difficult to be worth re-electing. ”
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together. ”
“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

“Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little. ”

“If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. ”
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.”

“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.”

“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. ”
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
“I have seen war. . . .  I hate war.”

“Some of my best friends never agree with me politically. ”
“On tight money: It reflects a reversion to the old idea that the tree can be fertilized at the top instead of at the bottom — the old trickle-down theory.”
“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours. ”
“My favorite animal is the mule. He has more sense than a horse. He knows when to stop eating — and when to stop working.”

At which point I took a break. There are a lot of Presidents and they said a lot of interesting things, but ouch, I have to go lay down for a while.

“In this shrinking world, it is futile to seek safety behind geographical barriers. Real security will be found only in law and in justice.”

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.”
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

“For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

“I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle.”
. . . and a bunch of quotes that include language that I won’t have on my blog. And I am glad he knew how to use Freedom of Speech.

Fascinating, but wow, nothing I feel like repeating.

“We have come tardily to the tremendous task of cleaning up our environment.”
“I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it.”
“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

“The most serious and universal problem is the growing chasm between the richest and poorest people on earth. ”
“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good.”

“It is time for us to realize that we’re too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.”
“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave.”

“Think about every problem, every challenge, we face. The solution to each starts with education.”

“The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth. ”
“Yesterday is yesterday. If we try to recapture it, we will only lose tomorrow. ”

“I love freedom of speech. ”
“The peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings.”
And yes, it was hard to not be distracted by the malapropisms.

“Let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.”
And I’ll leave space for more. He’s not done yet.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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