And to say that society ought to be governed by the opinion of the wisest and best, though true, is useless. Whose opinion is to decide who are the wisest and best?
None of the modes by which a magistrate is appointed, popular election, the accident of the lot, or the accident of birth, affords, as far as we can perceive, much security for his being wiser than any of his neighbours. The chance of his being wiser than all his neighbours together is still smaller.
The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.
To punish a man because we infer from the nature of some doctrine which he holds, or from the conduct of other persons who hold the same doctrines with him, that he will commit a crime, is persecution, and is, in every case, foolish and wicked.
The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it.
Nothing is so galling to a people not broken in from birth as a paternal, or, in other words, a meddling government, a government which tells them what to read, and say, and eat, and drink and wear.
Many politicians... are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool... who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.
It has often been found that profuse expenditures, heavy
taxation, absurd commercial restrictions, corrupt tribunals,
disastrous wars, seditions, persecutions, conflagrations,
inundation, have not been able to destroy capital so fast as the
exertions of private citizens have been able to create it.
Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely.
As freedom is the only safeguard of governments, so are order and moderation generally necessary to preserve freedom.
I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty, or civilization, or both.
There is surely no contradiction in saying that a certain section of the community may be quite competent to protect the persons and property of the rest, yet quite unfit to direct our opinions, or to superintend our private habits.
Institutions purely democratic must, sooner, or later, destroy liberty or civilization or both.
The maxim, that governments ought to train the people in the way in which they should go, sounds well.
But is there any reason for believing that a government is more likely to lead the people in the right way
than the people to fall into the right way of themselves?
Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.
Persecution produced its natural effect on them. It found them a sect; it made them a faction.
American democracy must be a failure because it places the supreme authority in the hands of the poorest and most ignorant part of the society.