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Observations Vol. 1 No. 1 by the Observe Collective Out Now


(Cover Photo by Oguz Ozkan)

We’ve always love the hard work that Observe Collective puts out. They understand that photography is not just shooting but also showing your work. Presenting your observations if you will.

Which is why we’re happy to know that the Observe collective Magazine aptly named, Observations recently went up online.

This issue isn’t a typical glossy magazine found in the stands with cover stories and feature articles. They had their members write about their personal relationship with photography. Some of them explore their fascination as to where the interest to photography came from like Danielle Houghton’s work or Ilya Shtutsa’s relationship with his mentor and how it is helping him tell visual stories in a deeper manner.

It’s quite a long read at 148 pages but it is interesting and thoughtful. Thankfully, you can download a pdf version on their website.

Once again, congratulations to Observe collective on their first issue and we are looking forward to what they have next!

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Call for Entries: Observe Collective Street Photography Competition 2015


Under Construction Announcement_Observe_7apr2015

OBSERVE is holding their first group exhibit in opening on June 12, 2015 in the Städtische Galerie in Iserlohn, Germany, and will run through July 26, 2015.

The exhibit will feature the works of the 13 members of the collective. Several members will be present in the opening as well.

In line with the exhibit, OBSERVE will hold their first ever street photography competition with a total of over €1000 in prize money. The theme is “Under Construction”. The competition is open to all photographers of all ages worldwide.

Observe Collective Interview #4: David Horton

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Eric’s Note: ​OBSERVE is an international photography collective focused primarily on the practice of candid street photography. This week’s feature is David Horton from Boston, Massachusetts. 

David Horton: I’m a graphic designer by day, street photographer by accident. After art directing and observing some of the finest commercial photographers in the business for over a decade, I made the conscious decision to get behind the camera instead of the photographer. I discovered street photography. I am primarily interested in making emotional connections. I’m interested in telling stories and creating a narrative. I’m interested in capturing the mystery—the mystery of life and the beauty of people moving through the world.

Observe Collective Interview #3: Danielle Houghton

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Eric’s Note: ​OBSERVE is a new international photography collective focused primarily on the practice of candid street photography. I have sent questionnaires to all 13 of the members, and will feature their responses and images on the blog for the next upcoming weeks. This week’s feature is Danielle Houghton, based in Dublin, Ireland.

Danielle: Picking up a camera in my teens I found myself automatically taking pictures of strangers without really knowing why. After a long break, I now find myself doing the same but this time with a name and understanding of my folly. I like to appreciate the odd in the mundane and find that suburban life can be nicely quirky. In Dublin I often shoot by the coast, in parks or even from the car window. While visually pleasing settings are very important to me the real beauty of photography stems from the uniqueness of people and those moments that cannot be repeated.

Observe Collective Interview #2: Chris Farling

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Eric’s Note: ​OBSERVE is a new international photography collective focused primarily on the practice of candid street photography. I have sent questionnaires to all 14 of the members, and will feature their responses and images on the blog for the next upcoming weeks.  

Chris Farling: To me, street photography has more in common with other improvisational arts than it does with other types of photography. As such, it is as much about enjoying the process and working at it as it is about the final results, with near-misses sometimes being more interesting than their more polished counterparts. Ultimately, I see street photography—despite its occasional rude manners—as an honest way of actively living in the world.

Observe Collective Interview #1: Antonis Damolis

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OBSERVE is a new international photography collective focused primarily on the practice of candid street photography. I have sent questionnaires to all 14 of the members, and will feature their responses and images on the blog for the next upcoming weeks. 

Antonis Damolis: I was born in Crete, Greece, in 1980. I’m an orthodontist and I discovered photography in 2010 when I bought my first DSLR. I started shooting in the street because it was an accessible place. I’m amazed by the way my camera sees the world.

Italian Street Photography at the Forefront: An Interview with SPontanea collective (Italian Translation Available)


Photo by Carmelo Eramo
Photo by Carmelo Eramo

SPonatanea is a very active and organized street photography collective based out of Italy. In the interview, I talked to them about their formation, activities, and upcoming projects. This interview also has a full italian translation at the bottom! Check it out. (All photos are the respective ownership of the SPOontanea collective members.)

A.g.: What is the motivation behind SPontanea? How was it formed?

SPontanea: SPontanea was born in 2013. The idea was to found an Italian collective dedicated to Street Photography, capable of facing on equal terms the other existing international realities, hoping to become over time a quality reference point in Italy. The founding members were chosen on the basis of a reciprocal respect and appreciation – we already knew each other from the web – in order to bring together a wide range of styles and approaches, representing a solidly structured and well defined Italian photographic vision on Street Photography.

Video Interview with Hector Isaac from the Strata Collective

Earlier this year I met up with Hector Isaac, a street photographer originally from Cuba who moved and started shooting street photography in Miami, and now is based in LA. He is a part of the Strata collective.

In the video Interview I talk with him about his start in street photography, about the Miami Street Photography Festival, and his thoughts about working in color!

Hector recommends street photographers to check out the Observe Collective, and especially the work of Ilya Shtutsa (krysolove).

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On Nihilism

Baudrillard-on nihilism

by Baudrillard:



Nihilism no longer wears the dark, Wagnerian, Spenglerian, fuliginous colors of the end of the century. It no longer comes from a Weltanschauung of decadence nor from a metaphysical radicality born of the death of God and of all the consequences that must be taken from this death. Today’s nihilism is one of transparency, and it is in some sense more radical, more crucial than in its prior and historical forms, because this transparency, this irresolution is indissolubly that of the system, and that of all the theory that still pretends to analyze it. When God died, there was still Nietzsche to say so – the great nihilist before the Eternal and the cadaver of the Eternal. But before the simulated transparency of all things, before the simulacrum of the materialist or idealist realization of the world in hyperreality (God is not dead, he has become hyper-real), there is no longer a theoretical or critical God to recognize his own.

The universe, and all of us, have entered live into simulation, into the malefic, not even malefic, indifferent, sphere of deterrence: in a bizarre fashion, nihilism has been entirely realized no longer through destruction, but through simulation and deterrence. From the active, violent phantasm, from the phantasm of the myth and the stage that it also was, historically, it has passed into the transparent, falsely transparent, operation of things. What then remains of a possible nihilism in theory? What new scene can unfold, where nothing and death could be replayed as a challenge, as a stake?

We are in a new, and without a doubt insoluble, position in relation to prior forms of nihilism:

Romanticism is its first great manifestation: it, along with the Enlightenment’s Revolution, corresponds to the destruction of the order of appearances.

Surrealism, dada, the absurd, and political nihilism are the second great manifestation, which corresponds to the destruction of the order of meaning.

The first is still an aesthetic form of nihilism (dandyism), the second, a political, historical, and metaphysical form (terrorism).

These two forms no longer concern us except in part, or not at all. The nihilism of transparency is no longer either aesthetic or political, no longer borrows from either the extermination of appearances, nor from extinguishing the embers of meaning, nor from the last nuances of an apocalypse. There is no longer an apocalypse (only aleatory terrorism still tries to reflect it, but it is certainly no longer political, and it only has one mode of manifestation left that is at the same time a mode of disappearance: the media – now the media are not a stage where something is played, they are a strip, a track, a perforated map of which we are no longer even spectators: receivers). The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. I will leave it to be considered whether there can be a romanticism, an aesthetic of the neutral therein. I don’t think so – all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to

dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.

I am a nihilist.

I observe, I accept, I assume the immense process of the destruction of appearances (and of the seduction of appearances) in the service of meaning (representation, history, criticism, etc.) that is the fundamental fact of the nineteenth century. The true revolution of the nineteenth century, of modernity, is the radical destruction of appearances, the disenchantment of the world and its abandonment to the violence of interpretation and of history.

I observe, I accept, I assume, I analyze the second revolution, that of the twentieth century, that of postmodernity, which is the immense process of the destruction of meaning, equal to the earlier destruction of appearances. He who strikes with meaning is killed by meaning.

The dialectic stage, the critical stage is empty. There is no more stage. There is no therapy of meaning or therapy through meaning: therapy itself is part of the generalized process of indifferentiation.

The stage of analysis itself has become uncertain, aleatory: theories float (in fact, nihilism is impossible, because it is still a desperate but determined theory, an imaginary of the end, a weltanschauung of catastrophe).*1

Analysis is itself perhaps the decisive element of the immense process of the freezing over of meaning. The surplus of meaning that theories bring, their competition at the level of meaning is completely secondary in relation to their coalition in the glacial and four-tiered operation of dissection and transparency. One must be conscious that, no matter how the analysis proceeds, it proceeds toward the freezing over of meaning, it assists in the precession of simulacra and of indifferent forms. The desert grows.

Implosion of meaning in the media. Implosion of the social in the masses. Infinite growth of the masses as a function of the acceleration of the system. Energetic impasse. Point of inertia.

A destiny of inertia for a saturated world. The phenomena of inertia are accelerating (if one can say that). The arrested forms proliferate, and growth is immobilized in excrescence. Such is also the secret of the hypertelie, of what goes further than its own end. It would be our own mode of destroying finalities: going further, too far in the same direction – destruction of meaning through simulation, hypersimulation, hypertelie. Denying its own end through hyperfinality (the crustacean, the statues of Easter Island) – is this not also the obscene secret of cancer? Revenge of excrescence on growth, revenge of speed on inertia.

The masses themselves are caught up in a gigantic process of inertia through

acceleration. They are this excrescent, devouring, process that annihilates all growth and all surplus meaning. They are this circuit short-circuited by a monstrous finality.

It is this point of inertia and what happens outside this point of inertia that today is fascinating, enthralling (gone, therefore, the discreet charm of the dialectic). If it is nihilistic to privilege this point of inertia and the analysis of this irreversibility of systems up to the point of no return, then I am a nihilist.

If it is nihilistic to be obsessed by the mode of disappearance, and no longer by the mode of production, then I am a nihilist. Disappearance, aphanisis, implosion, Fury of Verschwindens. Transpolitics is the elective sphere of the mode of disappearance (of the real, of meaning, of the stage, of history, of the social, of the individual). To tell the truth, it is no longer so much a question of nihilism: in disappearance, in the desertlike, aleatory, and indifferent form, there is no longer even pathos, the pathetic of nihilism – that mythical energy that is still the force of nihilism, of radicality, mythic denial, dramatic anticipation. It is no longer even disenchantment, with the seductive and nostalgic, itself enchanted, tonality of disenchantment. It is simply disappearance.

The trace of this radicality of the mode of disappearance is already found in Adorno and Benjamin, parallel to a nostalgic exercise of the dialectic. Because there is a nostalgia of the dialectic, and without a doubt the most subtle dialectic is nostalgic to begin with. But more deeply, there is in Benjamin and Adorno another tonality, that of a melancholy attached to the system itself, one that is incurable and beyond any dialectic. It is this melancholia of systems that today takes the upper hand through the ironically transparent forms that surround us. It is this melancholia that is becoming our fundamental passion.

It is no longer the spleen or the vague yearnings of the fin-de-siecle soul. It is no longer nihilism either, which in some sense aims at normalizing everything through destruction, the passion of resentment (ressentiment).*2 No, melancholia is the fundamental tonality of functional systems, of current systems of simulation, of programming and information. Melancholia is the inherent quality of the mode of the disappearance of meaning, of the mode of the volatilization of meaning in operational systems. And we are all melancholic.

Melancholia is the brutal disaffection that characterizes our saturated systems. Once the hope of balancing good and evil, true and false, indeed of confronting some values of the same order, once the more general hope of a relation of forces and a stake has vanished. Everywhere, always, the system is too strong: hegemonic.

Against this hegemony of the system, one can exalt the ruses of desire, practice revolutionary micrology of the quotidian, exalt the molecular drift or even defend cooking. This does not resolve the imperious necessity of checking the system in broad daylight.

This, only terrorism can do.

It is the trait of reversion that effaces the remainder, just as a single ironic smile effaces a whole discourse, just as a single flash of denial in a slave effaces all the power and

pleasure of the master.

The more hegemonic the system, the more the imagination is struck by the smallest of its reversals. The challenge, even infinitesimal, is the image of a chain failure. Only this reversibility without a counterpart is an event today, on the nihilistic and disaffected stage of the political. Only it mobilizes the imaginary.

If being a nihilist, is carrying, to the unbearable limit of hegemonic systems, this radical trait of derision and of violence, this challenge that the system is summoned to answer through its own death, then I am a terrorist and nihilist in theory as the others are with their weapons. Theoretical violence, not truth, is the only resource left us.

But such a sentiment is Utopian. Because it would be beautiful to be a nihilist, if there were still a radicality – as it would be nice to be a terrorist, if death, including that of the terrorist, still had meaning.

But it is at this point that things become insoluble. Because to this active nihilism of radicality, the system opposes its own, the nihilism of neutralization. The system is itself also nihilistic, in the sense that it has the power to pour everything, including what denies it, into indifference.

In this system, death itself shines by virtue of its absence. (The Bologna train station, the Oktoberfest in Munich: the dead are annulled by indifference, that is where terrorism is the involuntary accomplice of the whole system, not politically, but in the accelerated form of indifference that it contributes to imposing.) Death no longer has a stage, neither phantasmatic nor political, on which to represent itself, to play itself out, either a ceremonial or a violent one. And this is the victory of the other nihilism, of the other terrorism, that of the system.

There is no longer a stage, not even the minimal illusion that makes events capable of adopting the force of reality-no more stage either of mental or political solidarity: what do Chile, Biafra, the boat people, Bologna, or Poland matter? All of that comes to be annihilated on the television screen. We are in the era of events without consequences (and of theories without consequences).

There is no more hope for meaning. And without a doubt this is a good thing: meaning is mortal. But that on which it has imposed its ephemeral reign, what it hoped to liquidate in order to impose the reign of the Enlightenment, that is, appearances, they, are immortal, invulnerable to the nihilism of meaning or of non-meaning itself.

This is where seduction begins. * NOTES *

1. There are cultures that have no imaginary except of their origin and have no imaginary of their end. There are those that are obsessed by both… Two other types of figures are possible… Having no imaginary except of the end (our culture, nihilistic). No longer having any imaginary, neither of the origin nor of the end (that which is coming,


2. Cf. Nietzsche’s use of the word “ressentiment” throughout Thus Spoke Zaralhustra.- TRANS.


The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none.

The simulacrum is true.


If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts – the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) – as the most beautiful allegory of simulation, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.*1

Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – that engenders the territory, and if one must return to the fable, today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself.

In fact, even inverted, Borges’s fable is unusable. Only the allegory of the Empire, perhaps, remains. Because it is with this same imperialism that present-day simulators attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation. But it is no longer a question of either maps or territories. Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference, between one and the other, that constituted the charm of abstraction. Because it is difference that constitutes the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real. This imaginary of representation, which simultaneously culminates in and is engulfed by the cartographers mad project of the ideal coextensivity of map and territory, disappears in the simulation whose operation is nuclear and genetic, no longer at all specular or discursive. It is all of metaphysics that is lost. No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept. No more imaginary coextensivity: it is genetic miniaturization that is the dimension of simulation. The real is produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks, models of control – and it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times from these. It no longer needs to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either an ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational. In fact, it is no longer really the real, because no imaginary envelops it anymore. It is a hyperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.

By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor that of truth, the era of simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials – worse: with their

artificial resurrection in the systems of signs, a material more malleable than meaning, in that it lends itself to all systems of equivalences, to all binary oppositions, to all combinatory algebra. It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real, that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double, a programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and short- circuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have the chance to produce itself – such is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection, that no longer even gives the event of death a chance. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and for the simulated generation of differences.


To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn’t have. One implies a presence, the other an absence. But it is more complicated than that because simulating is not pretending: “Whoever fakes an illness can simply stay in bed and make everyone believe he is ill. Whoever simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms” (Littré). Therefore, pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the “true” and the “false,” the “real” and the “imaginary.” Is the simulator sick or not, given that he produces “true” symptoms? Objectively one cannot treat him as being either ill or not ill. Psychology and medicine stop at this point, forestalled by the illness’s henceforth undiscoverable truth. For if any symptom can be “produced,” and can no longer be taken as a fact of nature, then every illness can be considered as simulatable and simulated, and medicine loses its meaning since it only knows how to treat “real” illnesses according to their objective causes. Psychosomatics evolves in a dubious manner at the borders of the principle of illness. As to psychoanalysis, it transfers the symptom of the organic order to the unconscious order: the latter is new and taken for “real” more real than the other – but why would simulation be at the gates of the unconscious? Why couldn’t the “work” of the unconscious be “produced” in the same way as any old symptom of classical medicine? Dreams already are.

Certainly, the psychiatrist purports that “for every form of mental alienation there is a particular order in the succession of symptoms of which the simulator is ignorant and in the absence of which the psychiatrist would not be deceived.” This (which dates from 1865) in order to safeguard the principle of a truth at all costs and to escape the interrogation posed by simulation – the knowledge that truth, reference, objective cause have ceased to exist. Now, what can medicine do with what floats on either side of illness, on either side of health, with the duplication of illness in a discourse that is no longer either true or false? What can psychoanalysis do with the duplication of the discourse of the unconscious in the discourse of simulation that can never again be unmasked, since it is not false either?*2

What can the army do about simulators? Traditionally it unmasks them and punishes

them, according to a clear principle of identification. Today it can discharge a very good simulator as exactly equivalent to a “real” homosexual, a heart patient, or a madman. Even military psychology draws back from Cartesian certainties and hesitates to make the distinction between true and false, between the “produced” and the authentic symptom. “If he is this good at acting crazy, it’s because he is.” Nor is military psychology mistaken in this regard: in this sense, all crazy people simulate, and this lack of distinction is the worst kind of subversion. It is against this lack of distinction that classical reason armed itself in all its categories. But it is what today again outflanks them, submerging the principle of truth.

Beyond medicine and the army favored terrains of simulation, the question returns to religion and the simulacrum of divinity: “I forbade that there be any simulacra in the temples because the divinity that animates nature can never be represented.” Indeed it can be. But what becomes of the divinity when it reveals itself in icons, when it is multiplied in simulacra? Does it remain the supreme power that is simply incarnated in images as a visible theology? Or does it volatilize itself in the simulacra that, alone, deploy their power and pomp of fascination – the visible machinery of icons substituted for the pure and intelligible Idea of God? This is precisely what was feared by Iconoclasts, whose millennial quarrel is still with us today.*3 This is precisely because they predicted this omnipotence of simulacra, the faculty simulacra have of effacing God from the conscience of man, and the destructive, annihilating truth that they allow to appear – that deep down God never existed, that only the simulacrum ever existed, even that God himself was never anything but his own simulacrum – from this came their urge to destroy the images. If they could have believed that these images only obfuscated or masked the Platonic Idea of God, there would have been no reason to destroy them. One can live with the idea of distorted truth. But their metaphysical despair came from the idea that the image didn’t conceal anything at all, and that these images were in essence not images, such as an original model would have made them, but perfect simulacra, forever radiant with their own fascination. Thus this death of the divine referential must be exorcised at all costs.

One can see that the iconoclasts, whom one accuses of disdaining and negating images, were those who accorded them their true value, in contrast to the iconolaters who only saw reflections in them and were content to venerate a filigree God. On the other hand, one can say that the icon worshipers were the most modern minds, the most adventurous, because, in the guise of having God become apparent in the mirror of images, they were already enacting his death and his disappearance in the epiphany of his representations (which, perhaps, they already knew no longer represented anything, that they were purely a game, but that it was therein the great game lay – knowing also that it is dangerous to unmask images, since they dissimulate the fact that there is nothing behind them).

This was the approach of the Jesuits, who founded their politics on the virtual disappearance of God and on the worldly and spectacular manipulation of consciences – the evanescence of God in the epiphany of power – the end of transcendence, which now only serves as an alibi for a strategy altogether free of influences and signs. Behind the baroqueness of images hides the éminence grise of politics.

This way the stake will always have been the murderous power of images, murderers of

the real, murderers of their own model, as the Byzantine icons could be those of divine identity. To this murderous power is opposed that of representations as a dialectical power, the visible and intelligible mediation of the Real. All Western faith and good faith became engaged in this wager on representation: that a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could be exchanged for meaning and that something could guarantee this exchange – God of course. But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say can be reduced to the signs that constitute faith? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer itself anything but a gigantic simulacrum – not unreal, but a simulacrum, that is to say never exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference.

Such is simulation, insofar as it is opposed to representation. Representation stems from the principle of the equivalence of the sign and of the real (even if this equivalence is Utopian, it is a fundamental axiom). Simulation, on the contrary, stems from the Utopia of the principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as the reversion and death sentence of every reference. Whereas representation attempts to absorb simulation by interpreting it as a false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation itself as a simulacrum.

Such would be the successive phases of the image:

it is the reflection of a profound reality;
it masks and denatures a profound reality; it masks the absence of a profound reality; it has no relation to any reality whatsoever; it is its own pure simulacrum.

In the first case, the image is a good appearance – representation is of the sacramental order. In the second, it is an evil appearance – it is of the order of maleficence. In the third, it plays at being an appearance – it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer of the order of appearances, but of simulation.

The transition from signs that dissimulate something to signs that dissimulate that there is nothing marks a decisive turning point. The first reflects a theology of truth and secrecy (to which the notion of ideology still belongs). The second inaugurates the era of simulacra and of simulation, in which there is no longer a God to recognize his own, no longer a Last Judgment to separate the false from the true, the real from its artificial resurrection, as everything is already dead and resurrected in advance.

When the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a plethora of myths of origin and of signs of reality – a plethora of truth, of secondary objectivity, and authenticity. Escalation of the true, of lived experience, resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared. Panic-stricken production of the real and of the referential, parallel to and greater than the panic of material production: this is how simulation appears in the phase that concerns us – a strategy of the real, of the neoreal and the hyperreal that everywhere is the double of a strategy of deterrence.


Ethnology brushed up against its paradoxical death in 1971, the day when the Philippine government decided to return the few dozen Tasaday who had just been discovered in the depths of the jungle, where they had lived for eight centuries without any contact with the rest of the species, to their primitive state, out of the reach of colonizers, tourists, and ethnologists. This at the suggestion of the anthropologists themselves, who were seeing the indigenous people disintegrate immediately upon contact, like mummies in the open air.

In order for ethnology to live, its object must die; by dying, the object takes its revenge for being “discovered” and with its death defies the science that wants to grasp it.

Doesn’t all science live on this paradoxical slope to which it is doomed by the evanescence of its object in its very apprehension, and by the pitiless reversal that the dead object exerts on it? Like Orpheus, it always turns around too soon, and, like Eurydice, its object falls back into Hades.

It is against this hell of the paradox that the ethnologists wished to protect themselves by cordoning off the Tasaday with virgin forest. No one can touch them anymore: as in a mine the vein is closed down. Science loses precious capital there, but the object will be safe, lost to science, but intact in its “virginity.” It is not a question of sacrifice (science never sacrifices itself, it is always murderous), but of the simulated sacrifice of its object in order to save its reality principle. The Tasaday, frozen in their natural element, will provide a perfect alibi, an eternal guarantee. Here begins an antiethnology that will never end and to which Jaulin, Castaneda, Clastres are various witnesses. In any case, the logical evolution of a science is to distance itself increasingly from its object, until it dispenses with it entirely: its autonomy is only rendered even more fantastic – it attains its pure form.

The Indian thus returned to the ghetto, in the glass coffin of the virgin forest, again becomes the model of simulation of all the possible Indians from before ethnology. This model thus grants itself the luxury to incarnate itself beyond itself in the “brute” reality of these Indians it has entirely reinvented – Savages who are indebted to ethnology for still being Savages: what a turn of events, what a triumph for this science that seemed dedicated to their destruction!

Of course, these savages are posthumous: frozen, cryogenized, sterilized, protected to death, they have become referential simulacra, and science itself has become pure simulation. The same holds true at Cruesot, at the level of the “open” museum where one museumified in situ, as “historical” witnesses of their period, entire working-class neighborhoods, living metallurgic zones, an entire culture, men, women, and children included – gestures, languages, customs fossilized alive as in a snapshot. The museum, instead of being circumscribed as a geometric site, is everywhere now, like a dimension of life. Thus ethnology, rather than circumscribing itself as an objective science, will today, liberated from its object, be applied to all living things and make itself invisible, like an omnipresent fourth dimension, that of the simulacrum. We are all Tasadays, Indians who have again become what they were – simulacral Indians who at last proclaim

the universal truth of ethnology.

We have all become living specimens in the spectral light of ethnology, or of antiethnology, which is nothing but the pure form of triumphal ethnology, under the sign of dead differences, and of the resurrection of differences. It is thus very naive to look for ethnology in the Savages or in some Third World – it is here, everywhere, in the metropolises, in the White community, in a world completely cataloged and analyzed, then artificially resurrected under the auspices of the real, in a world of simulation, of the hallucination of truth, of the blackmail of the real, of the murder of every symbolic form and of its hysterical, historical retrospection – a murder of which the Savages, noblesse oblige, were the first victims, but that for a long time has extended to all Western societies.

But in the same breath ethnology grants us its only and final lesson, the secret that kills it (and which the Savages knew better than it did): the vengeance of the dead.

The confinement of the scientific object is equal to the confinement of the mad and the dead. And just as all of society is irremediably contaminated by this mirror of madness that it has held up to itself, science can’t help but die contaminated by the death of this object that is its inverse mirror. It is science that masters the objects, but it is the objects that invest it with depth, according to an unconscious reversion, which only gives a dead and circular response to a dead and circular interrogation.

Nothing changes when society breaks the mirror of madness (abolishes the asylums, gives speech back to the insane, etc.) nor when science seems to break the mirror of its objectivity (effacing itself before its object, as in Castaneda, etc.) and to bend down before the “differences.” The form produced by confinement is followed by an innumerable, diffracted, slowed-down mechanism. As ethnology collapses in its classical institution, it survives in an antiethnology whose task it is to reinject the difference fiction, the Savage fiction everywhere, to conceal that it is this world, ours, which has again become savage in its way, that is to say, which is devastated by difference and by death.

In the same way, with the pretext of saving the original, one forbade visitors to enter the Lascaux caves, but an exact replica was constructed five hundred meters from it, so that everyone could see them (one glances through a peephole at the authentic cave, and then one visits the reconstituted whole). It is possible that the memory of the original grottoes is itself stamped in the minds of future generations, but from now on there is no longer any difference: the duplication suffices to render both artificial.

In the same way science and technology were recently mobilized to save the mummy of Ramses II, after it was left to rot for several dozen years in the depths of a museum. The West is seized with panic at the thought of not being able to save what the symbolic order had been able to conserve for forty centuries, but out of sight and far from the light of day. Ramses does not signify anything for us, only the mummy is of an inestimable worth because it is what guarantees that accumulation has meaning. Our entire linear and accumulative culture collapses if we cannot stockpile the past in plain view. To this end the pharaohs must be brought out of their tomb and the mummies out of their silence. To

this end they must be exhumed and given military honors. They are prey to both science and worms. Only absolute secrecy assured them this millennial power – the mastery over putrefaction that signified the mastery of the complete cycle of exchanges with death. We only know how to place our science in service of repairing the mummy, that is to say restoring a visible order, whereas embalming was a mythical effort that strove to immortalize a hidden dimension.

We require a visible past, a visible continuum, a visible myth of origin, which reassures us about our end. Because finally we have never believed in them. Whence this historic scene of the reception of the mummy at the Orly airport. Why? Because Ramses was a great despotic and military figure? Certainly. But mostly because our culture dreams, behind this defunct power that it tries to annex, of an order that would have had nothing to do with it, and it dreams of it because it exterminated it by exhuming it as its own past.

We are fascinated by Ramses as Renaissance Christians were by the American Indians, those (human?) beings who had never known the word of Christ. Thus, at the beginning of colonization, there was a moment of stupor and bewilderment before the very possibility of escaping the universal law of the Gospel. There were two possible responses: either admit that this Law was not universal, or exterminate the Indians to efface the evidence. In general, one contented oneself with converting them, or even simply discovering them, which would suffice to slowly exterminate them.

Thus it would have been enough to exhume Ramses to ensure his extermination by museumification. Because mummies don’t rot from worms: they die from being transplanted from a slow order of the symbolic, master over putrefaction and death, to an order of history, science, and museums, our order, which no longer masters anything, which only knows how to condemn what preceded it to decay and death and subsequently to try to revive it with science. Irreparable violence toward all secrets, the violence of a civilization without secrets, hatred of a whole civilization for its own foundation.

And just as with ethnology, which plays at extricating itself from its object to better secure itself in its pure form, demuseumification is nothing but another spiral in artificiality. Witness the cloister of Saint-Michel de Cuxa, which one will repatriate at great cost from the Cloisters in New York to reinstall it in “its original site.” And everyone is supposed to applaud this restitution (as they did “the experimental campaign to take back the sidewalks” on the Champs Elysees!). Well, if the exportation of the cornices was in effect an arbitrary act, if the Cloisters in New York are an artificial mosaic of all cultures (following a logic of the capitalist centralization of value), their reimportation to the original site is even more artificial: it is a total simulacrum that links up with “reality” through a complete circumvolution.

The cloister should have stayed in New York in its simulated environment, which at least fooled no one. Repatriating it is nothing but a supplementary subterfuge, acting as if nothing had happened and indulging in retrospective hallucination.

In the same way, Americans flatter themselves for having brought the population of Indians back to pre-Conquest levels. One effaces everything and starts over. They even

flatter themselves for doing better, for exceeding the original number. This is presented as proof of the superiority of civilization: it will produce more Indians than they themselves were able to do. (With sinister derision, this overproduction is again a means of destroying them: for Indian culture, like all tribal culture, rests on the limitation of the group and the refusal of any “unlimited” increase, as can be seen in Ishi’s case. In this way, their demographic “promotion” is just another step toward symbolic extermination.)

Everywhere we live in a universe strangely similar to the original – things are doubled by their own scenario. But this doubling does not signify, as it did traditionally, the imminence of their death – they are already purged of their death, and better than when they were alive; more cheerful, more authentic, in the light of their model, like the faces in funeral homes.


Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulacra. It is first of all a play of illusions and phantasms: the Pirates, the Frontier, the Future World, etc. This imaginary world is supposed to ensure the success of the operation. But what attracts the crowds the most is without a doubt the social microcosm, the religious, miniaturized pleasure of real America, of its constraints and joys. One parks outside and stands in line inside, one is altogether abandoned at the exit. The only phantasmagoria in this imaginary world lies in the tenderness and warmth of the crowd, and in the sufficient and excessive number of gadgets necessary to create the multitudinous effect. The contrast with the absolute solitude of the parking lot – a veritable concentration camp – is total. Or, rather: inside, a whole panoply of gadgets magnetizes the crowd in directed flows – outside, solitude is directed at a single gadget: the automobile. By an extraordinary coincidence (but this derives without a doubt from the enchantment inherent to this universe), this frozen, childlike world is found to have been conceived and realized by a man who is himself now cryogenized: Walt Disney, who awaits his resurrection through an increase of 180 degrees centigrade.

Thus, everywhere in Disneyland the objective profile of America, down to the morphology of individuals and of the crowd, is drawn. All its values are exalted by the miniature and the comic strip. Embalmed and pacified. Whence the possibility of an ideological analysis of Disneyland (L. Marin did it very well in Utopiques, jeux d’espace [Utopias, play of space]): digest of the American way of life, panegyric of American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality. Certainly. But this masks something else and this “ideological” blanket functions as a cover for a simulation of the third order: Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the “real” country, all of “real” America that is Disneyland (a bit like prisons are there to hide that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, that is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.

The imaginary of Disneyland is neither true nor false, it is a deterrence machine set up in

order to rejuvenate the fiction of the real in the opposite camp. Whence the debility of this imaginary, its infantile degeneration. This world wants to be childish in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the “real” world, and to conceal the fact that true childishness is everywhere – that it is that of the adults themselves who come here to act the child in order to foster illusions as to their real childishness.

Disneyland is not the only one, however. Enchanted Village, Magic Mountain, Marine World: Los Angeles is surrounded by these imaginary stations that feed reality, the energy of the real to a city whose mystery is precisely that of no longer being anything but a network of incessant, unreal circulation – a city of incredible proportions but without space, without dimension. As much as electrical and atomic power stations, as much as cinema studios, this city, which is no longer anything but an immense scenario and a perpetual pan shot, needs this old imaginary like a sympathetic nervous system made up of childhood signals and faked phantasms.

Disneyland: a space of the regeneration of the imaginary as waste-treatment plants are elsewhere, and even here. Everywhere today one must recycle waste, and the dreams, the phantasms, the historical, fairylike, legendary imaginary of children and adults is a waste product, the first great toxic excrement of a hyperreal civilization. On a mental level, Disneyland is the prototype of this new function. But all the sexual, psychic, somatic recycling institutes, which proliferate in California, belong to the same order. People no longer look at each other, but there are institutes for that. They no longer touch each other, but there is contactotherapy. They no longer walk, but they go jogging, etc. Everywhere one recycles lost faculties, or lost bodies, or lost sociality, or the lost taste for food. One reinvents penury, asceticism, vanished savage naturalness: natural food, health food, yoga. Marshall Sahlins’s idea that it is the economy of the market, and not of nature at all, that secretes penury, is verified, but at a secondary level: here, in the sophisticated confines of a triumphal market economy is reinvented a penury/sign, a penury/simulacrum, a simulated behavior of the underdeveloped (including the adoption of Marxist tenets) that, in the guise of ecology, of energy crises and the critique of capital, adds a final esoteric aureole to the triumph of an esoteric culture. Nevertheless, maybe a mental catastrophe, a mental implosion and involution without precedent lies in wait for a system of this kind, whose visible signs would be those of this strange obesity, or the incredible coexistence of the most bizarre theories and practices, which correspond to the improbable coalition of luxury, heaven, and money, to the improbable luxurious materialization of life and to undiscoverable contradictions.


Watergate. The same scenario as in Disneyland (effect of the imaginary concealing that reality no more exists outside than inside the limits of the artificial perimeter): here the scandal effect hiding that there is no difference between the facts and their denunciation (identical methods on the part of the CIA and of the Washington Post journalists). Same operation, tending to regenerate through scandal a moral and political principle, through the imaginary, a sinking reality principle.

The denunciation of scandal is always an homage to the law. And Watergate in particular succeeded in imposing the idea that Watergate was a scandal – in this sense it was a

prodigious operation of intoxication. A large dose of political morality reinjected on a world scale. One could say along with Bourdieu: “The essence of every relation of force is to dissimulate itself as such and to acquire all its force only because it dissimulates itself as such,” understood as follows: capital, immoral and without scruples, can only function behind a moral superstructure, and whoever revives this public morality (through indignation, denunciation, etc.) works spontaneously for the order of capital. This is what the journalists of the Washington Post did.

But this would be nothing but the formula of ideology, and when Bourdieu states it, he takes the “relation of force” for the truth of capitalist domination, and he himself denounces this relation of force as scandal – he is thus in the same deterministic and moralistic position as the Washington Post journalists are. He does the same work of purging and reviving moral order, an order of truth in which the veritable symbolic violence of the social order is engendered, well beyond all the relations of force, which are only its shifting and indifferent configuration in the moral and political consciences of men.

All that capital asks of us is to receive it as rational or to combat it in the name of rationality, to receive it as moral or to combat it in the name of morality. Because these are the same, which can be thought of in another way: formerly one worked to dissimulate scandal – today one works to conceal that there is none.

Watergate is not a scandal, this is what must be said at all costs, because it is what everyone is busy concealing, this dissimulation masking a strengthening of morality, of a moral panic as one approaches the primitive (mise en) scène of capital: its instantaneous cruelty, its incomprehensible ferocity, its fundamental immorality – that is what is scandalous, unacceptable to the system of moral and economic equivalence that is the axiom of leftist thought, from the theories of the Enlightenment up to Communism. One imputes this thinking to the contract of capital, but it doesn’t give a damn – it is a monstrous unprincipled enterprise, nothing more. It is “enlightened” thought that seeks to control it by imposing rules on it. And all the recrimination that replaces revolutionary thought today comes back to incriminate capital for not following the rules of the game. “Power is unjust, its justice is a class justice, capital exploits us, etc.” – as if capital were linked by a contract to the society it rules. It is the Left that holds out the mirror of equivalence to capital hoping that it will comply, comply with this phantasmagoria of the social contract and fulfill its obligations to the whole of society (by the same token, no need for revolution: it suffices that capital accommodate itself to the rational formula of exchange).

Capital, in fact, was never linked by a contract to the society that it dominates. It is a sorcery of social relations, it is a challenge to society, and it must be responded to as such. It is not a scandal to be denounced according to moral or economic rationality, but a challenge to take up according to symbolic law.


Watergate was thus nothing but a lure held out by the system to catch its adversaries – a simulation of scandal for regenerative ends. In the film, this is embodied by the character

of “Deep Throat,” who was said to be the eminence grise of the Republicans, manipulating the left-wing journalists in order to get rid of Nixon – and why not? All hypotheses are possible, but this one is superfluous: the Left itself does a perfectly good job, and spontaneously, of doing the work of the Right. Besides, it would be naive to see an embittered good conscience at work here. Because manipulation is a wavering causality in which positivity and negativity are engendered and overlap, in which there is no longer either an active or a passive. It is through the arbitrary cessation of this spiraling causality that a principle of political reality can be saved. It is through the simulation of a narrow, conventional field of perspective in which the premises and the consequences of an act or of an event can be calculated, that a political credibility can be maintained (and of course “objective” analysis, the struggle, etc.). If one envisions the entire cycle of any act or event in a system where linear continuity and dialectical polarity no longer exist, in a field unhinged by simulation, all determination evaporates, every act is terminated at the end of the cycle having benefited everyone and having been scattered in all directions.

Is any given bombing in Italy the work of leftist extremists, or extreme-right provocation, or a centrist mise-en-scène to discredit all extreme terrorists and to shore up its own failing power, or again, is it a police-inspired scenario and a form of blackmail to public security? All of this is simultaneously true, and the search for proof, indeed the objectivity of the facts does not put an end to this vertigo of interpretation. That is, we are in a logic of simulation, which no longer has anything to do with a logic of facts and an order of reason. Simulation is characterized by a precession of the model, of all the models based on the merest fact – the models come first, their circulation, orbital like that of the bomb, constitutes the genuine magnetic field of the event. The facts no longer have a specific trajectory, they are born at the intersection of models, a single fact can be engendered by all the models at once. This anticipation, this precession, this short circuit, this confusion of the fact with its model (no more divergence of meaning, no more dialectical polarity, no more negative electricity, implosion of antagonistic poles), is what allows each time for all possible interpretations, even the most contradictory – all true, in the sense that their truth is to be exchanged, in the image of the models from which they derive, in a generalized cycle.

The Communists attack the Socialist Party as if they wished to shatter the union of the Left. They give credence to the idea that these resistances would come from a more radical political need. In fact, it is because they no longer want power. But do they not want power at this juncture, one unfavorable to the Left in general, or unfavorable to them within the Union of the Left – or do they no longer want it, by definition? When Berlinguer declares: “There is no need to be afraid to see the Communists take power in Italy,” it simultaneously signifies:

-: that there is no need to be afraid, since the Communists, if they come to power, will change nothing of its fundamental capitalist mechanism;
-: that there is no risk that they will ever come to power (because they don’t want to) – and even if they occupy the seat of power, they will never exercise it except by proxy; -: that in fact, power, genuine power no longer exists, and thus there is no risk whoever seizes power or seizes it again;

-: but further: I, Berlinguer, am not afraid to see the Communists take power in Italy – which may seem self-evident, but not as much as you might think, because

-: it could mean the opposite (no need for psychoanalysis here): I am afraid to see the Communists take power (and there are good reasons for that, even for a Communist).

All of this is simultaneously true. It is the secret of a discourse
that is no longer simply ambiguous, as political discourses can be, but that conveys the impossibility of a determined position of power, the impossibility of a determined discursive position. And this logic is neither that of one party nor of another. It traverses all discourses without them wanting it to.

Who will unravel this imbroglio? The Gordian knot can at least be cut. The Möbius strip, if one divides it, results in a supplementary spiral without the reversibility of surfaces being resolved (here the reversible continuity of hypotheses). Hell of simulation, which is no longer one of torture, but of the subtle, maleficent, elusive twisting of meaning*4 – where even the condemned at Burgos are still a gift from Franco to Western democracy, which seizes the occasion to regenerate its own flagging humanism and whose indignant protest in turn consolidates Franco’s regime by uniting the Spanish masses against this foreign intervention? Where is the truth of all that, when such collusions admirably knot themselves together without the knowledge of their authors?

Conjunction of the system and of its extreme alternative like the two sides of a curved mirror, a “vicious” curvature of a political space that is henceforth magnetized, circularized, reversibilized from the right to the left, a torsion that is like that of the evil spirit of commutation, the whole system, the infinity of capital folded back on its own surface: transfinite? And is it not the same for desire and the libidinal space? Conjunction of desire and value, of desire and capital. Conjunction of desire and the law, the final pleasure as the metamorphosis of the law (which is why it is so widely the order of the day): only capital takes pleasure, said Lyotard, before thinking that we now take pleasure in capital. Overwhelming versatility of desire in Deleuze, an enigmatic reversal that brings desire “revolutionary in itself, and as if involuntarily, wanting what it wants,” to desire its own repression and to invest in paranoid and fascist systems? A malign torsion that returns this revolution of desire to the same fundamental ambiguity as the other, the historical revolution.

All the referentials combine their discourses in a circular, Möbian compulsion. Not so long ago, sex and work were fiercely opposed terms; today both are dissolved in the same type of demand. Formerly the discourse on history derived its power from violently opposing itself to that of nature, the discourse of desire to that of power – today they exchange their signifiers and their scenarios.

It would take too long to traverse the entire range of the operational negativity of all those scenarios of deterrence, which, like Watergate, try to regenerate a moribund principle through simulated scandal, phantasm, and murder – a sort of hormonal treatment through negativity and crisis. It is always a question of proving the real through the imaginary, proving truth through scandal, proving the law through transgression, proving work through striking, proving the system through crisis, and capital through revolution, as it is elsewhere (the Tasaday) of proving ethnology through the dispossession of its object – without taking into account:

the proof of theater through antitheater;
the proof of art through antiart;
the proof of pedagogy through antipedagogy;
the proof of psychiatry through antipsychiatry, etc.

Everything is metamorphosed into its opposite to perpetuate itself in its expurgated form. All the powers, all the institutions speak of themselves through denial, in order to attempt, by simulating death, to escape their real death throes. Power can stage its own murder to rediscover a glimmer of existence and legitimacy. Such was the case with some American presidents: the Kennedys were murdered because they still had a political dimension. The others, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, only had the right to phantom attempts, to simulated murders. But this aura of an artificial menace was still necessary to conceal that they were no longer anything but the mannequins of power. Formerly, the king (also the god) had to die, therein lay his power. Today, he is miserably forced to feign death, in order to preserve the blessing of power. But it is lost.

To seek new blood in its own death, to renew the cycle through the mirror of crisis, negativity, and antipower: this is the only solution – alibi of every power, of every institution attempting to break the vicious circle of its irresponsibility and of its fundamental nonexistence, of its already seen and of its already dead.


The impossibility of rediscovering an absolute level of the real is of the same order as the impossibility of staging illusion. Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible. It is the whole political problem of parody, of hypersimulation or offensive simulation, that is posed here.

For example: it would be interesting to see whether the repressive apparatus would not react more violently to a simulated holdup than to a real holdup. Because the latter does nothing but disturb the order of things, the right to property, whereas the former attacks the reality principle itself. Transgression and violence are less serious because they only contest the distribution of the real. Simulation is infinitely more dangerous because it always leaves open to supposition that, above and beyond its object, law and order themselves might be nothing but simulation.

But the difficulty is proportional to the danger. How to feign a violation and put it to the test? Simulate a robbery in a large store: how to persuade security that it is a simulated robbery? There is no “objective” difference: the gestures, the signs are the same as for a real robbery, the signs do not lean to one side or another. To the established order they are always of the order of the real.

Organize a fake holdup. Verify that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no human life will be in danger (or one lapses into the criminal). Demand a ransom, and make it so that the operation creates as much commotion as possible – in short, remain close to the “truth,” in order to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulacrum. You won’t be able to do it: the network of artificial signs will become inextricably mixed up with real elements (a policeman will

really fire on sight; a client of the bank will faint and die of a heart attack; one will actually pay you the phony ransom), in short, you will immediately find yourself once again, without wishing it, in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour any attempt at simulation, to reduce everything to the real – that is, to the established order itself, well before institutions and justice come into play.

It is necessary to see in this impossibility of isolating the process of simulation the weight of an order that cannot see and conceive of anything but the real, because it cannot function anywhere else. The simulation of an offense, if it is established as such, will either be punished less severely (because it has no “consequences”) or punished as an offense against the judicial system (for example if one sets in motion a police operation “for nothing”) – but never as simulation since it is precisely as such that no equivalence with the real is possible, and hence no repression either. The challenge of simulation is never admitted by power. How can the simulation of virtue be punished? However, as such it is as serious as the simulation of crime. Parody renders submission and transgression equivalent, and that is the most serious crime, because it cancels out the difference upon which the law is based. The established order can do nothing against it, because the law is a simulacrum of the second order, whereas simulation is of the third order, beyond true and false, beyond equivalences, beyond rational distinctions upon which the whole of the social and power depend. Thus, lacking the real, it is there that we must aim at order.

This is certainly why order always opts for the real. When in doubt, it always prefers this hypothesis (as in the army one prefers to take the simulator for a real madman). But this becomes more and more difficult, because if it is practically impossible to isolate the process of simulation, through the force of inertia of the real that surrounds us, the opposite is also true (and this reversibility itself is part of the apparatus of simulation and the impotence of power): namely, it is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real.

This is how all the holdups, airplane hijackings, etc. are now in some sense simulation holdups in that they are already inscribed in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media, anticipated in their presentation and their possible consequences. In short, where they function as a group of signs dedicated exclusively to their recurrence as signs, and no longer at all to their “real” end. But this does not make them harmless. On the contrary, it is as hyperreal events, no longer with a specific content or end, but indefinitely refracted by each other (just like so-called historical events: strikes, demonstrations, crises, etc.),*5 it is in this sense that they cannot be controlled by an order that can only exert itself on the real and the rational, on causes and ends, a referential order that can only reign over the referential, a determined power that can only reign over a determined world, but that cannot do anything against this indefinite recurrence of simulation, against this nebula whose weight no longer obeys the laws of gravitation of the real, power itself ends by being dismantled in this space and becoming a simulation of power (disconnected from its ends and its objectives, and dedicated to the effects of power and mass simulation).

The only weapon of power, its only strategy against this defection, is to reinject the real and the referential everywhere, to persuade us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of

the economy and the finalities of production. To this end it prefers the discourse of crisis, but also, why not? that of desire. “Take your desires for reality!” can be understood as the ultimate slogan of power since in a nonreferential world, even the confusion of the reality principle and the principle of desire is less dangerous than contagious hyperreality. One remains among principles, and among those power is always in the right.

Hyperreality and simulation are deterrents of every principle and every objective, they turn against power the deterrent that it used so well for such a long time. Because in the end, throughout its history it was capital that first fed on the destructuration of every referential, of every human objective, that shattered every ideal distinction between true and false, good and evil, in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and exchange, the iron law of its power. Capital was the first to play at deterrence, abstraction, disconnection, deterritorialization, etc., and if it is the one that fostered reality, the reality principle, it was also the first to liquidate it by exterminating all use value, all real equivalence of production and wealth, in the very sense we have of the unreality of the stakes and the omnipotence of manipulation. Well, today it is this same logic that is even more set against capital. And as soon as it wishes to combat this disastrous spiral by secreting a last glimmer of reality, on which to establish a last glimmer of power, it does nothing but multiply the signs and accelerate the play of simulation.

As long as the historical threat came at it from the real, power played at deterrence and simulation, disintegrating all the contradictions by dint of producing equivalent signs. Today when the danger comes at it from simulation (that of being dissolved in the play of signs), power plays at the real, plays at crisis, plays at remanufacturing artificial, social, economic, and political stakes. For power, it is a question of life and death. But it is too late.

Whence the characteristic hysteria of our times: that of the production and reproduction of the real. The other production, that of values and commodities, that of the belle epoque of political economy, has for a long time had no specific meaning. What every society looks for in continuing to produce, and to overproduce, is to restore the real that escapes it. That is why today this “material” production is that of the hyperreal itself. It retains all the features, the whole discourse of traditional production, but it is no longer anything but its scaled-down refraction (thus hyper-realists fix a real from which all meaning and charm, all depth and energy of representation have vanished in a hallucinatory resemblance). Thus everywhere the hyperrealism of simulation is translated by the hallucinatory resemblance of the real to itself.

Power itself has for a long time produced nothing but the signs of its resemblance. And at the same time, another figure of power comes into play: that of a collective demand for signs of power – a holy union that is reconstructed around its disappearance. The whole world adheres to it more or less in terror of the collapse of the political. And in the end the game of power becomes nothing but the critical obsession with power – obsession with its death, obsession with its survival, which increases as it disappears. When it has totally disappeared, we will logically be under the total hallucination of power – a haunting memory that is already in evidence everywhere, expressing at once the compulsion to get rid of it (no one wants it anymore, everyone unloads it on everyone else) and the panicked nostalgia over its loss. The melancholy of societies without power:

this has already stirred up fascism, that overdose of a strong referential in a society that cannot terminate its mourning.

With the extenuation of the political sphere, the president comes increasingly to resemble that Puppet of Power who is the head of primitive societies (Clastres).

All previous presidents pay for and continue to pay for Kennedy’s murder as if they were the ones who had suppressed it – which is true phantasmatically, if not in fact. They must efface this defect and this complicity with their simulated murder. Because, now it can only be simulated. Presidents Johnson and Ford were both the object of failed assassination attempts which, they were not staged, were at least perpetrated by simulation. The Kennedys died because they incarnated something: the political, political substance, whereas the new presidents are nothing but caricatures and fake film – curiously, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, all have this simian mug, the monkeys of power.

Death is never an absolute criterion, but in this case it is significant: the era of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and the Kennedys, of those who really died simply because they had a mythic dimension that implies death (not for romantic reasons, but because of the fundamental principle of reversal and exchange) – this era is long gone. It is now the era of murder by simulation, of the generalized aesthetic of simulation, of the murder-alibi – the allegorical resurrection of death, which is only there to sanction the institution of power, without which it no longer has any substance or an autonomous reality.

These staged presidential assassinations are revealing because they signal the status of all negativity in the West: political opposition, the “Left,” critical discourse, etc. – a simulacral contrast through which power attempts to break the vicious circle of its nonexistence, of its fundamental irresponsibility, of its “suspension.” Power floats like money, like language, like theory. Criticism and negativity alone still secrete a phantom of the reality of power. If they become weak for one reason or another, power has no other recourse but to artificially revive and hallucinate them.

It is in this way that the Spanish executions still serve as a stimulant to Western liberal democracy, to a dying system of democratic values. Fresh blood, but for how much longer? The deterioration of all power is irresistibly pursued: it is not so much the “revolutionary forces” that accelerate this process (often it is quite the opposite), it is the system itself that deploys against its own structures this violence that annuls all substance and all finality. One must not resist this process by trying to confront the system and destroy it, because this system that is dying from being dispossessed of its death expects nothing but that from us: that we give the system back its death, that we revive it through the negative. End of revolutionary praxis, end of the dialectic. Curiously, Nixon, who was not even found worthy of dying at the hands of the most insignificant, chance, unbalanced person (and though it is perhaps true that presidents are assassinated by unbalanced types, this changes nothing: the leftist penchant for detecting a rightist conspiracy beneath this brings out a false problem – the function of bringing death to, or the prophecy, etc., against power has always been fulfilled, from primitive societies to the present, by demented people, crazy people, or neurotics, who nonetheless carry out a social function as fundamental as that of presidents), was nevertheless ritually put to death by Watergate. Watergate is still a mechanism for the ritual murder of power (the

American institution of the presidency is much more thrilling in this regard than the European: it surrounds itself with all the violence and vicissitudes of primitive powers, of savage rituals). But already impeachment is no longer assassination: it happens via the Constitution. Nixon has nevertheless arrived at the goal of which all power dreams: to be taken seriously enough, to constitute a mortal enough danger to the group to be one day relieved of his duties, denounced, and liquidated. Ford doesn’t even have this opportunity anymore: a simulacrum of an already dead power, he can only accumulate against himself the signs of reversion through murder – in fact, he is immunized by his impotence, which infuriates him.

In contrast to the primitive rite, which foresees the official and sacrificial death of the king (the king or the chief is nothing without the promise of his sacrifice), the modern political imaginary goes increasingly in the direction of delaying, of concealing for as long as possible, the death of the head of state. This obsession has accumulated since the era of revolutions and of charismatic leaders: Hitler, Franco, Mao, having no “legitimate” heirs, no filiation of power, see themselves forced to perpetuate themselves indefinitely – popular myth never wishes to believe them dead. The pharaohs already did this: it was always one and the same person who incarnated the successive pharaohs.

Everything happens as if Mao or Franco had already died several times and had been replaced by his double. From a political point of view, that a head of state remains the same or is someone else doesn’t strictly change anything, so long as they resemble each other. For a long time now a head of state – no matter which one – is nothing but the simulacrum of himself, and only that gives him the power and the quality to govern. No one would grant the least consent, the least devotion to a real person. It is to his double, he being always already dead, to which allegiance is given. This myth does nothing but translate the persistence, and at the same time the deception, of the necessity of the king’s sacrificial death.

We are still in the same boat: no society knows how to mourn the real, power, the social itself, which is implicated in the same loss. And it is through an artificial revitalization of all this that we try to escape this fact. This situation will no doubt end up giving rise to socialism. Through an unforeseen turn of events and via an irony that is no longer that of history, it is from the death of the social that socialism will emerge, as it is from the death of God that religions emerge. A twisted advent, a perverse event, an unintelligible reversion to the logic of reason. As is the fact that power is in essence no longer present except to conceal that there is no more power. A simulation that can last indefinitely, because, as distinct from “true” power – which is, or was, a structure, a strategy, a relation of force, a stake – it is nothing but the object of a social demand, and thus as the object of the law of supply and demand, it is no longer subject to violence and death. Completely purged of a political dimension, it, like any other commodity, is dependent on mass production and consumption. Its spark has disappeared, only the fiction of a political universe remains.

The same holds true for work. The spark of production, the violence of its stakes no longer exist. The whole world still produces, and increasingly, but subtly work has become something else: a need (as Marx ideally envisioned it but not in the same sense), the object of a social “demand,” like leisure, to which it is equivalent in the course of

everyday life. A demand exactly proportional to the loss of a stake in the work process.*6 Same change in fortune as for power: the scenario of work is there to conceal that the real of work, the real of production, has disappeared. And the real of the strike as well, which is no longer a work stoppage, but its alternate pole in the ritual scansion of the social calendar. Everything occurs as if each person had, after declaring a strike, “occupied” his place and work station and recommenced production, as is the norm in a “self-managed” occupation, exactly in the same terms as before, all while declaring himself (and in virtually being) permanently on strike.

This is not a dream out of science fiction: everywhere it is a question of doubling the process of work. And of a doubling of the process of going on strike – striking incorporated just as obsolescence is in objects, just as crisis is in production. So, there is no longer striking, nor work, but both simultaneously, that is to say something else: a magic of work, a trompel’oeil, a scenodrama (so as not to say a melodrama) of production, a collective dramaturgy on the empty stage of the social.

It is no longer a question of the ideology of work – the traditional ethic that would obscure the “real” process of work and the “objective” process of exploitation – but of the scenario of work. In the same way, it is no longer a question of the ideology of power, but of the scenario of power. Ideology only corresponds to a corruption of reality through signs; simulation corresponds to a short circuit of reality and to its duplication through signs. It is always the goal of the ideological analysis to restore the objective process, it is always a false problem to wish to restore the truth beneath the simulacrum.

This is why in the end power is so much in tune with ideological discourses and discourses on ideology, that is they are discourses of truth – always good for countering the mortal blows of simulation, even and especially if they are revolutionary.


It is still to this ideology of lived experience – exhumation of the real in its fundamental banality, in its radical authenticity – that the American TV verite experiment attempted on the Loud family in 1971 refers: seven months of uninterrupted shooting, three hundred hours of nonstop broadcasting, without a script or a screenplay, the odyssey of a family, its dramas, its joys, its unexpected events, nonstop – in short, a “raw” historical document, and the “greatest television performance, comparable, on the scale of our day- to-day life, to the footage of our landing on the moon.” It becomes more complicated because this family fell apart during the filming: a crisis erupted, the Louds separated, etc. Whence that insoluble controversy: was TV itself responsible? What would have happened if TV hadn’t been there?

More interesting is the illusion of filming the Louds as if TV weren’t there. The producer’s triumph was to say: “They lived as if we were not there.” An absurd, paradoxical formula – neither true nor false: Utopian. The “as if we were not there” being equal to “as if you were there.” It is this Utopia, this paradox that fascinated the twenty million viewers, much more than did the “perverse” pleasure of violating someone’s privacy. In the “verite” experience it is not a question of secrecy or perversion, but of a sort of frisson of the real, or of an aesthetics of the hyperreal, a frisson of vertiginous and

phony exactitude, a frisson of simultaneous distancing and magnification, of distortion of scale, of an excessive transparency. The pleasure of an excess of meaning, when the bar of the sign falls below the usual waterline of meaning: the nonsignifier is exalted by the camera angle. There one sees what the real never was (but “as if you were there”), without the distance that gives us perspectival space and depth vision (but “more real than nature”). Pleasure in the microscopic simulation that allows the real to pass into the hyperreal. (This is also somewhat the case in porno, which is fascinating more on a metaphysical than on a sexual level.)

Besides, this family was already hyperreal by the very nature of its selection: a typical ideal American family, California home, three garages, five children, assured social and professional status, decorative housewife, upper-middle-class standing. In a way it is this statistical perfection that dooms it to death. Ideal heroine of the American way of life, it is, as in ancient sacrifices, chosen in order to be glorified and to die beneath the flames of the medium, a modern fatum. Because heavenly fire no longer falls on corrupted cities, it is the camera lens that, like a laser, comes to pierce lived reality in order to put it to death. “The Louds: simply a family who agreed to deliver themselves into the hands of television, and to die by it,” the director will say. Thus it is a question of a sacrificial process, of a sacrificial spectacle offered to twenty million Americans. The liturgical drama of a mass society.

TV verite. A term admirable in its ambiguity, does it refer to the truth of this family or to the truth of TV? In fact, it is TV that is the truth of the Louds, it is TV that is true, it is TV that renders true. Truth that is no longer the reflexive truth of the mirror, nor the perspectival truth of the panoptic system and of the gaze, but the manipulative truth of the test that sounds out and interrogates, of the laser that touches and pierces, of computer cards that retain your preferred sequences, of the genetic code that controls your combinations, of cells that inform your sensory universe. It is to this truth that the Loud family was subjected by the medium of TV, and in this sense it amounts to a death sentence (but is it still a question of truth?).

End of the panoptic system. The eye of TV is no longer the source of an absolute gaze, and the ideal of control is no longer that of transparency. This still presupposes an objective space (that of the Renaissance) and the omnipotence of the despotic gaze. It is still, if not a system of confinement, at least a system of mapping. More subtly, but always externally, playing on the opposition of seeing and being seen, even if the panoptic focal point may be blind.

Something else in regard to the Louds. “You no longer watch TV, it is TV that watches you (live),” or again: “You are no longer listening to Don’t Panic, it is Don’t Panic that is listening to you” – a switch from the panoptic mechanism of surveillance (Discipline and Punish [Surveiller et punir]) to a system of deterrence, in which the distinction between the passive and the active is abolished. There is no longer any imperative of submission to the model, or to the gaze “YOU are the model!” “YOU are the majority!” Such is the watershed of a hyperreal sociality, in which the real is confused with the model, as in the statistical operation, or with the medium, as in the Louds’ operation. Such is the last stage of the social relation, ours, which is no longer one of persuasion (the classical age of propaganda, of ideology, of publicity, etc.) but one of deterrence: “YOU are information,

you are the social, you are the event, you are involved, you have the word, etc.” An about-face through which it becomes impossible to locate one instance of the model, of power, of the gaze, of the medium itself, because you are always already on the other side. No more subject, no more focal point, no more center or periphery: pure flexion or circular inflexion. No more violence or surveillance: only “information,” secret virulence, chain reaction, slow implosion, and simulacra of spaces in which the effect of the real again comes into play.

We are witnessing the end of perspectival and panoptic space (which remains a moral hypothesis bound up with all the classical analyses on the “objective” essence of power), and thus to the very abolition of the spectacular. Television, for example in the case of the Louds, is no longer a spectacular medium. We are no longer in the society of the spectacle, of which the situationists spoke, nor in the specific kinds of alienation and repression that it implied. The medium itself is no longer identifiable as such, and the confusion of the medium and the message (McLuhan)*7 is the first great formula of this new era. There is no longer a medium in the literal sense: it is now intangible, diffused, and diffracted in the real, and one can no longer even say that the medium is altered by it.

Such a blending, such a viral, endemic, chronic, alarming presence of the medium, without the possibility of isolating the effects – spectralized, like these advertising laser sculptures in the empty space of the event filtered by the medium – dissolution of TV in life, dissolution of life in TV – indiscernible chemical solution: we are all Louds doomed not to invasion, to pressure, to violence and blackmail by the media and the models, but to their induction, to their infiltration, to their illegible violence.

But one must watch out for the negative turn that discourse imposes: it is a question neither of disease nor of a viral infection. One must think instead of the media as if they were, in outer orbit, a kind of genetic code that directs the mutation of the real into the hyperreal, just as the other micromolecular code controls the passage from a representative sphere of meaning to the genetic one of the programmed signal.

It is the whole traditional world of causality that is in question: the perspectival, determinist mode, the “active,” critical mode, the analytic mode – the distinction between cause and effect, between active and passive, between subject and object, between the end and the means. It is in this sense that one can say: TV is watching us, TV alienates us, TV manipulates us, TV informs us … In all this, one remains dependent on the analytical conception of the media, on an external active and effective agent, on “perspectival” information with the horizon of the real and of meaning as the vanishing point.

Now, one must conceive of TV along the lines of DNA as an effect in which the opposing poles of determination vanish, according to a nuclear contraction, retraction, of the old polar schema that always maintained a minimal distance between cause and effect, between subject and object: precisely the distance of meaning, the gap, the difference, the smallest possible gap (PPEP!),*8 irreducible under pain of reabsorption into an aleatory and indeterminate process whose discourse can no longer account for it, because it is itself a determined order.

It is this gap that vanishes in the process of genetic coding, in which indeterminacy is not so much a question of molecular randomness as of the abolition, pure and simple, of the relation. In the process of molecular control, which “goes” from the DNA nucleus to the “substance” that it “informs,” there is no longer the traversal of an effect, of an energy, of a determination, of a message. “Order, signal, impulse, message”: all of these attempt to render the thing intelligible to us, but by analogy, retranscribing in terms of inscription, of a vector, of decoding, a dimension of which we know nothing – it is no longer even a “dimension,” or perhaps it is the fourth (which is denned, however, in Einsteinian relativity by the absorption of the distinct poles of space and time). In fact, this whole process can only be understood in its negative form: nothing separates one pole from another anymore, the beginning from the end; there is a kind of contraction of one over the other, a fantastic telescoping, a collapse of the two traditional poles into each other: implosion – an absorption of the radiating mode of causality, of the differential mode of determination, with its positive and negative charge – an implosion of meaning. That is where simulation begins.

Everywhere, in no matter what domain – political, biological, psychological, mediatized – in which the distinction between these two poles can no longer be maintained, one enters into simulation, and thus into absolute manipulation – not into passivity, but into the differentiation of the active and the passive. DNA realizes this aleatory reduction at the level of living matter. Television, in the case of the Louds, also reaches this indefinite limit in which, vis-à-vis TV, they are neither more nor less active or passive than a living substance is vis-a-vis its molecular code. Here and there, a single nebula whose simple elements are indecipherable, whose truth is indecipherable.


The apotheosis of simulation: the nuclear. However, the balance of terror is never anything but the spectacular slope of a system of deterrence that has insinuated itself from the inside into all the cracks of daily life. Nuclear suspension only serves to seal the trivialized system of deterrence that is at the heart of the media, of the violence without consequences that reigns throughout the world, of the aleatory apparatus of all the choices that are made for us. The most insignificant of our behaviors is regulated by neutralized, indifferent, equivalent signs, by zero-sum signs like those that regulate the “strategy of games” (but the true equation is elsewhere, and the unknown is precisely that variable of simulation which makes of the atomic arsenal itself a hyperreal form, a simulacrum that dominates everything and reduces all “ground-level” events to being nothing but ephemeral scenarios, transforming the life left us into survival, into a stake without stakes – not even into a life insurance policy: into a policy that already has no value).

It is not the direct threat of atomic destruction that paralyzes our lives, it is deterrence that gives them leukemia. And this deterrence comes from that fact that even the real atomic clash is precluded – precluded like the eventuality of the real in a system of signs. The whole world pretends to believe in the reality of this threat (this is understandable on the part of the military, the gravity of their exercise and the discourse of their “strategy” are at stake), but it is precisely at this level that there are no strategic stakes. The whole originality of the situation lies in the improbability of destruction.

Deterrence precludes war – the archaic violence of expanding systems. Deterrence itself is the neutral, implosive violence of metastable systems or systems in involution. There is no longer a subject of deterrence, nor an adversary nor a strategy – it is a planetary structure of the annihilation of stakes. Atomic war, like the Trojan War, will not take place. The risk of nuclear annihilation only serves as a pretext, through the sophistication of weapons (a sophistication that surpasses any possible objective to such an extent that it is itself a symptom of nullity), for installing a universal security system, a universal lockup and control system whose deterrent effect is not at all aimed at an atomic clash (which was never in question, except without a doubt in the very initial stages of the cold war, when one still confused the nuclear apparatus with conventional war) but, rather, at the much greater probability of any real event, of anything that would be an event in the general system and upset its balance. The balance of terror is the terror of balance.

Deterrence is not a strategy, it circulates and is exchanged between nuclear protagonists exactly as is international capital in the orbital zone of monetary speculation whose fluctuations suffice to control all global exchanges. Thus the money of destruction (without any reference to real destruction, any more than floating capital has a real referent of production) that circulates in nuclear orbit suffices to control all the violence and potential conflicts around the world.

What is hatched in the shadow of this mechanism with the pretext of a maximal, “objective,” threat, and thanks to Damocles’ nuclear sword, is the perfection of the best system of control that has ever existed. And the progressive satellization of the whole planet through this hypermodel of security.

The same goes for peaceful nuclear power stations. Pacification does not distinguish between the civil and the military: everywhere where irreversible apparatuses of control are elaborated, everywhere where the notion of security becomes omnipotent, everywhere where the norm replaces the old arsenal of laws and violence (including war), it is the system of deterrence that grows, and around it grows the historical, social, and political desert. A gigantic involution that makes every conflict, every finality, every confrontation contract in proportion to this blackmail that interrupts, neutralizes, freezes them all. No longer can any revolt, any story be deployed according to its own logic because it risks annihilation. No strategy is possible any longer, and escalation is only a puerile game given over to the military. The political stake is dead, only simulacra of conflicts and carefully circumscribed stakes remain.

The “space race” played exactly the same role as nuclear escalation. This is why the space program was so easily able to replace it in the 1960s (Kennedy/Khrushchev), or to develop concurrently as a form of “peaceful coexistence.” Because what, ultimately, is the function of the space program, of the conquest of the moon, of the launching of satellites if not the institution of a model of universal gravitation, of satellization of which the lunar module is the perfect embryo? Programmed microcosm, where nothing can be left to chance. Trajectory, energy, calculation, physiology, psychology, environment – nothing can be left to contingencies, this is the total universe of the norm – the Law no longer exists, it is the operational immanence of every detail that is law. A universe purged of all threat of meaning, in a state of asepsis and weightlessness – it is

this very perfection that is fascinating. The exaltation of the crowds was not a response to the event of Rinding on the moon or of sending a man into space (this would be, rather, the fulfillment of an earlier dream), rather, we are dumbfounded by the perfection of the programming and the technical manipulation, by the immanent wonder of the programmed unfolding of events. Fascination with the maximal norm and the mastery of probability. Vertigo of the model, which unites with the model of death, but without fear or drive. Because if the law, with its aura of transgression, if order, with its aura of violence, still taps a perverse imaginary, the norm fixes, fascinates, stupefies, and makes every imaginary involute. One no longer fantasizes about the minutiae of a program. Just watching it produces vertigo. The vertigo of a world without flaws.

Now, it is the same model of programmatic infallibility, of maximum security and deterrence that today controls the spread of the social. There lies the true nuclear fallout: the meticulous operation of technology serves as a model for the meticulous operation of the social. Here as well, nothing will be left to chance, moreover this is the essence of socialization, which began centuries ago, but which has now entered its accelerated phase, toward a limit that one believed would be explosive (revolution), but which for the moment is translated by an inverse, implosive, irreversible process: the generalized deterrence of chance, of accident, of transversality, of finality, of contradiction, rupture, or complexity in a sociality illuminated by the norm, doomed to the descriptive transparency of mechanisms of information. In fact, the spatial and nuclear models do not have their own ends: neither the discovery of the moon, nor military and strategic superiority. Their truth is to be the models of simulation, the model vectors of a system of planetary control (where even the superpowers of this scenario are not free – the whole world is satellized).*9

Resist the evidence: in satellization, he who is satellized is not who one might think. Through the orbital inscription of a spatial object, it is the planet earth that becomes a satellite, it is the terrestrial principle of reality that becomes eccentric, hyperreal, and insignificant. Through the orbital instantiation of a system of control like peaceful coexistence, all the terrestrial microsystems are satellized and lose their autonomy. All energy, all events are absorbed by this eccentric gravitation, everything condenses and implodes toward the only micromodel of control (the orbital satellite), as conversely, in the other, biological, dimension, everything converges and implodes on the molecular micromodel of the genetic code. Between the two, in this forking of the nuclear and the genetic, in the simultaneous assumption of the two fundamental codes of deterrence, every principle of meaning is absorbed, every deployment of the real is impossible.

The simultaneity of two events in the month of July 1975 illustrated this in a striking manner: the linkup in space of the two American and Soviet supersatellites, apotheosis of peaceful coexistence – the suppression by the Chinese of ideogrammatic writing and conversion to the Roman alphabet. The latter signifies the “orbital” instantiation of an abstract and modelized system of signs, into whose orbit all the once unique forms of style and writing will be reabsorbed. The satellization of language: the means for the Chinese to enter the system of peaceful coexistence, which is inscribed in their heavens at precisely the same time by the linkup of the two satellites. Orbital flight of the Big Two, neutralization and homogenization of everyone else on earth.

Yet, despite this deterrence by the orbital power – the nuclear or molecular code – events continue at ground level, misfortunes are even more numerous, given the global process of the contiguity and simultaneity of data. But, subtly, they no longer have any meaning, they are no longer anything but the duplex effect of simulation at the summit. The best example can only be that of the war in Vietnam, because it took place at the intersection of a maximum historical and “revolutionary” stake, and of the installation of this deterrent authority. What meaning did this war have, and wasn’t its unfolding a means of sealing the end of history in the decisive and culminating historic event of our era?

Why did this war, so hard, so long, so ferocious, vanish from one day to the next as if by magic?

Why did this American defeat (the largest reversal in the history of the USA) have no internal repercussions in America? If it had really signified the failure of the planetary strategy of the United States, it would necessarily have completely disrupted its internal balance and the American political system. Nothing of the sort occurred.

Something else, then, took place. This war, at bottom, was nothing but a crucial episode of peaceful coexistence. It marked the arrival of China to peaceful coexistence. The nonintervention of China obtained and secured after many years, Chinas apprenticeship to a global modus vivendi, the shift from a global strategy of revolution to one of shared forces and empires, the transition from a radical alternative to political alternation in a system now essentially regulated (the normalization of Peking – Washington relations): this was what was at stake in the war in Vietnam, and in this sense, the USA pulled out of Vietnam but won the war.

And the war ended “spontaneously” when this objective was achieved. That is why it was deescalated, demobilized so easily.

This same reduction of forces can be seen on the field. The war lasted as long as elements irreducible to a healthy politics and discipline of power, even a Communist one, remained unliquidated. When at last the war had passed into the hands of regular troops in the North and escaped that of the resistance, the war could stop: it had attained its objective. The stake is thus that of a political relay. As soon as the Vietnamese had proved that they were no longer the carriers of an unpredictable subversion, one could let them take over. That theirs is a Communist order is not serious in the end: it had proved itself, it could be trusted. It is even more effective than capitalism in the liquidation of “savage” and archaic precapitalist structures.

Same scenario in the Algerian war.

The other aspect of this war and of all wars today: behind the armed violence, the murderous antagonism of the adversaries – which seems a matter of life and death, which is played out as such (or else one could never send people to get themselves killed in this kind of thing), behind this simulacrum of fighting to the death and of ruthless global stakes, the two adversaries are fundamentally in solidarity against something else, unnamed, never spoken, but whose objective outcome in war, with the equal complicity of the two adversaries, is total liquidation. Tribal, communitarian, precapitalist structures,

every form of exchange, of language, of symbolic organization, that is what must be abolished, that is the object of murder in war – and war itself, in its immense, spectacular death apparatus, is nothing but the medium of this process of the terrorist rationalization of the social – the murder on which sociality will be founded, whatever its allegiance, Communist or capitalist. Total complicity, or division of labor between two adversaries (who may even consent to enormous sacrifices for it) for the very end of reshaping and domesticating social relations.

“The North Vietnamese were advised to countenance a scenario for liquidating the American presence in the course of which, of course, one must save face.”

This scenario: the extremely harsh bombardments of Hanoi. Their untenable character must not conceal the fact that they were nothing but a simulacrum to enable the Vietnamese to seem to countenance a compromise and for Nixon to make the Americans swallow the withdrawal of their troops. The game was already won, nothing was objectively at stake but the verisimilitude of the final montage.

The moralists of war, the holders of high wartime values should not be too discouraged: the war is no less atrocious for being only a simulacrum – the flesh suffers just the same, and the dead and former combatants are worth the same as in other wars. This objective is always fulfilled, just like that of the charting of territories and of disciplinary sociality. What no longer exists is the adversity of the adversaries, the reality of antagonistic causes, the ideological seriousness of war. And also the reality of victory or defeat, war being a process that triumphs well beyond these appearances.

In any case, the pacification (or the deterrence) that dominates us today is beyond war and peace, it is that at every moment war and peace are equivalent. “War is peace,” said Orwell. There also, the two differential poles implode into each other, or recycle one another – a simultaneity of contradictions that is at once the parody and the end of every dialectic. Thus one can completely miss the truth of a war: namely, that it was finished well before it started, that there was an end to war at the heart of the war itself, and that perhaps it never started. Many other events (the oil crisis, etc.) never started, never existed, except as artificial occurrences – abstract, ersatz, and as artifacts of history, catastrophes and crises destined to maintain a historical investment under hypnosis. The media and the official news service are only there to maintain the illusion of an actuality, of the reality of the stakes, of the objectivity of facts. All the events are to be read backward, or one becomes aware (as with the Communists “in power” in Italy the retro, posthumous rediscovery of the gulags and Soviet dissidents like the almost contemporary discovery, by a moribund ethnology, of the lost “difference” of Savages) that all these things arrived too late, with a history of delay, a spiral of delay, that they long ago exhausted their meaning and only live from an artificial effervescence of signs, that all these events succeed each other without logic, in the most contradictory, complete equivalence, in a profound indifference to their consequences (but this is because there are none: they exhaust themselves in their spectacular promotion) – all “newsreel” footage thus gives the sinister impression of kitsch, of retro and porno at the same time – doubtless everyone knows this, and no one really accepts it. The reality of simulation is unbearable – crueler than Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty, which was still an attempt to create a dramaturgy of life, the last gasp of an ideality of the body, of blood, of violence in a

system that was already taking it away, toward a reabsorption of all the stakes without a trace of blood. For us the trick has been played. All dramaturgy, and even all real writing of cruelty has disappeared. Simulation is the master, and we only have a right to the retro, to the phantom, parodic rehabilitation of all lost referentials. Everything still unfolds around us, in the cold light of deterrence (including Artaud, who has the right like everything else to his revival, to a second existence as the referential of cruelty).

This is why nuclear proliferation does not increase the risk of either an atomic clash or an accident – save in the interval when the “young” powers could be tempted to make a nondeterrent, “real” use of it (as the Americans did in Hiroshima – but precisely only they had a right to this “use value” of the bomb, all of those who have acquired it since will be deterred from using it by the very fact of possessing it). Entry into the atomic club, so prettily named, very quickly effaces (as unionization does in the working world) any inclination toward violent intervention. Responsibility, control, censure, self-deterrence always grow more rapidly than the forces or the weapons at our disposal: this is the secret of the social order. Thus the very possibility of paralyzing a whole country by flicking a switch makes it so that the electrical engineers will never use this weapon: the whole myth of the total and revolutionary strike crumbles at the very moment when the means are available – but alas precisely because those means are available. Therein lies the whole process of deterrence.

It is thus perfectly probable that one day we will see nuclear powers export atomic reactors, weapons, and bombs to every latitude. Control by threat will be replaced by the more effective strategy of pacification through the bomb and through the possession of the bomb. The “little” powers, believing that they are buying their independent striking force, will buy the virus of deterrence, of their own deterrence. The same goes for the atomic reactors that we have already sent them: so many neutron bombs knocking out all historical virulence, all risk of explosion. In this sense, the nuclear everywhere inaugurates an accelerated process of implosion, it freezes everything around it, it absorbs all living energy.

The nuclear is at once the culminating point of available energy and the maximization of energy control systems. Lockdown and control increase in direct proportion to (and undoubtedly even faster than) liberating potentialities. This was already the aporia of the modern revolution. It is still the absolute paradox of the nuclear. Energies freeze in their own fire, they deter themselves. One can no longer imagine what project, what power, what strategy, what subject could exist behind this enclosure, this vast saturation of a system by its own forces, now neutralized, unusable, unintelligible, nonexplosive – except for the possibility of an explosion toward the center, of an implosion where all these energies would be abolished in a catastrophic process (in the literal sense, that is to say in the sense of a reversion of the whole cycle toward a minimal point, of a reversion of energies toward a minimal threshold).


1. Cf. J. Baudrillard, “L’ordre des simulacres” (The order of simulacra), in L’echange symbolique et la mort (Symbolic exchange and death) (Paris: Gallimard, 1976).

2. A discourse that is itself not susceptible to being resolved in transference. It is the entanglement of these two discourses that renders psychoanalysis interminable.

3. Cf. M. Perniola, Icônes, visions, simulacres (Icons, visions, simulacra), 39.

4. This does not necessarily result in despairing of meaning, but just as much in the improvisation of meaning, of nonmeaning, of many simultaneous meanings that destroy each other.

5. Taken together, the energy crisis and the ecological mise-en-scène are themselves a disaster movie, in the same style (and with the same value) as those that currently comprise the golden days of Hollywood. It is useless to laboriously interpret these films in terms of their relation to an “objective” social crisis or even to an “objective” phantasm of disaster. It is in another sense that it must be said that it is the social itself that, in contemporary discourse, is organised along the lines of a disaster-movie script. (Cf. M. Makarius, La stratégic de la catastrophe [The strategy of disaster], 115.)

6. To this flagging investment in work corresponds a parallel decline in the investment in consumption. Goodbye to use value or to the prestige of the automobile, goodbye amorous discourses that neatly opposed the object of enjoyment to the object of work. Another discourse takes hold that is a discourse of work on the object of consumption aiming for an active, constraining, puritan reinvestment (use less gas, watch out for your safety, you’ve gone over the speed limit, etc.) to which the characteristics of automobiles pretend to adapt. Rediscovering a stake through the transposition of these two poles. Work becomes the object of a need, the car becomes the object of work. There is no better proof of the lack of differentiation among all the stakes. It is through the same slippage between the “right” to vote and electoral “duty” that the divestment of the political sphere is signaled.

7. The medium/message confusion is certainly a corollary of that between the sender and the receiver, thus sealing the disappearance of all dual, polar structures that formed the discursive organization of language, of all determined articulation of meaning reflecting Jakobson’s famous grid of functions. That discourse “circulates” is to be taken literally: that is, it no longer goes from one point to another, but it traverses a cycle that without distinction includes the positions of transmitter and receiver, now unlocatable as such. Thus there is no instance of power, no instance of transmission – power is something that circulates and whose source can no longer be located, a cycle in which the positions of the dominator and the dominated are exchanged in an endless reversion that is also the end of power in its classical definition. The circularization of power, of knowledge, of discourse puts an end to any localization of instances and poles. In the psychoanalytic interpretation itself, the “power” of the interpreter does not come from any outside instance but from the interpreted himself. This changes everything, because one can always ask of the traditional holders of power where they get their power from. Who made you duke? The king. Who made you king? God. Only God no longer answers. But to the question: who made you a psychoanalyst? the analyst can well reply: You. Thus is expressed, by an inverse simulation, the passage from the “analyzed” to the “analysand,” from passive to active, which simply describes the spiraling effect of the shifting of poles, the effect of circularity in which power is lost, is dissolved, is resolved in perfect

manipulation (it is no longer of the order of directive power and of the gaze, but of the order of tactility and commutation). See also the state/family circularity assured by the fluctuation and metastatic regulation of the images of the social and the private (J. Donzelot, La police des/amilles [The policing of families]).

Impossible now to pose the famous question: “From what position do you speak?” – “How do you know?” “From where do you get your power?” without hearing the immediate response: “But it is of you (from you) that I speak” – meaning, it is you who are speaking, you who know, you who are the power. Gigantic circumvolution, circumlocution of the spoken word, which is equal to a blackmail with no end, to a deterrence that cannot be appealed of the subject presumed to speak, leaving him without a reply, because to the question that he poses one ineluctably replies: but you are the answer, or: your question is already an answer, etc. – the whole strangulatory sophistication of intercepting speech, of the forced confession in the guise of freedom of expression, of trapping the subject in his own interrogation, of the precession of the reply to the question (all the violence of interpretation lies there, as well as that of the conscious or unconscious management of the “spoken word” [parole]).

This simulacrum of the inversion or the involution of poles, this clever subterfuge, which is the secret of the whole discourse of manipulation and thus, today, in every domain, the secret of any new power in the erasure of the scene of power, in the assumption of all words from which has resulted this fantastic silent majority characteristic of our time – all of this started without a doubt in the political sphere with the democractic simulacrum, which today is the substitution for the power of God with the power of the people as the source of power, and of power as emanation with power as representation. Anti- Copernican revolution: no transcendental instance either of the sun or of the luminous sources of power and knowledge – everything comes from the people and everything returns to them. It is with this magnificent recycling that the universal simulacrum of manipulation, from the scenario of mass suffrage to the present-day phantoms of opinion polls, begins to be put in place.

8. PPEP is an acronym for smallest possible gap, or “plus petit écart possible.”-TRANS.

9. Paradox: all bombs are clean: their only pollution is the system of security and of control they radiate as long as they don’t explode.

George Washington

George Washington

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.

George Washington (22 February 173214 December1799) was the successful Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary Warfrom 1775 to 1783, and later became the first President of the United States of America, an office to which he was elected, unanimously, twice and remained in from 1789 to 1797. He is generally regarded as the “Father of his country”.



  • Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.
    • Letter to Governor Dinwiddie (29 May 1754)
  • Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
    • Letter of Instructions to the Captains of the Virginia Regiments (29 July 1759)


Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

The Marquis de Lafayette is extremely solicitous of having a command equal to his rank … he is sensible; discreet in his manners; has made great proficiency in our language; and, from the disposition he discovered at the battle of Brandywine, possesses a large share of bravery and military ardor.

  • The General is sorry to be informed —, that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into a fashion; — he hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms, if we insult it by impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.
  • Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother’s Sword has been sheathed in a Brother’s breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?
  • But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
    • Washington’s formal acceptance of command of the Army (16 June 1775), quoted in The Writings of George Washington : Life of Washington(1837) edited by Jared Sparks, p. 141
  • Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.
  • The reflection upon my situation, and that of this army, produces many an uneasy hour, when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in, on a thousand accounts; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what cause it flows. I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket upon my shoulders and entered the rank, or if I could have justified the measure of posterity, and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam. If I shall be able to rise superior to these, and many other difficulties which might be enumerated, I shall most religiously believe that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies; for surely if we get well through this month, it must be for want of their knowing the disadvantages we labor under. Could I have foreseen the difficulties which have come upon us, could I have known that such a backwardness would have been discovered in the old soldiers to the service, all the generals upon earth should not have convinced me of the propriety of delaying an attack upon Boston till this time.
    • In a letter to Joseph Reed, during the siege of Boston (14 January 1776), quoted in History of the Siege of Boston, and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill (1849) by Richard Frothingham, p. 286
  • To expect … the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as from veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen. Men, who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking; whereas troops unused to service often apprehend danger where no danger is.
    • Letter to the President of Congress (9 February 1776)
  • Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.
    • General Orders, Headquarters, New York (2 July 1776)
  • The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.
    • General Order (9 July 1776) George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 3g Varick Transcripts
  • The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.
  • There is nothing that gives a man consequence, and renders him fit for command, like a support that renders him independent of everybody but the State he serves.
    • Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776)
  • To place any dependence upon militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life – unaccustomed to the din of arms – totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill, which being followed by a want of confidence in themselves when opposed to troops regularly trained, disciplined, and appointed, superior in knowledge, and superior in arms, makes them timid and ready to fly from their own shadows.
    • Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776)
  • My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than can be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably can never do under any other circumstances.
    • Encouraging his men to re-enlist in the army (31 December 1776)
  • The Marquis de Lafayette is extremely solicitous of having a command equal to his rank. I do not know in what light Congress will view the matter, but it appears to me, from a consideration of his illustrious and important connexions, the attachment which he has manifested for our cause, and the consequences which his return in disgust might produce, that it will be advisable to gratify him in his wishes; and the more so, as several gentlemen from France, who came over under some assurances, have gone back disappointed in their expectations. His conduct with respect to them stands in a favorable point of view; having interested himself to remove their uneasiness, and urged the impropriety of their making any unfavorable representations upon their arrival at home; and in all his letters he has placed our affairs in the best situation he’ could. Besides, he is sensible; discreet in his manners; has made great proficiency in our language; and, from the disposition he discovered at the battle of Brandywine, possesses a large share of bravery and military ardor.
  • A great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle [patriotism] alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.
    • Letter to John Banister, Valley Forge (21 April 1778)
  • While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.
    • General Orders (2 May 1778); published in Writings of George Washington (1932), Vol.XI, pp. 342-343
  • It is not a little pleasing, nor less wonderful to contemplate, that after two years’ manoeuvring and undergoing the strangest vicissitudes, that perhaps ever attended any one contest since the creation, both armies are brought back to the very point they set out from, and that which was the offending party in the beginning is now reduced to the use of the spade and pickaxe for defence. The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations. But it will be time enough for me to turn preacher, when my present appointment ceases…
    • Letter to Brigadier-General Nelson, 20 August 1778, in Ford’s Writings of George Washington (1890), vol. VII, p. 161. Part of this is often attached to a fragment of a letter to John Armstrong of 11 March 1782; it is also often prefaced with the spurious “governing without God” sentence, as this 1867 example from Henry Wilson (Testimonies of American Statesmen and Jurists to the Truths of Christianity) shows:
      • It is impossible to govern the world without God. It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly implore his protection and favor. I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during the revolution; or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of Him, who is alone able to protect them. He must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.
  • It gives me very sincere pleasure to find that there is likely to be a coalition of the Whigs in your State (a few only excepted) and that the Assembly of it, are so well disposed to second your endeavors in bringing those murderers of our cause—the Monopolizers—forestallers—& Engrossers—to condign punishment. It is much to be lamented that each State, long ’ere this, has not hunted them down as the pests of Society, & the greatest enemies we have, to the happiness of America. I would to God that one of the most attrocious in each State was hung in Gibbets, up on a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman—No punishment, in my opinion, is too great for the Man, who can build “his greatness upon his Country’s ruin.”
    • George Washington to Joseph Reed, 12 December 1778, Founders Online, National Archives. Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 18, 1 November 1778 – 14 January 1779, ed. Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, pp. 396–398. Page images at American Memory (Library of Congress)
  • In the last place, though first in importance I shall ask—is there any thing doing, or that can be done to restore the credit of our currency? The depreciation of it is got to so alarming a point—that a waggon load of money will scarcely purchase a waggon load of provision.
    • Letter to John Jay, 23 April 1779, Founders Online, National Archives. Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 20, 8 April–31 May 1779, ed. Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, p. 177. Also found in The Life John Jay With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers. by His Son, William Jay in Two Volumes, Vol. II., 1833
  • Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
    • Letter to Major-General Robert Howe (17 August 1779), published in “The Writings of George Washington”: 1778-1779, edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (1890)
    • Paraphrased variants:
    • Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
    • Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder
  • Know my good friend that no distance can keep anxious lovers long asunder, and that the wonders of former ages may be revived in this— But alas! will you not remark that amidst all the wonders recorded in holy writ no instance can be produced where a young Woman from real inclinationhas prefered an old man — This is so much against me that I shall not be able I fear to contest the prize with you — yet, under the encouragement you have given me I shall enter the list for so inestimable a jewell.
  • A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends, and that the most liberal professions of good will are very far from being the surest marks of it. I should be happy that my own experience had afforded fewer examples of the little dependence to be placed upon them.
    • Letter to Major-General John Sullivan (15 December 1779), published in The Writings of George Washington (1890) by Worthington Chauncey Ford, Vol. 8, p. 139

Letter to John Hancock (1775)

  • [F]ree Negroes who have served in this army are very much dissatisfied at being discarded. As it is to be apprehended that they may seek employ in the Ministerial Army, I have … given license for their being enlisted.

Letter to Phyllis Wheatley (1776)

Letter to Phyllis Wheatley (28 February 1776)
  • Mrs. Phillis: Your favour of the 26th of October did not reach my hands ’till the middle of December. Time enough, you will say, to have given an answer ere this. Granted. But a variety of important occurrences, continually interposing to distract the mind and withdraw the attention, I hope will apologize for the delay, and plead my excuse for the seeming, but not real neglect.
  • I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant Lines you enclosed; and however undeserving I may be of such encomium and panegyrick, the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical Talents. In honour of which, and as a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the Poem, had I not been apprehensive, that, while I only meant to give the World this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the imputation of Vanity. This and nothing else, determined me not to give it place in the public Prints.
  • If you should ever come to Cambridge, or near Head Quarters, I shall be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses, and to whom Nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations. I am, with great Respect, etc.

Letter to Henry Laurens (1779)

  • I am not clear that a discrimination will not render slavery more irksome to those who remain in it. Most of the good and evil things in this life are judged of by comparison; and I fear a comparison in this case will be productive of much discontent in those who are held in servitude.


I am sure there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them.

The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

  • [A]bolish the name and appearance of a Black Corps.
    • Recommendations to reorganize two Rhode Island regiments into integrated rather than segregated groups, in a letter to Major General William Heath (29 July 1780), in The Writings of George Washington, 19:93. According to historian Robert A. Selig, the Continental Army exhibited a degree of integration not reached by the American army again for 200 years (until after World War II).
  • Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence.
    • Letter to Lord Stirling (5 March 1780)
  • The many remarkable interpositions of the divine government, in the hours of our deepest distress and darkness, have been too luminous to suffer me to doubt the happy issue of the present contest.
  • The Commander in Chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of Deportment and gratitude of Heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.
    • Notes on general orders to the troops, (20 October 1781), as quoted in The Writings of George Washington (1835) edited by Jared Sparks, Vol. 8, p. 189
  • Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive. And with it, everything honorable and glorious.
  • I am sure there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them.
    • Letter to John Armstrong, 11 March 1782, in Ford’s Writings of George Washington (1891), vol. XII, p. 111. This is frequently attached to part of a letter to Brigadier-General Nelson of 20 August 1778, as in this 1864 example from B. F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, pp. 33-34:
      • I am sure that there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during the Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them. He must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.
  • Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
  • Do not conceive that fine Clothes make fine Men, any more than fine feathers make fine Birds—A plain genteel dress is more admired and obtains more credit than lace & embroidery in the Eyes of the judicious and sensible.
  • Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this stupendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Independency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.
    • General Orders (18 April 1783)
  • It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency.
    • “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment” in a letter to Alexander Hamilton(2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938), edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289
  • I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large; and, particularly, for their brethren who have served in the Geld; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacifick temper of the mind, which were the characteristicks of the divine Author of our blessed religion ; without an humble imitation of whose example, in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.
    • Circular Letter to the Governours of the several States (18 June 1783). Misreported as “I make it my constant prayer that God would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion; without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation”, in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 315
  • The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.
    • Letter to the members of the Volunteer Association and other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland who have lately arrived in the City of New York (2 December 1783), as quoted in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (1938), vol. 27, p. 254
  • Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
    • Address to Congress resigning his commission (23 December 1783)
  • I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the Soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame, the Statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all, and the Courtier who is always watching the countenance of his Prince, in hopes of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception. I am not only retired from all public employments, but I am retiring within myself; and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this my dear friend, being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers.
  • A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.
  • Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last.
  • As the complexion of European politics seems now (from letters I have received from the Marqs. de la Fayette, Chevrs. Chartellux, De la Luzerne, &c.,) to have a tendency to Peace, I will say nothing of war, nor make any animadversions upon the contending powers; otherwise, I might possibly have said that the retreat from it seemed impossible after the explicit declaration of the parties: My first wish is to see this plague to mankind banished from off the Earth, and the sons and Daughters of this world employed in more pleasing and innocent amusements, than in preparing implements and exercising them for the destruction of mankind: rather than quarrel about territory let the poor, the needy and oppressed of the Earth, and those who want Land, resort to the fertile plains of our western country, the second Promise, and there dwell in peace, fulfilling the first and great commandment.
    • Letter to David Humphreys (25 July 1785), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 28, pp. 202-3. The W. W. Abbot transcription (given at Founders Online) differs slightly:
      • My first wish is, to see this plague to Mankind banished from the Earth; & the Sons & daughters of this World employed in more pleasing & innocent amusements than in preparing implements, & exercising them for the destruction of the human race.
  • We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a Nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it.
  • My manner of living is plain. I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready; and such as will be content to partake of them are always welcome. Those, who expect more, will be disappointed, but no change will be effected by it.
    • Letter to George William Fairfax (25 June 1786), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 175
  • There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.
  • If you tell the Legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things cannot go on in the same train forever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people being disgusted with the circumstances will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate & prevent disasterous contingencies would be the part of wisdom & patriotism.
    What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable & tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & falacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.
    Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I cannot feel myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet having happily assisted in bringing the ship into port & having been fairly discharged; it is not my business to embark again on a sea of troubles. Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have much weight on the minds of my Countrymen — they have been neglected, tho’ given as a last legacy in the most solemn manner. I had then perhaps some claims to public attention. I consider myself as having none at present.

  • Altho’ I pretend to no peculiar information respecting commercial affairs, nor any foresight into the scenes of futurity; yet as the member of an infant-empire, as a Philanthropist by character, and (if I may be allowed the expression) as a Citizen of the great republic of humanity at large; I cannot help turning my attention sometimes to this subject. I would be understood to mean, I cannot avoid reflecting with pleasure on the probable influence that commerce may here after have on human manners & society in general. On these occasions I consider how mankind may be connected like one great family in fraternal ties—I endulge a fond, perhaps an enthusiastic idea, that as the world is evidently much less barbarous than it has been, its melioration must still be progressive—that nations are becoming more humanized in their policy—that the subjects of ambition & causes for hostility are daily diminishing—and in fine, that the period is not very remote when the benefits of a liberal & free commerce will, pretty generally, succeed to the devastations & horrors of war.
    • “From George Washington to Lafayette, 15 August 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives Source: The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, vol. 4, 2 April 1786 – 31 January 1787, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995, pp. 214–216. Page scan at American Memory (Library of Congress)
  • If they have real grievances redress them, if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it at the moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once.
  • The only stipulations I shall contend for are, that in all things you shall do as you please. I will do the same; and that no ceremony may be used or any restraint be imposed on any one.
    • Letter to David Humphreys, inviting him to an indefinite stay at Mt. Vernon (10 October 1787), as published in Life and Times of David Humphreys (1917) by Frank Landon Humphreys, Vol. I, p. 426
  • Your young military men, who want to reap the harvest of laurels, don’t care (I suppose) how many seeds of war are sown; but for the sake of humanity it is devoutly to be wished, that the manly employment of agriculture and the humanizing benefits of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; that the swords might be turned into plough-shares, the spears into pruning hooks, and, as the Scripture expresses it, “the nations learn war no more.”
    • Letter to Marquis de Chastellux (25 April 1788), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 29, p. 485
  • I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of an honest man, as well as prove (what I desire to be considered in reality) that I am, with great sincerity & esteem, Dear Sir Your friend and Most obedient Hble Ser⟨vt⟩
  • The unfortunate condition of the persons, whose labour in part I employed, has been the only unavoidable subject of regret. To make the Adults among them as easy & as comfortable in their circumstances as their actual state of ignorance & improvidence would admit; & to lay a foundation to prepare the rising generation for a destiny different from that in which they were born; afforded some satisfaction to my mind, & could not I hoped be displeasing to the justice of the Creator.
  • The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest of purposes. Should, hereafter, those who are intrusted with the management of this government, incited by the lust of power & prompted by the supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction & sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable—and if I may so express myself, that no wall of words—that no mound of parchmt can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.
    • p. 34 of a draft of a discarded and undelivered version of his first inaugural address (30 April 1789)
  • Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.
    • First Inaugural Address (30 April 1789), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 30, pp. 292-3
  • I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the oeconomy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
    • First Inaugural Address (30 April 1789), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 30, pp. 294-5
  • For myself the delay may be compared with a reprieve; for in confidence I assure you, with the world it would obtain little credit that my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution: so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities and inclination which is necessary to manage the helm.
    • Comment to General Henry Knox on the delay in assuming office (March 1789)
  • The satisfaction arising from the indulgent opinion entertained by the American People of my conduct, will, I trust, be some security for preventing me from doing any thing, which might justly incur the forfeiture of that opinion. And the consideration that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected, will always continue to prompt me to promote the progress of the former, by inculcating the practice of the latter.

The Newburgh Address (1783)

Washington’s response to the Newburgh Conspiracy, known as Newburgh Address (15 March 1783) · Online edition at the National Archives · The anonymous Newburgh letter, followed by Washington’s response at Early America Milestones
  • Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.
  • The Author of the piece, is entitled to much credit for the goodness of his Pen: and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his Heart — for, as Men see thro’ different Optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the Mind, to use different means to attain the same end; the Author of the Address, should have had more charity, than to mark for Suspicion, the Man who should recommend Moderation and longer forbearance — or, in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises. But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of Sentiment, regard to justice, and love of Country, have no part; and he was right, to insinuate the darkest suspicion, to effect the blackest designs.
    That the Address is drawn with great art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes. That it is calculated to impress the Mind, with an idea of premeditated injustice in the Sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments which must unavoidably flow from such a belief. That the secret Mover of this Scheme (whoever he may be) intended to take advantage of the passions, while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving time for cool, deliberative thinking, & that composure of Mind which is so necessary to give dignity & stability to measures, is rendered too obvious, by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proof than a reference to the proceeding.
  • There might, Gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this Address to you, of an anonymous production — but the manner in which that performance has been introduced to the Army — the effect it was intended to have, together with some other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the tendency of that Writing. With respect to the advice given by the Author — to suspect the Man, who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance — I spurn it — as every Man, who regards that liberty, & reveres that Justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must — for if Men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind; reason is of no use to us — the freedom of Speech may be taken away — and, dumb & silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.
  • You will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.


For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

  • The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
    May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

    • Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)
  • To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
    • First Annual Address, to both Houses of Congress (8 January 1790).
    • Compare: “Qui desiderat pacem præparet bellum” (translated: “Who would desire peace should be prepared for war”), Vegetius, Rei Militari 3, Prolog.; “In pace, ut sapiens, aptarit idonea bello” (translated: “In peace, as a wise man, he should make suitable preparation for war”), Horace, Book ii. satire ii.

All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.

  • The advancement of agriculture, commerce and manufactures, by all proper means, will not, I trust, need recommendation. But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home; and of facilitating the intercourse between the distant parts of our country by a due attention to the Post Office and Post Roads.
    • First Annual Address, to both House of Congress (8 January 1790)
  • A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.
    • First Annual Address, to both House of Congress (8 January 1790)
  • All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.
    • Letter to Catherine Macaulay Graham (9 January 1790)
  • As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow, that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.
  • [A] good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.
  • It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
    • Letter to his niece, Harriet Washington (30 October 1791)
  • Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause; and I was not without hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy of the present age would have put an effectual stop to contentions of this kind.
  • Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.

  • As misquoted in The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (2006) by Andrew Sullivan, p. 131
  • Flattering as it may be to the human mind, & truly honorable as it is to receive from our fellow citizens testimonies of approbation for exertions to promote the public welfare; it is not less pleasing to know that the milder virtues of the heart are highly respected by a society whose liberal principles must be founded in the immediate laws of truth and justice. To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy the benevolent design of the Masonic Institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications which discover the principles which actuate them may tend to convince Mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.
  • We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.
    Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities taste those blessings, which a gracious God bestows upon the righteous.

  • The friends of humanity will deprecate War, wheresoever it may appear; and we have experience enough of its evils, in this country, to know, that it should not be wantonly or unnecessarily entered upon. I trust, that the good citizens of the United States will show to the world, that they have as much wisdom in preserving peace at this critical juncture, as they have hitherto displayed valor in defending their just rights.
    • Address to the merchants of Philadelphia (16 May 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 202
  • If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war
  • I am very glad to hear that the Gardener has saved so much of the St. foin seed, and that of the India Hemp. Make the most you can of both, by sowing them again in drills. . . Let the ground be well prepared, and the Seed (St. foin) be sown in April. The Hemp may be sown any where.
  • When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.
    • Letter to Edmund Pendleton (22 January 1795)
  • Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable. It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter; whether in public or private walks of life.
    • Letter to George Washington Parke Custis (7 January 1798)
  • It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.
    • Letter to James McHenry (10 August 1798)
  • I have heard much of the nefarious, & dangerous plan, & doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book until you were pleased to send it to me. The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter, have prevented my reading the Book, hitherto; namely — the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, & the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed. And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country. The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years. I believe notwithstandings, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati.
  • It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
    The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.

  • As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.
  • To sell the overplus I cannot, because I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species. To hire them out, is almost as bad, because they could not be disposed of in families to any advantage, and to disperse the families I have an aversion. What then is to be done? Something must or I shall be ruined; for all the money (in addition to what I raise by Crops, and rents) that have been received for Lands, sold within the last four years, to the amount of Fifty thousand dollars, has scarcely been able to keep me a float.
    • Letter to Robert Lewis, 18 August 1799, published in John Clement Fitzpatrick, The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, volume 37, pp. 338-9
  • I die hard but am not afraid to go. I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it — my breath cannot last long.
    • The first sentence here is sometimes presented as being his last statement before dying, but they are reported as part of the fuller statement, and as being said in the afternoon prior to his death in Life of Washington (1859) by Washington Irving, and his actual last words are stated to have been those reported by Tobias Lear below.
  • Tis well.
    • Washington’s last words, as recorded by Tobias Lear, in his journal (14 December 1799). Washington said this after being satisfied that precautions would be taken against his being buried prematurely:
About ten o’clk he made several attempts to speak to me before he could effect it, at length he said, — “I am just going. Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead.” I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, “Do you understand me? I replied “Yes.” “Tis well” said he.

  • A conflation of the last two quotes has also sometimes been reported as his last statement: “It is well. I die hard but am not afraid to go”.

Letter to Catharine Macaulay Graham (1790)

Letter to Catharine Macaulay Graham (9 January 1790), New York.
  • The establishment of our new government seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by a reasonable compact in civil society. It was to be in the first instance, in a considerable degree, a government of accommodation as well as a government of laws. Much was to be done by prudence, much by conciliation, much by firmness. Few, who are not philosophical spectators, can realize the difficult and delicate part, which a man in my situation had to act. All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external happiness of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it beyond the lustre, which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.

Farewell Address (1796)

I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it…

The Farewell Address (17 September 1796) Full text at Wikisource
  • Every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
  • Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
    The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.
  • It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

  • While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighbouring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
  • One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.
  • To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns.
  • The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.
  • I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
  • The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
  • The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
    It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.
  • Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity.
    • The Internet document known as “History Forgotten” or “Forsaken Roots” misquotes the opening of this section as follows: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supports.”
  • Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
  • It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government.
  • Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
  • As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.
  • Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue?
  • Nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests.
  • Real Patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favourite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests. (Note: spelling/capitalization likely original.[1]).
  • The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
  • ‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
  • There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.
  • Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.
  • In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
    • This has sometimes been misquoted as: Guard against the postures of pretended patriotism.
  • The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.
  • Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Posthumous attributions

  • So, there lies the brave de Kalb. The generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles and to water with his blood the tree of liberty. Would to God he had lived to share its fruits!
  • Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly forsee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.
    • Attributed to George Washington, John Bernard, Retrospections of America, 1797–1811, p. 91 (1887). This is from Bernard’s account of a conversation he had with Washington in 1798. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).


  • Americans! let the opinion then delivered by the greatest and best of men, be ever present to your remembrance. He was collected within himself. His countenance had more than usual solemnity; his, eye was fixed, and seemed to look into futurity. “It is (said he) too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.” This was the patriot voice of Washington; and this the constant tenor of his conduct. With this deep sense of duty, he gave to our Constitution his cordial assent; and has added the fame of a legislator to that of a hero.


Statements originally made by others, that have become wrongly attributed to Washington

He seemed to enjoy a triumph over me. Methought I heard him think, “Ay! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!” ~ John Adams

These maxims originated in the late sixteenth century in France and were popularly circulated during Washington’s time. Washington wrote out a copy of the 110 Rules in his school book when he was about sixteen-years old… During the days before mere hero worship had given place to understanding and comprehension of the fineness of Washington’s character, of his powerful influence among men, and of the epoch-making nature of the issues he so largely shaped, it was assumed that Washington himself composed the maxims, or at least that he compiled them. It is a satisfaction to find that his consideration for others, his respect for and deference to those deserving such treatment, his care of his own body and tongue, and even his reverence for his Maker, all were early inculcated in him by precepts which were the common practice in decent society the world over. These very maxims had been in use in France for a century and a half, and in England for a century, before they were set as a task for the schoolboy Washington.

  • A solemn scene it was indeed… He seemed to enjoy a triumph over me. Methought I heard him think, “Ay! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!”
    • John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail was here expressing his impression of what Washington seemed to be thinking after Adams was inaugurated as President. These impressions have sometimes been quoted as if they were something Washington had actually said to Adams. Quoted in A History of the United States and Its People: From Their Earliest Records to the Present Time (1904) by William Abbatt and Elroy McKendree Avery, p. 177; John Adams (2002) by David G. McCullough, p. 469; and The Portable John Adams (2004) edited by John Patrick Diggins, p. xi
    • Unsourced variants: Well, I am fairly out and you are fairly in. Now we shall see who enjoys it the most!
      Ah! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!
  • The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
    • This statement was made by an official representative of the U.S. during Washington’s presidency, but is actually a line from the English version of the Treaty of Tripoli (Article 11), which was signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796, and at Algiers on January 3, 1797. It received ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 and was signed into law by John Adams. The wording of the treaty is by Joel Barlow, U.S. Consul, who had served as Washington’s chaplain, and was also a good friend of Paine and Jefferson; Article 11 of it reads:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,—as it has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,—and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
  • …we are persuaded that good Christians will always be good citizens, and that where righteousness prevails among individuals the Nation will be great and happy. Thus while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.
    • This is from a letter written to Washington on 9 October 1789 by the synod of the Reformed Dutch Church of North America (image of the letter on the Library of Congress site here). Washington quoted the portion in bold in his reply.
Je suis citoyen de la Grande République de l’Humanité. Je vois le genre humain uni comme une grande famille par des liens fraternels. Nous avons jeté une semence de liberté et d’union qui germera peu à peu dans toute la Terre. Un jour, sur le modèle des Etats-Unis d’Amérique, se constitueront les États-Unis d’Europe. Les États-Unis seront le législateur de toutes les nationalités.
An anonymous blogger in “Did George Washington predict a “United States of Europe”? (30 January 2010) showed that it derived from Gustave Rodrigues, Le peuple de l’action: essai sur l’idéalisme américain (A. Colin, 1917), p. 207:

Washington écrivait à La Fayette qu’il se condérait comme « citoyen de la grande république de l’humanité » et ajoutait : « Je vois le genre humain uni comme une grande famille par des liens fraternels ». Ailleurs il écrivait, prophétiquement: « Nous avons jeté une semence de liberté et d’union qui germera peu à peu dans toute la terre. Un jour, sur le modèle des Etats-Unis d’Amérique, se constitueront les États-Unis d’Europe. »
A translation by Louise Seymour Houghton (The People of Action: An Essay on American Idealism (1918)) reads:

Washington wrote to Lafayette that he considered himself a “citizen of the great republic of humanity,” adding: “I see the human race a great family, united by fraternal bonds.” Elsewhere he wrote prophetically: “We have sown a seed of liberty and union that will gradually germinate throughout the earth. Some day, on the model of the United States of America, will be constituted the United States of Europe.” [pp. 209-210]
The first two quotations come from a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette of 15 August 1786 (see above) as quoted in Joseph Fabre’s Washington, libérateur de l’Amérique: suivi de Washington et la revolution Américaine (Ch. Delagrave, 1886), and the third is also found in that source where, although placed between quotation marks, it is clearly intended as the author’s own comments on what “Washington and his friends” were saying to the world by establishing the American Constitution. Gustave Rodrigues mistakenly printed Fabre’s words as Washington’s alongside some actual observations of his from a letter to Lafayette, and so created the misquotation.
  • Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s Liberty teeth and keystone under Independence. The church, the plow, the prairie wagon, and citizens’ firearms are indelibly related. From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable. Every corner of this Land knows firearms and more than 99 99/100 per cent of them by their silence indicate they are in safe and sane hands. The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference and they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good. When firearms go all goes, therefore we need them every hour.
    • This is the conclusion to an article entitled “Older Ideas of Firearms” by C. S. Wheatley; it was published in the September 1926 issue of Hunter, Trader, Trapper (vol. 53, no. 3), p. 34. Wheatley had referred to George Washington’s address to the second session of the first Congress immediately before this passage, which may have given rise to the mistaken attribution. See this piece at Quote Investigator
  • The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.
    • US Senator William Edgar Borah, writing in The Reader’s Digest, Vol. 8, Issue 2 (1929), p. 776; this has only rarely begun to be attributed to Washington, since about 2010.
  • It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy, to deny a man the liberty he hath by nature upon a supposition that he may abuse it.
    • Oliver Cromwell, letter to Walter Dundas, 12 September 1650; this is also a recent misattribution.

Spurious attributions

Statements which evidence indicates are fabrications, never actually said by anyone prior to their being attributed to Washington.
  • I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet.
    • The earliest source of this quote was a famous anecdote in The Life of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes Laudable to Himself and Exemplary to his Countrymen (1806) by Parson Weems, which is not considered a credible source, and many incidents recounted in the work are now considered to have sprung entirely from Weems’ imagination. This derives from an anecdote of Washington, as a young boy, confessing to his father Augustine Washington that it was he who had cut a cherished cherry tree.
    • Variant:Father, I cannot tell a lie, I cut the tree.
  • What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.
    • A modern fabrication, possibly derived from David Barton’s claim (Original Intent, p. 85) that “By George Washington’s own words, what youths learned in America’s schools ‘above all’ was ‘the religion of Jesus Christ.’”. Washington did use the phrase “above all the religion of Jesus Christ” on 12 May 1779 in a reply to a petition from a Lenape delegation asking for assistance in promoting the missionary activities of David Zeisberger among their people: “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention…” He did not say anything about “What students would learn in American schools,” though earlier in the same reply he did say “I am glad you have brought three of the Children of your principal Chiefs to be educated with us.” While there’s nothing in the reply about how those “Children” might be educated (in fact Congress put two of them through Princeton) it’s possible that suggested the fabricated portion. See Louise Phelps Kellogg, Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio 1778-1779 (Madison WI, 1916), pp. 317-324, for the episode. Washington’s reply is also found in John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, vol. 15 (Washington D.C., 1936), p. 55
  • A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.
    • A further quote sometimes purported to be from a speech to Congress, January 7, 1790 purportedly in the Boston Independent Chronicle, January 14, 1790, this is actually a corruption of a statement made in his first State of the Union Address, relating to the need for maintaining governmental troops and military preparedness:
A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.
The proper establishment of the troops which may be deemed indispensable will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the officers and soldiers with a due regard to economy.
  • It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.
    • Washington is known to have made some official statements of public piety, but this is not one of them. The assertion is very widely reported to have been said in Washington’s Farewell Address (17 September 1796), but this is not actually the case, as any search of the documents would reveal. It has also been presented as having been part of his Proclamation on January 1, 1795 of February 19th, 1795 as a day of national Thanksgiving. The oldest form of this saying appears as part of an argument for the existence of God attributed to Washington in an undocumented biography written for children. In A Life of Washington (1836) by James K. Paulding, Washington is quoted as having stated:
      • It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being.
(For the context see Paulding’s anecdote given below in the section of quotations about Washington.) This is unattributed, and no source other than Paulding is known. In 1864 the words “the aid of a Supreme Being” were replaced by the word “God” in Benjamin Franklin Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (1864), p. 510:

  • It is impossible … to govern the universe without God…
Three years later, in 1867, Henry Wilson (Testimonies of American Statesmen and Jurists to the Truths of Christianity, American Tract Society) replaced “universe” with “world”:

  • It is impossible to govern the world without God.
In 1893 Howard H. Russell (A Lawyer’s Examination of the Bible, 1893) added the word “rightly” and the phrase “and the Bible” to create the most commonly cited form:

  • It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.
This form, which is also found in Upper Room Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 3 (23 October 1920), rests on no other authority than Russell, who was born long after Washington had died. It is clearly spurious. The saying is often found attached to genuine material such as Washington’s 1795 Thanksgiving proclamation:

  • It is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced. It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. Religion is as necessary to reason, as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason, in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme Being to refer to.
The first sentence is an almost accurate rendition of one from the official proclamation, being a portion of this segment:

In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience. Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation…
It is to be noted that there is genuine piety expressed in this statement, but it is not of any sectarian kind, Christian or otherwise. The last portion of the bogus statement which uses it is a truncation of a statement attributed to him in an undocumented biography written for children. In A Life of Washington (1836) by James K. Paulding, Washington is quoted as having stated:

It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme Being to refer to; and well has it been said, that if there had been no God, mankind would have been obliged to imagine one.
In the spurious version of the Thanksgiving proclamation which uses a portion of this, Washington’s allusions to Voltaire‘s famous statement that “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” has been omitted. In the cases of these “quotations” it seems that if statements suitable to their sectarian interests do not exist, some people feel it necessary to invent them.
  • Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
    • Attributed to “The First President of the United States” in “Liberty and Government” by W. M., in The Christian Science Journal, Vol. XX, No. 8 (November 1902) edited by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 465; no earlier or original source for this statement is cited; later quoted in The Cry for Justice : An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest (1915) edited by Upton Sinclair, p. 305, from which it became far more widely quoted and in Frank J. Wilstach, A Dictionary of Similes, 2d ed., p. 526 (1924). In The Great Thoughts (1985), George Seldes says, p. 441, col. 2, footnote, this paragraph “although credited to the ‘Farewell’ [address] cannot be found in it. Lawson Hamblin, who owns a facsimile, and Horace Peck, America’s foremost authority on quotations, informed me this paragraph is apocryphal.” It is listed as spurious at the Mount Vernon website
      • Unsourced variant : Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
  • The Jews work more effectively against us than the enemy’s armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in. It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pests to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America.
    • Sometimes rendered : “They (the Jews) work more effectively against us, than the enemy’s armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in… It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pest to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America.”
    • Both of these are doctored statements that have been widely disseminated as genuine on many anti-semitic websites; They are distortions derived from a statement that was attributed to Washington in Maxims of George Washington about currency speculators during the Revolutionary war, not about Jews: “This tribe of black gentry work more effectually against us, than the enemy’s arms. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties, and the great cause we are engaged in. It is much to be lamented that each State, long ere this, has not hunted them down as pests to society, and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America.” More information is available at Snopes. com: “To Bigotry, No Sanction”
    • This quotation is a classic anti-semitic hoax, evidently begun during or just before World War Two by American Nazi sympathizers, and since then has been repeated, for example, in foreign propaganda directed at Americans. In fact it is knitted from two separate letters by Washington, in reverse chronology, neither of them mentioning Jews. The first part of this forgery are taken from Washington’s letter to Edmund Pendleton, Nov. 1, 1779 {and the original can be found in the Library of Congress’s online service at }. I have tried to reproduce Washington’s spelling and punctuation exactly. In that letter Washington complains about black marketeers and others undermining the purchasing power of colonial currency:
… but I am under no apprehension of a capital injury from ay other source than that of the continual depreciation of our Money. This indeed is truly alarming, and of so serious a nature that every other effort is in vain unless something can be done to restore its credit. …. Where this has been the policy (in Connecticut for instance) the prices of every article have fallen and the money consequently is in demand; but in the other States you can scarce get a single thing for it, and yet it is with-held from the public by speculators, while every thing that can be useful to the public is engrossed by this tribe of black gentry, who work more effectually against us that the enemys Arms; and are a hundd. times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in.
The second part of this fabricated quote is from Washington’s letter to Joseph Reed, Dec. 12, 1778 {and can be found at the Library of Congress using the same URL but ending in /193192.jpg}, which again condemns war profiteers (the parenthetical list in the quotation is Washington’s own words which he put there in parentheses):

It gives me very sincere pleasure to find that there is likely to be a coalition … so well disposed to second your endeavours in bringing those murderers of our cause (the monopolizers, forestallers, and engrossers) to condign punishment. It is much to be lamented that each State long ere this has not hunted them down as the pests of society, and the greatest Enemys we have to the happiness of America. I would to God that one of the most attrocious of each State was hung in Gibbets upons a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman. No punishment in my opinion is too great for the Man who can build his greatness upon his Country’s ruin.
  • We had quitters during the Revolution too… we called them “Kentuckians.”
    • This attribution apparently originated with a statement of a cartoon version of Washington on an episode of The Simpsons. Though not initially presented as a genuine quote this has sometimes been attributed to Washington.
  • Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do—then do it with all your strength.
    • This saying is not found in any source before 2010, when it was posted by The Ignorant Fisherman at Free Republic on 15 February. The language is not that of Washington or his time.

Quotes about Washington

The natural equal rights of men. If Washington or Jefferson or Madison should utter upon his native soil today the opinions he entertained and expressed upon this question, he would be denounced as a fanatical abolitionist. To declare the right of all men to liberty is sectional, because slavery is afraid of liberty and strikes the mouth that speaks the word. ~ George William Curtis

These should be arranged alphabetically by author
  • If I were to characterize George Washington’s feelings toward his country, I should be less inclined than most people to stress what is called Washington’s love of his country. What impresses me as far more important is what I should call Washington’s respect for his country.
  • There is nothing that will make an Englishman shit so quick as the sight of General Washington.
    • Retort attributed to Ethan Allen, commenting after a picture of Washington was hung in a British outhouse; in an anecdote told by Abraham Lincoln, as quoted in Lincoln, Vol. 1 (1996) by David Herbert Donald
    • Variant: It is most appropriately hung, nothing ever made the British shit like the sight of George Washington.
  • Washington wasn’t born good. Only practice and habit made him so.
  • You can no more love and revere the memory of the biographical George Washington than you can an isosceles triangle or a cubic foot of interstellar space. The portrait-painters began it—Gilbert Stuart and the rest of them. They idealized all the humanity out of the poor patriot’s face and passed him down to the engravers as a rather sleepy-looking butcher’s block. There is not a portrait of Washington extant which a man of taste and knowledge would suffer to hang on the wall of his stable. Then the historians jumped in, raping all the laurels from the brows of the man’s great contemporaries and piling them in confusion upon his pate. They made him a god in wisdom, and a giant in arms; whereas, in point of ability and service, he was but little, if at all, superior to any one of a half-dozen of his now over-shadowed but once illustrious co-workers in council and camp, and in no way comparable with Hamilton. He towers above his fellows because he stands upon a pile of books.
    • Ambrose Bierce, “George the Made-over,” in Tangential Views (1911)
  • George Washington was perhaps the one indispensable man among the founders. It is hard to imagine any of the others commanding the respect needed to lead the Continental Army to victory over Great Britain, preside over the Constitutional Convention, and serve the United States as its first president. Little in Washington’s early life gave a hint of the great achievements to come.

George Washington is one of the beacons placed at intervals along the highroad of history. ~ Orestes Ferrara

  • I have learned with inexplicable joy that you have had the goodness to honor me with a treasure from Mount Vernon — the portrait of Washington, some of his venerable reliques, and one of the monuments of his glory, which are to be presented me at your hands in the name of the brothers of the Great Citizen, the First-Born Son of the New World. No words can set forth all the value that this gift and its embodying considerations, so glorious for me, hold in my heart.
  • Today I have touched with my hands this inestimable present. The image of the first benefactor of the continent of Columbus, presented by the hero citizen, General Lafayette, and offered by the noble scion of that immortal family, was all that could reward the most enlightened merit of the first man in the universe. Shall I be worthy of so much glory? No; but I accept it with a joy and gratitude that will go down with the venerable reliques of the father of America to the most remote generations of my country.
  • Posterity will talk of Washington as the founder of a great empire, when my name shall be lost in the vortex of revolution.
  • Washington absorbed, and later came to personify what you might call the dignity code. The code was based on the same premise as the nation’s Constitution — that human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.
    The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm.

  • George Washington once wrote that leading by conviction gave him “a consolation within that no earthly efforts can deprive me of.” He continued: “The arrows of malevolence, however barbed and well pointed, never can reach the most vulnerable part of me.” I read those words in Presidential Courage, written by historian Michael Beschloss in 2007. As I told Laura, if they’re still assessing George Washington’s legacy more than two centuries after he left office, this George W. doesn’t have to worry about today’s headlines.
    • George W. Bush, Decision Points (2010), p. 122
  • Where may the wearied eye repose,
    When gazing on the Great;
    Where neither guilty glory glows,
    Nor despicable state?Yes — one — the first — the last — the best—
    The Cincinnatus of the West.
    Whom envy dared not hate,
    Bequeath’d the name of Washington,
    To make man blush there was but one!

    • Lord Byron, in “Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte” (10 April 1814)
  • A degree of silence envelops Washington’s actions; he moved slowly; one might say that he felt charged with future liberty, and that he feared to compromise it. It was not his own destiny that inspired this new species of hero: it was that of his country; he did not allow himself to enjoy what did not belong to him; but from that profound humility what glory emerged! Search the woods where Washington’s sword gleamed: what do you find? Tombs? No; a world! Washington has left the United States behind for a monument on the field of battle. … Washington’s Republic lives on; Bonaparte‘s empire is destroyed. Washington and Bonaparte emerged from the womb of democracy: both of them born to liberty, the former remained faithful to her, the latter betrayed her.
    Washington acted as the representative of the needs, the ideas, the enlightened men, the opinions of his age; he supported, not thwarted, the stirrings of intellect; he desired only what he had to desire, the very thing to which he had been called: from which derives the coherence and longevity of his work. That man who struck few blows because he kept things in proportion has merged his existence with that of his country: his glory is the heritage of civilisation; his fame has risen like one of those public sanctuaries where a fecund and inexhaustible spring flows.

  • Lafayette valued reputation and glory, but cared little for the power that generally results from them. Having one day been asked who was in his opinion the greatest man of this age: “In my idea,” replied he, “General Washingtonis the greatest man, for I look upon him as the most virtuous.
  • If I want to say he didn’t that’s my right, and now, thanks to Wikipedia — it’s also a fact.
  • Muslims served in the U.S. military under the command of General George Washington, who was Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American War for Independence. Rosters of soldiers serving in Washington’s Army lists names like Bampett Muhammad, who fought for the Virginia Line between the years 1775 and 1783. Another one of Washington’s soldiers, Yusuf Ben Ali, was a North African Arab who worked as an aide to General Thomas Sumter of South Carolina. Peter Buckminster, who fought in Boston, is perhaps Washington’s most distinguished Muslim American soldier. Buckminster fired the gun that killed British Major General John Pitcairn at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Years after this famous battle, Peter changed his last name to ‘Salaam’, the Arabic word meaning ‘peace’. Peter Salaam later reenlisted in the Continental Army to serve in the Battle of Saratoga and the Battle of Stony Point. If Washington had a problem with Muslims serving in his Army, he would not have allowed Muhammad, Ali and Salaam to represent and serve non-Muslim Americans. By giving these Muslims the honor of serving America, Washington made it clear that a person did not have to be of a certain religion or have a particular ethnic background to be an American patriot
  • The natural equal rights of men. If Washington or Jefferson or Madison should utter upon his native soil today the opinions he entertained and expressed upon this question, he would be denounced as a fanatical abolitionist. To declare the right of all men to liberty is sectional, because slavery is afraid of liberty and strikes the mouth that speaks the word. To preach slavery is not sectional — no: because freedom respects itself and believes in itself enough to give an enemy fair play. Thus Boston asked Senator Toombs to come and say what he could for slavery. I think Boston did a good thing, but I think Senator Toombs is not a wise man, for he went. He went all the way from Georgia to show Massachusetts how slavery looks, and to let it learn what it has to say. When will Georgia ask Wendell Phillips or Charles Sumner to come down and show her how liberty looks and speaks?
  • With the sure sagacity of a leader of men, Washington at once selected, for the highest and most responsible stations, the three chief Americans who represented the three forces in the nation which alone could command success in the institution of the government. Hamilton was the head, Jefferson was the heart, and John Jay was the conscience. Washington’s just and serene ascendancy was the lambent flame in which these beneficent powers were fused, and nothing less than that ascendancy could have ridden the whirlwind and directed the storm that burst around him.
    • George William Curtis, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus Skinner, p. 261.
  • And has God been pleased to diffuse some Sparks of this Martial Fire through our Country? I hope he has : And though it has been almost extinguished by so long a Peace, and a Deluge of Luxury and Pleasure, now I hope it begins to kindle : And may I not produce you my Brethren, who are engaged in this Expedition, as instances of it *? * As a remarkable Instance of this, I may point out to the Public that heroic Youth Col. Washington whom I cannot but hope Providence has hitherto preferred in so signal a Manner, for some important Service to his Country.
    • Samuel Davies, Religion and Patriotism the Constituents of a good Soldier: A Sermon Preached to Captain Overton’s Independent Company of Volunteers, raised in Hanover County, Virginia
  • Men are beginning to feel that Washington stands out, not only as the leading American, but as the leading man of the race. Of men not named in Sacred Scripture, more human beings this day know and honor the name of George Washington than that of any other of the sons of men.
    • Charles Deems, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus Skinner, p. 261
  • A man of quiet strength, he took few friends into complete confidence. His critics mistook his dignified reserve for pomposity. Life for Washington was a serious mission, a job to be tackled soberly, unremittingly. He had little time for humor. Although basically good-natured, he wrestled with his temper and sometimes lost. He was a poor speaker and could become utterly inarticulate without a prepared text. He preferred to express himself on paper. Still, when he did speak, he was candid, direct, and looked people squarely in the eye. Biographer Douglas Southall Freeman conceded that Washington’s “ambition for wealth made him acquisitive and sometimes contentious.” Even after Washington established himself, Freeman pointed out, “he would insist upon the exact payment of every farthing due him” and was determined “to get everything that he honestly could.” Yet neither his ambition to succeed nor his acquisitive nature ever threatened his basic integrity.
    • William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (1984), p. 1-2

He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man. ~ Thomas Jefferson

  • George Washington is one of the beacons placed at intervals along the highroad of history. For his country he serves as a guide in time of stress and a refuge in tranquil moments; a never-failing example of true goodness; a warning to turbulent youth and a mute accusation of selfish interests.
    • Orestes Ferrara, as quoted in Bulletin of the Pan American Union, Vol. 66 (1932), p. 471
  • In all history few men who possessed unassailable power have used that power so gently and self-effacingly for what their best instincts told them was the welfare of their neighbors and all mankind.
  • Washington had always taught himself from experience. He learned the lessons of the American war all the more readily because he had no conventional lessons to unlearn. … Long before the end of the war, Washington had become much more effective than any of his military opponents. But this did not mean that what he had taught himself would have made him a great general on the battlefields of Europe. Evolved not from theory but from dealing with specific problems, his preeminence was achieved through a Darwinian adaptation to environment. It was the triumph of a man who knows how to learn, not in the narrow sense of studying other people’s conceptions, but in the transcendent sense of making a synthesis from the totality of experience.
    Among the legacies of the Revolution to the new nation, the most widely recognized and admired was a man: George Washington. He had no rivals.

    • James Thomas Flexner in Washington : The Indispensable Man (1984), Chapter 23 : Goodbye to War, p. 183
  • Washington’s appointments, when President, were made with a view to destroy party and not to create it, his object being to gather all the talent of the country in support of the national government; and he bore many things which were personally disagreeable in an endeavor to do this.
    • Paul Leicester Ford, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 261
  • I frequently hear the old Generals of this martial country (who study the maps of America, and mark upon them all your operations) speak with sincere approbation and great applause of your conduct; and join in giving you the character of one of the greatest captains of the age.
    I must soon quit the scene, but you may live to see our country flourish; as it will, amazingly and rapidly, after the war is over.

    • Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to George Washington (5 March 1780), published in The Edinburgh Review Vol. 28 (1817), p. 284
  • From the moment when he took command of the army, Washington was, indeed, “first in the hearts of his countrymen.” And the student of our history cannot help remarking how providential it was that, at the outset of this struggle, Washington should come to the front. Eighty-Six years later, at the beginning of the rebellion, there was no accepted chief. Lincoln was doubted by the North and, and the army had no true leader. By a slow process Lincoln’s commanding strength became known; by an equally tedious sifting of the generals the qualities of Grant, Sherman, Thomas and Meade were discovered. Only the tremendous resources of the North could have withstood the strain of such a delay. Had the same process been necessary at the outset of the Revolution, the colonies could have scarcely maintained the struggle. Had not Washington been at hand, accepted by the Congress and admired by the army, the virtual leader of both, the chances of success would have been slight. But he was Lincoln and Grant in one. Time and time again, through the long years, it was Washington alone who brought victory from defeat. Without him, the colonies might have won their independence as the result of an almost interminable guerilla warfare; but with him the fight was definite, glorious, and-for the infant republic, mercifully short.
    • Allen French on the importance of Washington, in The Siege of Boston(1911)
  • I often say of George Washington that he was one of the few in the whole history of the world who was not carried away by power.
    • Robert Frost, as quoted in Patriarch: George Washington and the new American Nation (1993) by Richard Norton Smith
  • Eternity alone can reveal to the human race its debt of gratitude to the peerless and immortal name of Washington.
    • James A. Garfield, as quoted in The Life and Public Services of James A. Garfield (1881) by Emma Elizabeth Brown, p. 452
  • Washington is beyond question one of the greatest men in history, one of the noblest men who ever lived. He is a towering figure in the establishment of the United States and he did more than any other man to create and preserve the Republic. Here was a man whose very strength resided in his austere sobriety, who in his own person demonstrated this soundness of America. He was a good man, not a demigod; he was an honest administrator, not a brilliant statesman; he was a military man, but never a militarist. He was touchingly proud of America, proud that it was his country that was given the historic chance of becoming a model of religious as well as political freedom. In a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, whose service he once attended, he stressed that in America freedom of religious worship was one of the “inherent natural rights,” where government “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” Washington was an exceptional man; with reason he became so merged with America that his is the most prominent name in the land.
  • His excellency General Washington has arrived amoungst us, universally admired. Joy was visable on every countenance.
    • General Nathanael Greene on the arrival of George Washington in Boston, 1775-1776, McCullough pg 20
  • No nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a nation’s life.Washington was grave and courteous in address; his manners were simple and unpretending; his silence and the serene calmness of his temper spoke of a perfect self-mastery; but little there was in his outer bearing to reveal the grandeur of soul which lifts his figure with all the simple majesty of an ancient statue, out of the smaller passions, the meaner impulses of the world around him.
    It was only as the weary fight went on that the colonists learned, little by little, the greatness of their leader — his clear judgment, his calmness in the hour of danger or defeat; the patience with which he waited, the quickness and hardness with which he struck, the lofty and serene sense of duty that never swerved from its task through resentment or jealousy, that never, through war or peace, felt the touch of a meaner ambition; that knew no aim save that of guarding the freedom of his fellow-countrymen; and no personal longing save that of returning to his own fireside when their freedom was secured.
    It was almost unconsciously that men learned to cling to Washington with a trust and faith such as few other men have won, and to regard him with reverence which still hushes us in presence of his memory.

  • Washington had no smashing, stunning victories. He was not a military genius, and his tactical and strategic maneuvers were not the sort that awed men. Military glory was not the source of his reputation. Something else was involved. Washington’s genius, his greatness, lay in his character. He was, as Chateubriand said, a “hero of unprecedented kind.” There had never been a great many like Washington before. Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.
    Washington fit the 18th-century image of a great man, of a man of virtue. This virtue was not given to him by nature. He had to work for it, to cultivate it, and everyone sensed that. Washington was a self-made hero, and this impressed an 18th-century enlightened world that put great stock in men controlling both their passions and their destinies. Washington seemed to possess a self-cultivated nobility.

  • To him the title of Excellency is applied with peculiar propriety. He is the best: and the greatest man the world ever knew. In private life, he wins the hearts and wears the love of all who are so happy as to fall within the circle of his acquaintance. In his public character, he commands universal respect and admiration. Conscious that the principles on which he acts are indeed founded in virtue and truth, he steadily pursues the arduous work with a mind neither depressed by disappointment and difficulties, nor elated with temporary success. He retreats like a General and attacks like a Hero. If there are spots in his character, they are like the spots in the Sun; only discernable by the magnifying powers of a telescope. Had he lived in the days of idolatry he had been worshipped as a God. One age cannot do justice to his merit; but the united voices of a grateful posterity shall pay a chearful tribute of undissembled praise to the great assertor of their country’s freedom.
    • Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, in “A Political Catechism” (1777).
    • Variant: Had Washington been born in the days of idolatry, he would be worshiped as a god. If there are spots on his characters, they are like spots on the sun, only discernible by the magnifying powers of a telescope.
  • 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 Gouvemeur 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.

Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States. Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him. ~ Lajos Kossuth

  • His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though, not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.
  • On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent; and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance. … These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of God, having been formed on an acquaintance of thirty years…
  • The President was much inflamed; got into one of those passions when he cannot command himself; ran on much on the personal abuse which had been bestowed on him; defied any man on earth to produce one single act of his since he had been in the Government, which was not done on the purest motives; that he had never repented but once the having slipped the moment of resigning his office, and that was every moment since; that by God he had rather be in his grave than in his present situation; that he had rather be on his farm than to be made Emperor of the world; and yet that they were charging him with wanting to be a King. That that rascal Freneau sent him three of his papers every day, as if he thought he would become the distributor of his papers; that he could see in this, nothing but an impudent design to insult him: he ended in this high tone.
    • Thomas Jefferson, writing in his diary (known as “The Anas“) dated August 2, 1793, relating the reaction of George Washington to a print that depicted him placed on a guillotine. Various writers have turned this account into direct discourse, quoting Washington as saying “I had rather be in my grave than in my present situation, I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world; and yet they charge me with wanting to be a king” (as in The Alumni Register of the University of Pennsylvania (1925), p. 473). This version goes back at least to a 1906 commencement oration by John Bach McMaster (Publications of the University of Pennsylvania, Proceedings of Commencement, June 13, 1906, p. 29)
  • He was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern. Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed. His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man. His temper was naturally high toned; but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendancy over it. If ever, however, it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath. In his expenses he was honorable, but exact; liberal in contributions to whatever promised utility; but frowning and unyielding on all visionary projects and all unworthy calls on his charity. His heart was not warm in its affections; but he exactly calculated every man’s value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned to it. His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble; the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback.

First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. ~ Henry Lee

  • Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States. Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him.
  • Unsupported for the most part by the population among whom he was quartered, and incessantly thwarted by the jealousy of Congress, he kept his army together by a combination of skill, firmness, patience, and judgment which has rarely been surpassed, and he led it at last to a signal triumph.
    In civil as in military life, he was pre-eminent among his contemporaries for the clearness and soundness of his judgment, for his perfect moderation and self-control, for the quiet dignity and the indomitable firmness with which he pursued every path which he had deliberately chosen. Of all the great men in history he was the most invariably judicious, and there is scarcely a rash word or action or judgment recorded of him. Those who knew him well, noticed that he had keen sensibilities and strong passions; but his power of self-command never failed him, and no act of his public life can be traced to personal caprice, ambition, or resentment. In the despondency of long-continued failure, in the elation of sudden success, at times when his soldiers were deserting by hundreds and when malignant plots were formed against his reputation, amid the constant quarrels, rivalries, and jealousies of his subordinates, in the dark hour of national ingratitude, and in the midst of the most universal and intoxicating flattery, he was always the same calm, wise, just, and single-minded man, pursuing the course which he believed to be right, without fear or favour or fanaticism; equally free from the passions that spring from interest, and from the passions that spring from imagination. He never acted on the impulse of an absorbing or uncalculating enthusiasm, and he valued very highly fortune, position, and reputation; but at the command of duty he was ready to risk and sacrifice them all. He was in the highest sense of the words a gentleman and a man of honour, and he carried into public life the severest standard of private morals. It was at first the constant dread of large sections of the American people, that if the old Government were overthrown, they would fall into the hands of military adventurers, and undergo the yoke of military despotism. It was mainly the transparent integrity of the character of Washington that dispelled the fear. It was always known by his friends, and it was soon acknowledged by the whole nation and by the English themselves, that in Washington America had found a leader who could be induced earthly motive to tell a falsehood, or to break an engagement, or to commit any dishonourable act.

  • First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.
    • Henry Lee, from his eulogy for Washington, presented to Congress on 26 December 1799

To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Washington’s genius lay in his understanding of power, both military power, and political power, an understanding unmatched by that of any of his contemporaries. ~ Edmund Sears Morgan

  • This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birthday of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington’s is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name no eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on.
    • Abraham Lincoln, closing words of an address before the Washingtonian Temperance Society, Springfield, Illinois (22 February 1842)Published in the Sangamon Journal at Springfield, Illinois (Feb. 25, 1842). The entire speech was published in a letter edition of the Sangamon Journal(March 26, 1842). Copies on file in the Congressional Library.
  • Could Washington himself speak, would he cast the blame of that sectionalism upon us, who sustain his policy, or upon you who repudiate it? We respect that warning of Washington.
  • Without the great moral qualities that Washington possessed his career would not have been possible; but it would have been quite as impossible if the intellect had not equalled the character.
    There is no need to argue the truism that Washington was a great man, for that is universally admitted. But it is very needful that his genius should be rightly understood, and the right understanding of it is by no means universal.
    His character has been exalted at the expense of his intellect, and his goodness has been so much insisted upon both by admirers and critics that we are in danger of forgetting that he had a great mind as well as high moral worth.

    • Henry Cabot Lodge, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 260
  • Contrary to the frequent presentations by modern liberals, the ‘three-fifths clause’ of the Constitution was the anti-slavery movement’s response to slave owners who wanted their slaves as property, except when it came to counting population for representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. In which case the slave owners wanted them counted as people. Thus the move to block slave owners’ power by reducing a slave to “three-fifths” of a person, with the objective of eventually phasing out slavery altogether. Alas, the birth of political factions, parties, took place rapidly, to the chagrin of President George Washington. In the battles between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton the Democratic-Republican Party, the ancestor of today’s Democrats was born. And the pro-slavery, judge-people-by-skin-color faction became the central, and as it played out, perpetual, driving force of the Democratic Party.
  • You have in American history one of the great captains of all times.It might be said of him, as it was of William the Silent, that he seldom won a battle but he never lost a campaign.
    • Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, in a statement in Berlin (1874), as quoted in Family Relationships of George Washington (1931) by the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission
  • Be assured his influence carried this government; for my own part I have a boundless confidence in him, nor have I any reason to believe he will ever furnish occasion for withdrawing it.
  • Washington’s genius lay in his understanding of power, both military power, and political power, an understanding unmatched by that of any of his contemporaries.
    • Edmund Sears Morgan, in The Genius of George Washington (1982) Ch. 1 : A Sense of Power, p. 6
  • And as to you, Sir, treacherous in private friendship (for so you have been to me, and that in the day of danger) and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.
    • Thomas Paine, letter to George Washington (July 30, 1796); Moncure D. Conway, ed., The Writings of Thomas Paine, vol. 3 (1895), p. 252
  • His was the belief of reason and revelation; and that belief was illustrated and exemplified in all his actions. No parade accompanied its exercise, no declamation its exhibition; for it was his opinion that a man who is always boasting of his religion, is like one who continually proclaims his honesty—he would trust neither one nor the other. He was not accustomed to argue points of faith, but on one occasion, in reply to a gentleman who expressed doubts on the subject, thus gave his sentiments:—
“It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being.
“It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being.
“It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. Religion is as necessary to reason, as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme Being to refer to; and well has it been said, that if there had been no God, mankind would have been obliged to imagine one.”
On this basis of piety was erected the superstructure of his virtues.

  • James Kirke Paulding, A Life of Washington (New-York, Harper and Brothers, 1835), vol. 2, p. 209-210; Paulding gives no authority for this anecdote
  • “One afternoon several young gentlemen, visitors at Mount Vernon, and myself were engaged in pitching the bar, one of the athletic sports common in those days, when suddenly the colonel appeared among us. He requested to be shown the pegs that marked the bounds of our efforts; then, smiling, and without putting off his coat, held out his hand for the missile. No sooner,”observed the narrator, with emphasis, “did the heavy iron bar feel the grasp of his mighty hand than it lost the power of gravitation, and whizzed through the air, striking the ground far, very far, beyond our utmost limits. We were indeed amazed, as we stood around, all stripped to the buff, with shirt sleeves rolled up, and having thought ourselves very clever fellows, while the colonel, on retiring, pleasantly observed, ‘When you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, I’ll try again.’
    • Charles Willson Peale, recounting an incident of 1772, as quoted in Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington (1861), edited by Benson J. Lossing
  • I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him “father.”
    • Will Rogers, as quoted in Will Rogers’ World : America’s Foremost Political Humorist Comments on the Twenties and Thirties — And Eighties and Nineties (1993) by Bryan B. Sterling and Frances N. Sterling

The name of an iron man goes round the world.
It takes a long time to forget an iron man. ~ Carl Sandburg

  • The name of an iron man goes round the world.
    It takes a long time to forget an iron man.

    • Carl Sandburg in “Washington Monument by Night” in Slabs of the Sunburnt West(1922)
  • In his famous Farewell Address of September 17, 1796, Washington said he would not serve as President for more than two terms and advised against entangling alliances with foreign countries. He had served his country so well that he could, with safety, turn over the burdens of office to the next President, John Adams. Washington wanted to spend his last years at home in the peace and quiet of private life. There was little privacy for him, however, when he did return to Mount Vernon. People from all over the United States and from foreign countries journeyed to Washington’s home to pay him respect. His house was often crowded with guests. The three and a half years that he lived after he left the Presidency were busy and happy ones. On December 14, 1799, he died at Mount Vernon, and there he was buried.
    • Francis Butler Simkins, Spotswood Hunnicutt, Sidman P. Poole, Virginia: History, Government, Geography (1957), p. 293
  • Each year, on February 22, the nation honors the birthday of a great man- George Washington. Many persons admire him for different reasons: for his leadership in a war that brought us independence, for his part in making the Constitution, for his policies as President. Everyone admires Washington for his honesty, his courage, his patience, his good judgment, his firmness, and his greatness of heart. The Commonwealth of Virginia has paid tribute to her great son. While Washington was still alive, the French sculptor Houdon made the famous statue of him which stands in the Rotunda of the Capitol at Richmond. On the Capitol grounds there is a huge figure of Washington on horseback, surrounded by other heroes of the American Revolution. And, of course, the capital of our great country, which he helped found, is on the Potomac River near his home, and is named in his honor. On Washington’s death, Henry Lee, in a speech before Congress, uttered these famous words: George Washington was “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
    • Francis Butler Simkins, Spotswood Hunnicutt, Sidman P. Poole, Virginia: History, Government, Geography (1957), p. 293-294
  • The purest of statesman, and the most perfect of patriots. May it please Heaven that his example shall continue to serve as a beacon to our Republics in their darkest moments of doubt and adversity.
    • Jorge Ubico, as quoted in Bulletin of the Pan American Union, Vol. 66 (1932), p. 464
  • George Washington was a famous general who never won a battle. He was our first millionaire, and he believed in property and the dignity of those who held it, and they put together a constitution which would protect property for all time. No nonsense about democracy!
    • Gore Vidal, “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” documentary film (2013)
  • Gentlemen, the character of Washington is among the most cherished contemplations of my life. It is a fixed star in the firmament of great names, shining without twinkling or obscuration, with clear, steady, beneficent light.
    • Daniel Webster, secretary of state, letter to the New York Committee for the Celebration of the Birthday of Washington (February 20, 1851); in The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 12 (1903), p. 261
  • There is Franklin, with his first proposal of Continental union. There is James Otis, with his great argument against Writs of Assistance, and Samuel Adams, with his inexorable demand for the removal of the British regiments from Boston. There is Quincy, and there is Warren, the protomartyr of Bunker Hill. There is Jefferson, with the Declaration of Independence fresh from his pen, and John Adams close at his side. There are Hamilton and Madison and Jaybringing forward the Constitution; but, towering above them all is Washington, the consummate commander, the incomparable President, the world-renowned patriot.
    • Robert Charles Winthrop, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 262
  • That nature has given him extraordinary military talents will hardly be controverted by his most bitter enemies; and having been early actuated with a warm passion to serve his country in the military line, he has greatly improved them by unwearied industry, and a close application to the best writers upon tactics, and by a more than common method and exactnels: and, in reality, when it comes to be considered that at first he only headed a body of men entirely unacquainted with military discipline or operations, somewhat ungovernable in temper, and who at best could only be stiled an alert and good militia, acting under very short enlistments, uncloalhed, unaccoutred, and at all times very ill supplied with ammunition and artillery; and that with such an army he withstood the ravages and progress of near forty thousand veteran troops, plentifully provided with, every necessary article, commanded by the bravest officers in Europe, and supported by a very powerful navy, which effectually prevented all movements by water; when, I say, all this comes to be impartially considered, I think I may venture to pronounce, that general Washington will be regarded by mankind as one of the greatest military ornaments of the present age, and that his name will command the veneration of the latest posterity.
    • Anonymous, Sketch of the Life and Character of General Washington(1780), republished in The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature(1780) edited by Tobias George Smollett, p. 473; and The New Annual Register, or, General Repository of History, Vol. 1 (1781), edited by Andrew Kippis, p. 33
  • There is a remarkable air of dignity about him, with a striking degree of gracefulness: he has an excellent understanding without much quickness; is strictly just, vigilant, and generous; an affectionate husband, a faithful friend, a father to the deserving soldier; gentle in his manners, in temper rather reserved; a total stranger to religious prejudices, which have so often excited Christians of one denomination to cut the throats of those of another; in his morals irreproachable; he was never known to exceed the bounds of the most rigid temperance: in a word, all his friends and acquaintance universally allow, that no man ever united in his own person a more perfect alliance of the virtues of a philosopher with the talents of a general. Candour, sincerity, affability, and simplicity, seem to be the striking features of his character, till an occasion offers of displaying the most determined bravery and independence of spirit.
    • Anonymous, Sketch of the Life and Character of General Washington(1780), republished in The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature(1780) edited by Tobias George Smollett, p. 473; and The New Annual Register, or, General Repository of History, Vol. 1 (1781), edited by Andrew Kippis, p. 33
  • George Washington is the only president who didn’t blame the previous administration for his troubles.
    • Unknown author, quoted in The Quotable Politician (2003) by William B. Whitman
  • He [ George III] asked West what would Washington do were America to be declared independant[sic]. West said He believed He would retire to a private situation — The King said if He did He would be the greatest man in the world
    • From the diaries of Joseph Farington (entry of December 28, 1799). Farington is repeating what West told him of the period shortly after the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown.[1]

Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 860-62.
  • The defender of his country—the founder of liberty,
    The friend of man,
    History and tradition are explored in vain
    For a parallel to his character.
    In the annals of modern greatness
    He stands alone;
    And the noblest names of antiquity
    Lose their lustre in his presence.
    Born the benefactor of mankind,
    He united all the greatness necessary
    To an illustrious career.
    Nature made him great,
    He made himself virtuous.

    • Part of an Epitaph found on the back of a portrait of Washington, sent to the family from England. See Werner’s Readings. No. 49, p. 77
  • Simple and brave, his faith awoke
    Ploughmen to struggle with their fate;
    Armies won battles when he spoke,
    And out of Chaos sprang the state.

  • While Washington’s a watchword, such as ne’er
    Shall sink while there’s an echo left to air.

  • There’s a star in the West that shall nerer go down
    Till the records of Valour decay,
    We must worship its light though it is not our own,
    For liberty burst in its ray.
    Shall the name of a Washington ever be heard
    By a freeman, and thrill not his breast?
    Is there one out of bondage that hails not the word,
    As a Bethlehem Star of the West?

  • The character, the counsels, and example of our Washington * * * they will guide us through the doubts and difficulties that beset us; they will guide our children and our children’s children in the paths of prosperity and peace, while America shall hold her place in the family of nations.
    • Edward Everett, speech, Washington Abroad and at Home (July 5, 1858)
  • Here you would know, and enjoy, what posterity will say of Washington. For a thousand leagues have nearly the same effect with a thousand years.
  • O Washington! thrice glorious name,
    What due rewards can man decree—
    Empires are far below thy aim,
    And scepters have no charms for thee;
    Virtue alone has your regards,
    And she must be your great reward.

  • Since ancient Time began,
    Ever on some great soul God laid an infinite burden—
    The weight of all this world, the hopes of man,
    Conflict and pain, and fame immortal are his guerdon.

    • R. W. Gilder, Washington, sSpeech at Trenton (Oct. 19, 1893)
  • Were an energetic and judicious system to be proposed with your signature it would be a circumstance highly honorable to your fame … and doubly entitle you to the glorious republican epithet,
    The Father of your Country.

    • Henry Knox, letter to Washington (March 19, 1787), urging that Washington attend the Philadelphia Convention. See Ford, Washington’s Writings, Volume XI, p. 123
  • First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.
    • Gen. Henry Lee, Funeral Oration on Washington
  • First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his fellow citizens.
    • Resolution on Washington’s Death. Prepared by General Henry Lee and offered in the House of Representatives by John Marshall
  • The purely Great
    Whose soul no siren passion could unsphere,
    Thou nameless, now a power and mixed with fate.

    • James Russell Lowell, Under the old Elm. The elm near Cambridge with the inscription “Under this tree, Washington first took command of the American Army, July 3, 1775”
  • Oh, Washington! thou hero, patriot sage,
    Friend of all climes, and pride of every age!

  • Every countenance seeked to say, “Long live George Washington, the Father of the People.”
    • Pennsylvania Packet (April 21, 1789). After the election of Washington.
  • Our common Father and Deliverer, to whose prudence, wisdom and valour we owe our Peace, Liberty and Safety, now leads and directs in the great councils of the nation … and now we celebrate an independent Government—an original Constitution! an independent Legislature, at the head of which we this day celebrate The Father of his Country—We celebrate Washington! We celebrate an Independent Empire!
    • Pennsylvania Packet (July 9, 1789), p. 284. See Albert Matthews’ article in Colonial Society of Mass. Publications. Transactions. 1902–4, Volume 8, p. 275–287 (pub. 1906). In America the term was already familiar. George II was so-called by Governor Belcher (Dec. 2, 1731). George III also, in a petition drawn up by the Massachusetts House of Representatives (June, 30, 1768). Winthrop was styled thus by Governor Hutchinson. (1764). See History of Massachusetts, I, 151
  • His work well done, the leader stepped aside
    Spurning a crown with more than kingly pride.
    Content to wear the higher crown of worth,
    While time endures, “First citizen of earth.”

  • Washington and his associates believed that it was essential to the existence of this Republic that there should never be any union of Church and State; and such union is partially accomplished wherever a given creed is aided by the State or when any public servant is elected or defeated because of his creed.
  • ‘Twas his ambition, generous and great
    A life to life’s great end to consecrate.

  • While Washington hath left
    His awful memory,
    A light for after times.

  • That name was a power to rally a nation in the hour of thick-thronging public disasters and calamities; that name shone amid the storm of war, a beacon light to cheer and guide the country’s friends; it flamed too like a meteor to repel her foes.
  • That name descending with all time, spreading over the whole earth, and uttered in all the languages belonging to all tribes and races of men, will forever be pronounced with affectionate gratitude by everyone in whose breast there shall arise an aspiration for human rights and liberty.
    • Daniel Webster, speech at the Centennial Anniversary of Washington (Feb. 22, 1832)
  • America has furnished to the world the character of Washington! And if our American institutions had done nothing else, that alone would have entitled them to the respect of mankind.
    • Daniel Webster, Completion of Bunker Hill Monument (June 17, 1843), Volume I, p. 105


  1. Farington, Joseph; James Greig (ed.) (1922). The Farington Diary, vol. i. London: Hutchinson. pp. 278.

External links


John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (29 May 1917 – 22 November 1963) was the 35th President of the United States, a brother of Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, and the first husband of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.



In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘hold office’; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.

In a world of danger and trial, peace is our deepest aspiration … But it is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.

Things don’t just happen, they are made to happen.

War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.
Undated Letter to a Navy friend; also mentioned by William Safire in his “On Language” article “Warrior” in the New York Times rubric Magazines (26 August 2007); also in A Thousand Days : John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965), by Arthur Schlesinger, p. 88
Message carved into a coconut after the wreck of PT-109 (6 August 1943). This has often been misquoted as “11 ALIVE NATIVE KNOWS POSIT & REEF NAURU ISLAND KENNEDY”
Explorer Finds Kennedy’s WWII Boat
After visiting these places, you can easily understand how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way that he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.
After visiting such Nazi strongholds as were found in Berchtesgaden and Kehlsteinhaus; Personal diary (1 August 1945); published in Prelude to Leadership (1995)
If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.
Remarks at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (14 June 1956); Box 895, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past — let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
Remarks at “Loyola College Alumni Banquet, Baltimore, Maryland (18 February 1958); Box 899, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.
Speech in Indianapolis, Indiana (12 April 1959); see also Wikipedia:Chinese word for “crisis”
Variant: In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.
Remarks at the United Negro College Fund, Indianapolis, Indiana (12 April 1959); Box 902, Senate Speech Files, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; also in Remarks at Valley Forge Country Club, Pennsylvania (29 October 1960), Box 914, Senate Speech Files, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Profiles in Courage (1956)

The voters selected us, in short, because they had confidence in our judgement and our ability to exercise that judgement from a position where we could determine what were their own best interest, as a part of the nation’s interest.
p. 15
Only the very courageous will be able to keep alive the spirit of individualism and dissent which gave birth to this nation, nourished it as an infant, and carried it through its severest tests upon the attainment of its maturity.
Profiles in Courage (1956), p. 17
The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people — faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but will also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment — faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor, and ultimately recognize right.
1964 Memorial Edition, p. 264
For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘hold office’; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.
1964 Memorial Edition, p. 265
For without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men — such as the subjects of this book — have lived. The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality. In whatever area in life one may meet the challenges of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
1964 Memorial Edition, p. 266

Dick Nixon is the victim of the worst press that ever hit a politician in this country. What they did to him in the Helen Gahagan Douglas race was disgusting.
As quoted in Kennedy and Nixon (1996) by Christopher Matthews, p.123
We celebrate the past to awaken the future.
“Remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Signing of the Social Security Act,” Hyde Park, New York (14 August 1960); Box 910, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
President Roosevelt and President Truman and President Eisenhower had the same experience, they all made the effort to get along with the Russians. But every time, finally it failed. And the reason it failed was because the Communists are determined to destroy us, and regardless of what hand of friendship we may hold out or what arguments we may put up, the only thing that will make that decisive difference is the strength of the United States.
Speech at Democratic Rally, George Washington High School Stadium, Alexandria, Virginia (24 August 1960)
Now let me make it clear that I believe there can only be one defense policy for the United States and that is summed up in the word ‘first.’ I do not mean ‘first, but’. I do not mean ‘first, when’. I do not mean ‘first, if’. I mean ‘first — period’.
Speech at VFW Convention, Detroit, Michigan,” (26 August 1960); Box 910, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
In a world of danger and trial, peace is our deepest aspiration, and when peace comes we will gladly convert not our swords into plowshares, but our bombs into peaceful reactors, and our planes into space vessels. “Pursue peace,” the Bible tells us, and we shall pursue it with every effort and every energy that we possess. But it is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.
Speech at Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington (6 September 1960)
That requires only one kind of defense policy, a policy summed up in a single word “first.” I do not mean “first, if,” I do not mean “first, but,” I do not mean “first, when,” but I mean “First, period.”
Speech at Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington (6 September 1960)
My call is not to those who believe they belong to the past. My call is to those who believe in the future.
Speech at Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington (6 September 1960)
We are a great and strong country — perhaps the greatest and strongest in the history of the world. But greatness and strength are not our natural right. They are not gifts which are automatically ours forever. It took toil and courage and determination to build this country — and it will take those same qualities if we are to maintain it. For, although a country may stand still, history never stands still. Thus, if we do not soon begin to move forward again, we will inevitably be left behind. And I know that Americans today are tired of standing still — and that we do not intend to be left behind. But effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. For, as Socrates told us, “If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
Speech at the Coliseum, Raleigh, North Carolina” (17 September 1960)
There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was also the age of Shakespeare. And the New Frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a New Frontier for American art.
[ Response to letter sent by Miss Theodate Johnson, Publisher of Musical America to the two presidential candidates requesting their views on music in relation to the Federal Government and domestic world affairs (13 September 1960); published in Musical America (October 1960), p. 11; later inscribed on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party nomination (14 September 1960) · TurnLeft: What is a Liberal?
Their platform, made up of left-over Democratic planks, has the courage of our old convictions. Their pledge is a pledge to the status quo — and today there can be no status quo.
Address Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States — Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles (15 July 1960)
If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all — except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.
Saturday Review (29 October 1960), p. 44
There are indications because of new inventions, that 10, 15, or 20 nations will have a nuclear capacity, including Red China, by the end of the Presidential office in 1964. This is extremely serious. . . I think the fate not only of our own civilization, but I think the fate of world and the future of the human race, is involved in preventing a nuclear war.
Third Nixon-Kennedy Presidential Debate (13 October 1960)
We have all seen these circus elephants complete with tusks, ivory in their head and thick skins, who move around the circus ring and grab the tail of the elephant ahead of them.”
Comments on members of the Republican party, in Remarks at the Cow Palace, San Francisco, California (2 November 1960); Box 914, Senate Speech Files, John F. Kennedy Papers, Pre-Presidential Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
I can assure you that every degree of mind and spirit that I possess will be devoted to the long-range interests of the United States and to the cause of freedom around the world.
Acceptance speech (9 November 1960)
The New Frontier

John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech to the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (15 July 1960) · The term “New Frontier” was first used in this speech.

Are we up to the task — are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future — or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present? That is the question of the New Frontier.
But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high — to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future. Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do. […] It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership — new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities.
Today some would say that those struggles are all over — that all the horizons have been explored — that all the battles have been won — that there is no longer an American frontier. But I trust that no one in this vast assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won — and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of the 1960’s — a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils — a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.
Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal promised security and succor to those in need. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises — it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook — it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.
But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric — and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party. But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age — to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.” For courage — not complacency — is our need today — leadership — not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously.
There may be those who wish to hear more — more promises to this group or that — more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin — more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high. But my promises are in the platform you have adopted — our ends will not be won by rhetoric and we can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves.
For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning-point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation — or any nation so conceived — can long endure — whether our society — with its freedom of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives — can compete with the single-minded advance of the Communist system.
Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction — but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men’s minds?
Are we up to the task — are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future — or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present?
That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make — a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort — between national greatness and national decline — between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy” — between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity. All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.
It has been a long road from that first snowy day in New Hampshire to this crowded convention city. Now begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes all over America. Give me your help, your hand, your voice, your vote. Recall with me the words of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary.” As we face the coming challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that he renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. And then we shall prevail.
Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association

Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion (12 September 1960); at the time, many Protestants questioned whether Kennedy’s Roman Catholic faith would allow him to make important national decisions as president independent of the church. He addressed those concerns before a skeptical audience of Protestant clergy. · Full text online avaiable at Wikisource and NPR.

War and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida — the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power — the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms — an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute — where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote — where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference — and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source — where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew — or a Quaker — or a Unitarian — or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end — where all men and all churches are treated as equal — where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice — where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind — and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so — and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.
I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none — who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him — and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.
But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics.
But let me stress again that these are my views — for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.
If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.
Address at Convention Hall, Philadelphia

Speech at Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (31 October 1960)
I believe in an America where the free enterprise system flourishes for all other systems to see and admire — where no businessman lacks either competition or credit — and where no monopoly, no racketeer, no government bureaucracy can put him out of business that he built up with his own initiative.
I believe in an America where the rights that I have described are enjoyed by all, regardless of their race or their creed or their national origin — where every citizen is free to think and speak as he pleases and write and worship as he pleases — and where every citizen is free to vote as he pleases, without instructions from anyone, his employer, the union leader or his clergyman.
Finally, I believe in an America with a government of men devoted solely to the public interests — men of ability and dedication, free from conflict or corruption or other commitment — a responsible government that is efficient and economical, with a balanced budget over the years of the cycle, reducing its debt in prosperous times — a government willing to entrust the people with the facts that they have — not a businessman’s government, with business in the saddle, as the late Secretary McKay described this administration of which he was a member — not a labor government, not a farmer’s government, not a government of one section of the country or another, but a government of, for and by the people.
In short, I believe in an America that is on the march — an America respected by all nations, friends and foes alike — an America that is moving, doing, working, trying — a strong America in a world of peace. That peace must be based on world law and world order, on the mutual respect of all nations for the rights and powers of others and on a world economy in which no nation lacks the ability to provide a decent standard of living for all of its people. But we cannot have such a world, and we cannot have such a peace, unless the United States has the vitality and the inspiration and the strength. If we continue to stand still, if we continue to lie at anchor, if we continue to sit on dead center, if we content ourselves with the easy life and the rosy assurances, then the gates will soon be open to a lean and hungry enemy.
Sport at the New Frontier: The Soft American

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.

The stamina and strength which the defense of liberty requires are not the product of a few weeks’ basic training or a month’s conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity.
John F. Kennedy, “Sport at the New Frontier: The Soft American” in Sports Illustrated Vol. 13, Issue 26 (26 December 1960), p. 14-17
This knowledge, the knowledge that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation, is as old as Western civilization itself.
But the harsh fact of the matter is that there is also an increasingly large number of young Americans who are neglecting their bodies — whose physical fitness is not what it should be — who are getting soft. And such softness on the part of individual citizens can help to strip and destroy the vitality of a nation. For the physical vigor of our citizens is one of America’s most precious resources. If we waste and neglect this resource, if we allow it to dwindle and grow soft then we will destroy much of our ability to meet the great and vital challenges which confront our people. We will be unable to realize our full potential as a nation.
Throughout our history we have been challenged to armed conflict by nations which sought to destroy our independence or threatened our freedom. The young men of America have risen to those occasions, giving themselves freely to the rigors and hardships of warfare. But the stamina and strength which the defense of liberty requires are not the product of a few weeks’ basic training or a month’s conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity. Our struggles against aggressors throughout our history have been won on the playgrounds and corner lots and fields of America. Thus, in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.
But physical fitness is as vital to the activities of peace as to those of war, especially when our success in those activities may well determine the future of freedom in the years to come. We face in the Soviet Union a powerful and implacable adversary determined to show the world that only the Communist system possesses the vigor and determination necessary to satisfy awakening aspirations for progress and the elimination of poverty and want. To meet the challenge of this enemy will require determination and will and effort on the part of all Americans. Only if our citizens are physically fit will they be fully capable of such an effort.
For physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. The relationship between the soundness of the body and the activities of the mind is subtle and complex. Much is not yet understood. But we do know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound bodies.
In this sense, physical fitness is the basis of all the activities of our society. And if our bodies grow soft and inactive, if we fail to encourage physical development and prowess, we will undermine our capacity for thought, for work and for the use of those skills vital to an expanding and complex America. Thus the physical fitness of our citizens is a vital prerequisite to America’s realization of its full potential as a nation, and to the opportunity of each individual citizen to make full and fruitful use of his capacities.
It is ironic that at a time when the magnitude of our dangers makes the physical fitness of our citizens a matter of increasing importance, it takes greater effort and determination than ever before to build the strength of our bodies. The age of leisure and abundance can destroy vigor and muscle tone as effortlessly as it can gain time. Today human activity, the labor of the human body, is rapidly being engineered out of working life.

Our Constitution wisely assigns both joint and separate roles to each branch of the government; and a President and a Congress who hold each other in mutual respect will neither permit nor attempt any trespass.
First State of the Union Address (30 January 1961)
Where nature makes natural allies of us all, we can demonstrate that beneficial relations are possible even with those with whom we most deeply disagree-and this must someday be the basis of world peace and world law.
First State of the Union Address (30 January 1961)
The deadly arms race, and the huge resources it absorbs, have too long overshadowed all else we must do. We must prevent that arms race from spreading to new nations, to new nuclear powers and to the reaches of outer space.
First State of the Union Address (30 January 1961)
I have pledged myself and my colleagues in the cabinet to a continuous encouragement of initiative, responsibility and energy in serving the public interest. Let every public servant know, whether his post is high or low, that a man’s rank and reputation in this Administration will be determined by the size of the job he does, and not by the size of his staff, his office or his budget. Let it be clear that this Administration recognizes the value of dissent and daring — that we greet healthy controversy as the hallmark of healthy change. Let the public service be a proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: “I served the United States government in that hour of our nation’s need.”
For only with complete dedication by us all to the national interest can we bring our country through the troubled years that lie ahead. Our problems are critical. The tide is unfavorable. The news will be worse before it is better. And while hoping and working for the best, we should prepare ourselves now for the worst.
First State of the Union Address (30 January 1961)
The Federal Budget can and should be made an instrument of prosperity and stability, not a deterrent to recovery.
“Special message to Congress: Program for Economic Recovery and Growth (17)”, (2 February 1961)
For I can assure you that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great — not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud — but for what it someday can, and, through the efforts of us all, someday will be.
“Address at a Luncheon Meeting of the National Industrial Conference Board (33)”, (13 February 1961)
Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. Our requirements for world leadership, our hopes for economic growth, and the demands of citizenship itself in an era such as this all require the maximum development of every young American’s capacity. The human mind is our fundamental resource.
Special Message to the Congress on Education (20 February 1961)
It cannot be surprising that, as resistance within Cuba grows, refugees have been using whatever means are available to return and support their countrymen in the continuing struggle for freedom. Where people are denied the right of choice, recourse to such struggle is the only means of achieving their liberties.
Message to Chairman Khrushchev Concerning the Meaning of Events in Cuba (18 April 1961)
The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free.
Message to Chairman Khrushchev Concerning the Meaning of Events in Cuba (18 April 1961).
There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan…. I’m the responsible officer of the Government.
State Department press conference (21 April 1961), following the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as quoted in A Thousand Days : John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965, 2002 edition), by Arthur Schlesinger, p. 262; also in The Quote Verifier (2006) by Ralph Keyes, p. 234). The exact wording used by Kennedy (a hundred, not a thousand) had appeared in the 1951 film The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel, as reported in Safire’s New Political Dictionary (1993) by William Safire, pp 841–842). The earliest known occurrence is Galeazzo Ciano, Diary 1937-1943, entry for 9 September 1942 (“La victoria trova cento padri, e nessuno vuole riconoscere l’insuccesso.”), but the earliest known occurrence on such a theme is in Tacitus’s : Agricola Book 1 ab paragraph 27: “Iniquissima haec bellorum condicio est: prospera omnes sibi vindicant, adversa uni imputantur.” (It is the singularly unfair peculiarity of war that the credit of success is claimed by all, while a disaster is attributed to one alone.)
If all of you had voted the other way — there’s about 5500 of you here tonight — I would not be the President of the United States.
“Address in Chicago at a dinner of the Democratic Party of Cook County (155),” (28 April 1961)
Commander Shepard has pointed out from the time that this flight began and from the time this flight was a success, that this was a common effort in which a good many men were involved. I think it does credit to him that he is associated with such a distinguished group of Americans whom we are all glad to honor today, his companions in the flight into outer space, so I think we want to give them all a hand. … I also want to take cognizance of the fact that this flight was made out in the open with all the possibilities of failure, which would have been damaging to our country’s prestige. Because great risks were taken in that regard, it seems to me that we have some right to claim that this open society of ours which risked much, gained much. … This is a civilian award for a great civilian accomplishment, and therefore I want to again express my congratulations to Alan Shepard. We are very proud of him, and I speak on behalf of the Vice President, who is Chairman of our Space Council and who bears great responsibilities in this field, and the Members of the House and Senate Space Committee who are with us today. [accidentally drops the medallion, and picks it up] This decoration which has gone from the ground up — here.
Remarks at the presentation of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal to Astronaut Alan B. Shepard (8 May 1961) — Video of presentation at YouTube
Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.
Address to the Canadian Parliament (17 May 1961)
There is danger that totalitarian governments, not subject to vigorous popular debate, will underestimate the will and unity of democratic societies where vital interests are concerned.
President Kennedy’s 13th News Conferences on June 28, 1961 John Source: F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
And lastly, Chairman Khrushchev has compared the United States to a worn-out runner living on its past performance, and stated that the Soviet Union would out-produce the United States by 1970. Without wishing to trade hyperbole with the Chairman, I do suggest that he reminds me of the tiger hunter who has picked a place on the wall to hang the tiger’s skin long before he his caught the tiger. This tiger has other ideas.
President Kennedy’s 13th News Conferences on June 28, 1961 John Source: F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
The education of our people should be a lifelong process by which we continue to feed new vigor into the lifestream of the Nation through intelligent, reasoned decisions. Let us not think of education only in terms of its costs, but rather in terms of the infinite potential of the human mind that can be realized through education. Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our Nation.
“Proclamation 3422 — American Education Week, 1961” (25 July 1961)
Freedom is not merely a word or an abstract theory, but the most effective instrument for advancing the welfare of man.
Message to the Inter-American Economic and Social Conference at Punta del Este, Uruguay (5 August 1961)
Somebody once said that Washington was a city of Northern charm and Southern efficiency.
Speech to the Trustees and Advisory Committee of the National Cultural Center in the White House Movie Theater, 14 November 1961
We have become more and more not a nation of athletes but a nation of spectators.
“Remarks at National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Banquet (496),” December 5 1961. Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.
“Address in New York City to the National Association of Manufacturers (496),” December 5, 1961, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961.
I wonder how it is with you, Harold? If I don’t have a woman for three days, I get terrible headaches.
Conversation with Harold Macmillan, in Bermuda (1961) as recounted by Richard Reeves in his book President Kennedy: Profile of Power (1994)
The City upon a Hill speech

Speech to Massachusetts State Legislature (9 January 1961) in The State House, Boston; Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169. In this speech, given eleven days prior to his inauguration, the President-elect quotes John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” sermon and highlights four qualities that he hopes to bring to his presidency: courage, judgment, integrity and dedication.

When at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us — recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state — our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions: …
During the last sixty days, I have been at the task of constructing an administration. It has been a long and deliberate process. Some have counseled greater speed. Others have counseled more expedient tests. But I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. “We must always consider,” he said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill — the eyes of all people are upon us.” Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us — and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill — constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arbella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors — and a government cannot be selected — merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.
For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us — recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state — our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:
First, were we truly men of courage — with the courage to stand up to one’s enemies — and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one’s associates — the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?
Secondly, were we truly men of judgment — with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past — of our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others — with enough wisdom to know what we did not know and enough candor to admit it?
Third, were we truly men of integrity — men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the men who believed in us — men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?
Finally, were we truly men of dedication — with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and comprised of no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?
Courage — judgment — integrity — dedication — these are the historic qualities … which, with God’s help … will characterize our Government’s conduct in the 4 stormy years that lie ahead.
Inaugural Address

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.

The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
Inaugural address, Washington D.C. (20 January 1961) (video file). In his speech President Kennedy urges American citizens to participate in public service and “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” This is also the speech he delivered announcing the dawn of a new era as young Americans born in the 20th century first assumed leadership of the Nation.
Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom — symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning — signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
The quote “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. One can see it inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do — for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom — and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction. We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.
So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us. […] Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.
Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens … and to let the oppressed go free.”
If a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation” — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
The bold portions are one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.
It has been reported at various places on the internet that in JFK’s Inaugural address, the famous line “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, was inspired by, or even a direct quotation of the famous and much esteemed writer and poet Khalil Gibran. Gibran in 1925 wrote in Arabic a line that has been translated as:
Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?
If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.
However, this translation of Gibran is one that occurred over a decade after Kennedy’s 1961 speech, appearing in A Third Treasury of Kahlil Gibran (1975) edited by Andrew Dib Sherfan, and the translator most likely drew upon Kennedy’s famous words in expressing Gibran’s prior ideas. For a further discussion regarding the quote see here.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
This is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy, Arlington National Cemetery.
Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors

The President of a great democracy such as ours, and the editors of great newspapers such as yours, owe a common obligation to the people: an obligation to present the facts, to present them with candor, and to present them in perspective.
If the self-discipline of the free cannot match the iron discipline of the mailed fist-in economic, political, scientific and all the other kinds of struggles as well as the military-then the peril to freedom will continue to rise.
The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong, only the industrious, only the determined, only the courageous, only the visionary who determine the real nature of our struggle can possibly survive.
Address to ANPA

Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association (27 April 1961) Audio President Kennedy’s address was delivered to the American Newspaper Publishers Association at a Bureau of Advertising dinner held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. In his speech President Kennedy addresses his discontent with the press’s news coverage before, during, and after the Bay of Pigs incident, suggesting that there is a need for “far greater public information” and “far greater official secrecy.”

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.

Man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
I appreciate very much your generous invitation to be here tonight. You bear heavy responsibilities these days and an article I read some time ago reminded me of how particularly heavily the burdens of present day events bear upon your profession. You may remember that in 1851 the New York Herald Tribune under the sponsorship and publishing of Horace Greeley, employed as its London correspondent an obscure journalist by the name of Karl Marx.
We are told that foreign correspondent Marx, stone broke, and with a family ill and undernourished, constantly appealed to Greeley and managing editor Charles Dana for an increase in his munificent salary of $5 per installment, a salary which he and Engels ungratefully labeled as the “lousiest petty bourgeois cheating.”
But when all his financial appeals were refused, Marx looked around for other means of livelihood and fame, eventually terminating his relationship with the Tribune and devoting his talents full time to the cause that would bequeath the world the seeds of Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and the cold war.
If only this capitalistic New York newspaper had treated him more kindly; if only Marx had remained a foreign correspondent, history might have been different. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time they receive a poverty-stricken appeal for a small increase in the expense account from an obscure newspaper man.
I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future — for reducing this threat or living with it — there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security — a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity.
This deadly challenge imposes upon our society two requirements of direct concern both to the press and to the President — two requirements that may seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this national peril. I refer, first, to the need for a far greater public information; and, second, to the need for far greater official secrecy.
The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.
Today no war has been declared — and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.
If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.
It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions — by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence — on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.
Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security — and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion.
No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers — I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.
Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.
This means greater coverage and analysis of international news — for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security — and we intend to do it.
It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder and the printing press. Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world’s efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure.
And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
Kennedy here references Francis Bacon’s Aphorism 129 of Novum Organum: Again, we should notice the force, effect, and consequences of inventions, which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the whole world; first in literature, then in warfare, and lastly in navigation: and innumerable changes have been thence derived, so that no empire, sect, or star, appears to have exercised a greater power and influence on human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.
Speech to Special Joint Session of Congress

But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon — if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation.

If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
Address to a Joint Session of Congress (25 May 1961); this includes his Special Message to the Congress on urgent national needs the goal of sending a Man to the Moon before the 1960’s are over. More specifically President Kennedy asked for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, proclaiming that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” President Kennedy settled upon this dramatic goal as a means of focusing and mobilizing our lagging space efforts. He did not justify the needed expenditure on the basis of science and exploration, but placed the program clearly in the camp of the competing ideologies of democracy vs. communism.
I stress the strength of our economy because it is essential to the strength of our nation. And what is true in our case is true in the case of other countries. Their strength in the struggle for freedom depends on the strength of their economic and their social progress. We would be badly mistaken to consider their problems in military terms alone. For no amount of arms and armies can help stabilize those governments which are unable or unwilling to achieve social and economic reform and development. Military pacts cannot help nations whose social injustice and economic chaos invite insurgency and penetration and subversion. The most skillful counter-guerrilla efforts cannot succeed where the local population is too caught up in its own misery to be concerned about the advance of communism.
Military and economic assistance has been a heavy burden on our citizens for a long time, and I recognize the strong pressures against it; but this battle is far from over, it is reaching a crucial stage, and I believe we should participate in it. We cannot merely state our opposition to totalitarian advance without paying the price of helping those now under the greatest pressure. We cannot merely state our opposition to totalitarian advance without paying the price of helping those now under the greatest pressure.
Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. […] Now it is time to take longer strides — time for a great new American enterprise — time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth. I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure theft fulfillment.
Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of lead-time, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations — explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon — if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.
Let it be clear — and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make — let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action — a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal ’62 — an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.
This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel. New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further — unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.
Berlin Crisis speech

“Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Berlin Crisis” (25 July 1961); addressing the impending possibility of war between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) over the crisis in Berlin, Germany. In his speech the President addresses the Soviet Union’s attempts to cut off America’s access to West Berlin, thus making it impossible to secure freedom from communism for the people of Berlin. The President goes on to discuss the imminent threat of nuclear war and his plan to increase funding and manpower for the military, provide appropriate communications for air raid warnings, and ensure that all Americans have access to fall-out shelters should a nuclear holocaust occur.
When I ran for Presidency of the United States, I knew that this country faced serious challenges, but I could not realize — nor could any man realize who does not bear the burdens of this office — how heavy and constant would be those burdens.
We do not want to fight — but we have fought before. And others in earlier times have made the same dangerous mistake of assuming that the West was too selfish and too soft and too divided to resist invasions of freedom in other lands. Those who threaten to unleash the forces of war on a dispute over West Berlin should recall the words of the ancient philosopher: “A man who causes fear cannot be free from fear.”
We do not intend to abandon our duty to mankind to seek a peaceful solution. As signers of the UN Charter, we shall always be prepared to discuss international problems with any and all nations that are willing to talk — and listen — with reason. If they have proposals — not demands — we shall hear them. If they seek genuine understanding — not concessions of our rights — we shall meet with them.
The strength of the alliance on which our security depends is dependent in turn on our willingness to meet our commitments to them.
We will at all times be ready to talk, if talk will help. But we must also be ready to resist with force, if force is used upon us. Either alone would fail. Together, they can serve the cause of freedom and peace.
And as Americans know from our history on our own old frontier, gun battles are caused by outlaws, and not by officers of the peace.
And if there is one path above all others to war, it is the path of weakness and disunity.
Now, in the thermonuclear age, any misjudgment on either side about the intentions of the other could rain more devastation in several hours than has been wrought in all the wars of human history.
The steps I have indicated tonight are aimed at avoiding that war. To sum it all up: we seek peace — but we shall not surrender. That is the central meaning of this crisis, and the meaning of your government’s policy. With your help, and the help of other free men, this crisis can be surmounted. Freedom can prevail and peace can endure.
UN speech

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.

The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.

Unless man can match his strides in weaponry and technology with equal strides in social and political development, our great strength, like that of the dinosaur, will become incapable of proper control — and like the dinosaur vanish from the earth.

Together we shall save our planet, or together we shall perish in its flames.
Address before the General Assembly of the United Nations (25 September 1961); this addresses the recent death of U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, presents six proposals for the new Disarmament Program, and provides information on the current crises in Berlin, Germany, Laos, and South Vietnam.
We meet in an hour of grief and challenge. Dag Hammarskjold is dead. But the United Nations lives. His tragedy is deep in our hearts, but the task for which he died is at the top of our agenda. A noble servant of peace is gone. But the quest for peace lies before us.
The problem is not the death of one man — the problem is the life of this organization. It will either grow to meet the challenges of our age, or it will be gone with the wind, without influence, without force, without respect. Were we to let it die, to enfeeble its vigor, to cripple its powers, we would condemn our future. For in the development of this organization rests the only true alternative to war — and war appeals no longer as a rational alternative. Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer concern the great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by wind and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.
So let us here resolve that Dag Hammarskjold did not live, or die, in vain. Let us call a truce to terror. Let us invoke the blessings of peace. And as we build an international capacity to keep peace, let us join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war.
Disarmament without checks is but a shadow — and a community without law is but a shell.
The great question which confronted this body in 1945 is still before us: whether man’s cherished hopes for progress and peace are to be destroyed by terror and disruption, whether the “foul winds of war” can be tamed in time to free the cooling winds of reason, and whether the pledges of our Charter are to be fulfilled or defied — pledges to secure peace, progress, human rights and world law.
The Secretary General, in a very real sense, is the servant of the General Assembly. Diminish his authority and you diminish the authority of the only body where all nations, regardless of power, are equal and sovereign. Until all the powerful are just, the weak will be secure only in the strength of this Assembly.
Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
Men no longer debate whether armaments are a symptom or a cause of tension. The mere existence of modern weapons — ten million times more powerful than any that the world has ever seen, and only minutes away from any target on earth — is a source of horror, and discord and distrust. Men no longer maintain that disarmament must await the settlement of all disputes — for disarmament must be a part of any permanent settlement. And men may no longer pretend that the quest for disarmament is a sign of weakness — for in a spiraling arms race, a nation’s security may well be shrinking even as its arms increase.
For fifteen years this organization has sought the reduction and destruction of arms. Now that goal is no longer a dream — it is a practical matter of life or death. The risks inherent in disarmament pale in comparison to the risks inherent in an unlimited arms race.
In short, general and complete disarmament must no longer be a slogan, used to resist the first steps. It is no longer to be a goal without means of achieving it, without means of verifying its progress, without means of keeping the peace. It is now a realistic plan, and a test — a test of those only willing to talk and a test of those willing to act.
Such a plan would not bring a world free from conflict and greed — but it would bring a world free from the terrors of mass destruction. It would not usher in the era of the super state — but it would usher in an era in which no state could annihilate or be annihilated by another.
But to halt the spread of these terrible weapons, to halt the contamination of the air, to halt the spiraling nuclear arms race, we remain ready to seek new avenues of agreement, our new Disarmament Program thus includes the following proposals:
First, signing the test-ban treaty by all nations. This can be done now. Test ban negotiations need not and should not await general disarmament.
Second, stopping the production of fissionable materials for use in weapons, and preventing their transfer to any nation now lacking in nuclear weapons.
Third, prohibiting the transfer of control over nuclear weapons to states that do not own them.
Fourth, keeping nuclear weapons from seeding new battlegrounds in outer space.
Fifth, gradually destroying existing nuclear weapons and converting their materials to peaceful uses; and
Finally, halting the unlimited testing and production of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, and gradually destroying them as well.
But we are well aware that all issues of principle are not settled, and that principles alone are not enough. It is therefore our intention to challenge the Soviet Union, not to an arms race, but to a peace race- -to advance together step by step, stage by stage, until general and complete disarmament has been achieved. We invite them now to go beyond agreement in principle to reach agreement on actual plans.
Peace is not solely a matter of military or technical problems — it is primarily a problem of politics and people. And unless man can match his strides in weaponry and technology with equal strides in social and political development, our great strength, like that of the dinosaur, will become incapable of proper control — and like the dinosaur vanish from the earth.
Political sovereignty is but a mockery without the means of meeting poverty and illiteracy and disease. Self-determination is but a slogan if the future holds no hope.
I do not ignore the remaining problems of traditional colonialism which still confront this body. Those problems will be solved, with patience, good will, and determination. Within the limits of our responsibility in such matters, my Country intends to be a participant and not merely an observer, in the peaceful, expeditious movement of nations from the status of colonies to the partnership of equals. That continuing tide of self-determination, which runs so strong, has our sympathy and our support. But colonialism in its harshest forms is not only the exploitation of new nations by old, of dark skins by light, or the subjugation of the poor by the rich. My Nation was once a colony, and we know what colonialism means; the exploitation and subjugation of the weak by the powerful, of the many by the few, of the governed who have given no consent to be governed, whatever their continent, their class, their color.
For a city or a people to be truly free they must have the secure right, without economic, political or police pressure, to make their own choice and to live their own lives.
The political disposition of peoples should rest upon their own wishes, freely expressed in plebiscites or free elections. If there are legal problems, they can be solved by legal means. If there is a threat of force, it must be rejected. If there is desire for change, it must be a subject for negotiation, and if there is negotiation, it must be rooted in mutual respect and concern for the rights of others.
I pledge you that we will neither commit nor provoke aggression, that we shall neither flee nor invoke the threat of force, that we shall never negotiate out of fear, we shall never fear to negotiate.
Terror is not a new weapon. Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example. But inevitably they fail, either because men are not afraid to die for a life worth living, or because the terrorists themselves came to realize that free men cannot be frightened by threats, and that aggression would meet its own response. And it is in the light of that history that every nation today should know, be he friend or foe, that the United States has both the will and the weapons to join free men in standing up to their responsibilities.
I come here today to look across this world of threats to a world of peace. In that search we cannot expect any final triumph — for new problems will always arise. We cannot expect that all nations will adopt like systems — for conformity is the jailor of freedom, and the enemy of growth. Nor can we expect to reach our goal by contrivance, by fiat or even by the wishes of all.
But however close we sometimes seem to that dark and final abyss, let no man of peace and freedom despair. For he does not stand alone. If we all can persevere, if we can in every land and office look beyond our own shores and ambitions, then surely the age will dawn in which the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
Ladies and gentlemen of this Assembly, the decision is ours. Never have the nations of the world had so much to lose, or so much to gain. Together we shall save our planet, or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can — and save it we must — and then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and, as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.
Address at the University of Washington

Address at the University of Washington’s 100th Anniversary Program (16 November 1961). As 1961 drew to an end, the United States and the Soviet Union were at the height of the Cold War, and Cuba and Berlin were hot spots. In April 1961, the United States Central Intelligence Agency had organized 1,400 armed Cuban exiles in a failed attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. On August 20, 1961, East Germany erected a five foot high concrete wall dividing East and West Berlin and on October 28, 1961, a tense, 16-hour face off occurred at the Berlin Wall between Soviet and American tanks. On August 31, 1961, the Soviet Union began conducting aboveground nuclear tests, detonating perhaps 15 bombs during September 1961. Local newspapers advised Seattleites on how to construct and stock personal nuclear fallout shelters. It was in this context that President John F. Kennedy arrived at Boeing Airport in Seattle, Washington on November 16, 1961 to deliver a major foreign policy speech at the University of Washington Centennial Convocation. In his speech President Kennedy discusses the creation of educational institutions through the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. He also addresses the current state of American international relations, with emphasis on the challenges of defending freedom and maintaining peace as a world power. · “President John F. Kennedy’s University of Washington Speech” in Primary Sources: Workshops in American History Annenberg Media

The basis of self-government and freedom requires the development of character and self-restraint and perseverance and the long view. And these are qualities which require many years of training and education.

For to save mankind’s future freedom, we must face up to any risk that is necessary. We will always seek peace — but we will never surrender.
The basis of self-government and freedom requires the development of character and self-restraint and perseverance and the long view. And these are qualities which require many years of training and education.
We increase our arms at a heavy cost, primarily to make certain that we will not have to use them. We must face up to the chance of war, if we are to maintain the peace. We must work with certain countries lacking in freedom in order to strengthen the cause of freedom. We find some who call themselves neutral who are our friends and sympathetic to us, and others who call themselves neutral who are unremittingly hostile to us. And as the most powerful defender of freedom on earth, we find ourselves unable to escape the responsibilities of freedom, and yet unable to exercise it without restraints imposed by the very freedoms we seek to protect.
We cannot, as a free nation, compete with our adversaries in tactics of terror, assassination, false promises, counterfeit mobs and crises.
We cannot, under the scrutiny of a free press and public, tell different stories to different audiences, foreign and domestic, friendly and hostile.
We cannot abandon the slow processes of consulting with our allies to match the swift expediencies of those who merely dictate to their satellites.
We can neither abandon nor control the international organization in which we now cast less than 1 percent of the vote in the General Assembly.
We possess weapons of tremendous power — but they are least effective in combating the weapons most often used by freedom’s foes: subversion, infiltration, guerrilla warfare, civil disorder.
We send arms to other peoples — just as we send them the ideals of democracy in which we believe — but we cannot send them the will to use those arms or to abide by those ideals.
And while we believe not only in the force of arms but in the force of right and reason, we have learned that reason does not always appeal to unreasonable men — that it is not always true that “a soft answer turneth away wrath” — and that right does not always make might.
In short, we must face problems which do not lend themselves to easy or quick or permanent solutions. And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient — that we are only 6 percent of the world’s population — that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind — that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity — and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.
Also quoted in “Warrior for Peace” by David Talbot, in TIME (2 July 2007), p. 50
These burdens and frustrations are accepted by most Americans with maturity and understanding. They may long for the days when war meant charging up San Juan Hill-or when our isolation was guarded by two oceans — or when the atomic bomb was ours alone — or when much of the industrialized world depended upon our resources and our aid. But they now know that those days are gone — and that gone with them are the old policies and the old complacency’s. And they know, too, that we must make the best of our new problems and our new opportunities, whatever the risk and the cost.
But there are others who cannot bear the burden of a long twilight struggle. They lack confidence in our long-run capacity to survive and succeed. Hating communism, yet they see communism in the long run, perhaps, as the wave of the future. And they want some quick and easy and final and cheap solution — now.
There are two groups of these frustrated citizens, far apart in their views yet very much alike in their approach. On the one hand are those who urge upon us what I regard to be the pathway of surrender-appeasing our enemies, compromising our commitments, purchasing peace at any price, disavowing our arms, our friends, our obligations. If their view had prevailed, the world of free choice would be smaller today.
On the other hand are those who urge upon us what I regard to be the pathway of war: equating negotiations with appeasement and substituting rigidity for firmness. If their view had prevailed, we would be at war today, and in more than one place.
It is a curious fact that each of these extreme opposites resembles the other. Each believes that we have only two choices: appeasement or war, suicide or surrender, humiliation or holocaust, to be either Red or dead. Each side sees only “hard” and “soft” nations, hard and soft policies, hard and soft men. Each believes that any departure from its own course inevitably leads to the other: one group believes that any peaceful solution means appeasement; the other believes that any arms build-up means war. One group regards everyone else as warmongers, the other regards everyone else as appeasers. Neither side admits that its path will lead to disaster — but neither can tell us how or where to draw the line once we descend the slippery slopes of appeasement or constant intervention.
In short, while both extremes profess to be the true realists of our time, neither could be more unrealistic. While both claim to be doing the nation a service, they could do it no greater disservice. This kind of talk and easy solutions to difficult problems, if believed, could inspire a lack of confidence among our people when they must all — above all else — be united in recognizing the long and difficult days that lie ahead. It could inspire uncertainty among our allies when above all else they must be confident in us. And even more dangerously, it could, if believed, inspire doubt among our adversaries when they must above all be convinced that we will defend our vital interests.
The essential fact that both of these groups fail to grasp is that diplomacy and defense are not substitutes for one another. Either alone would fail. A willingness to resist force, unaccompanied by a willingness to talk, could provoke belligerence — while a willingness to talk, unaccompanied by a willingness to resist force, could invite disaster.
But as long as we know what comprises our vital interests and our long-range goals, we have nothing to fear from negotiations at the appropriate time, and nothing to gain by refusing to take part in them. At a time when a single clash could escalate overnight into a holocaust of mushroom clouds, a great power does not prove its firmness by leaving the task of exploring the other’s intentions to sentries or those without full responsibility. Nor can ultimate weapons rightfully be employed, or the ultimate sacrifice rightfully demanded of our citizens, until every reasonable solution has been explored. “How many wars,” Winston Churchill has written, “have been averted by patience and persisting good will! …. How many wars have been precipitated by firebrands!”
If vital interests under duress can be preserved by peaceful means, negotiations will find that out. If our adversary will accept nothing-less than a concession of our rights, negotiations will find that out. And if negotiations are to take place, this nation cannot abdicate to its adversaries the task of choosing the forum and the framework and the time.
No one should be under the illusion that negotiations for the sake of negotiations always advance the cause of peace. If for lack of preparation they break up in bitterness, the prospects of peace have been endangered. If they are made a forum for propaganda or a cover for aggression, the processes of peace have been abused. But it is a test of our national maturity to accept the fact that negotiations are not a contest spelling victory or defeat. They may succeed — they may fail. They are likely to be successful only if both sides reach an agreement which both regard as preferable to the status quo — an agreement in which each side can consider its own situation to be improved. And this is most difficult to obtain. But, while we shall negotiate freely, we shall not negotiate freedom. Our answer to the classic question of Patrick Henry is still no-life is not so dear, and peace is not so precious, “as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery.” And that is our answer even though, for the first time since the ancient battles between Greek city-states, war entails the threat of total annihilation, of everything we know, of society itself. For to save mankind’s future freedom, we must face up to any risk that is necessary. We will always seek peace — but we will never surrender.
In short, we are neither “warmongers” nor “appeasers,” neither “hard” nor “soft.” We are Americans, determined to defend the frontiers of freedom, by an honorable peace if peace is possible, but by arms if arms are used against us. And if we are to move forward in that spirit, we shall need all the calm and thoughtful citizens that this great University can produce, all the light they can shed, all the wisdom they can bring to bear. It is customary, both here and around the world, to regard life in the United States as easy. Our advantages are many. But more than any other people on earth, we bear burdens and accept risks unprecedented in their size and their duration, not for ourselves alone but for all who wish to be free.

The world was not meant to be a prison in which man awaits his execution.

We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But there is no comfort or security for us in evasion, no solution in abdication, no relief in irresponsibility.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

What really counts is not the immediate act of courage or of valor, but those who bear the struggle day in and day out — not the sunshine patriots but those who are willing to stand for a long period of time.

There is such a difference between those who advise or speak or legislate, and between the man who must select from the various alternatives proposed and say that this shall be the policy of the United States. It is much easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments.
The success of this Government, and thus the success of our Nation, depends in the last analysis upon the quality of our career services. The legislation enacted by the Congress, as well as the decisions made by me and by the department and agency heads, must all be implemented by the career men and women in the Federal service. In foreign affairs, national defense, science and technology, and a host of other fields, they face problems of unprecedented importance and perplexity. We are all dependent on their sense of loyalty and responsibility as well as their competence and energy.”
“Special Message to the Congress on Federal Pay Reform (55)” (20 February 1962)
We welcome the views of others. We seek a free flow of information across national boundaries and oceans, across iron curtains and stone walls. We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
John F. Kennedy: “Remarks on the 20th Anniversary of the Voice of America” (26 February 1962)
For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation.
Special message to the Congress on National Health Needs (65)” (27 February 1962)
Our deep spiritual confidence that this nation will survive the perils of today — which may well be with us for decades to come — compels us to invest in our nation’s future, to consider and meet our obligations to our children and the numberless generations that will follow.
“Special message to the Congress on Conservation (69)” (1 March 1962)
…what really counts is not the immediate act of courage or of valor, but those who bear the struggle day in and day out — not the sunshine patriots but those who are willing to stand for a long period of time.
“Remarks at the White House to Members of the American Legion (70)” (1 March 1962)
…there is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in the military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.
[ “President’s News Conference (107)” (21 March 1962)
And Prince Bismack was even more specific. One third, he said, of the students of German universities broke down from overwork, another third broked down from dissipation, and the other third ruled Germany.
“Address in Berkeley at the University of California (109)” (23 March 1962)
The green beret’ is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom. I know the United States Army will live up to its reputation for imagination, resourcefulness, and spirit as we meet this challenge.
“Letter to the United States Army” (11 April 1962); Box 5, President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, White House Central Chronological Files, Papers of John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
I think it is most appropriate that the President of the United States, whose business place is in Washington, should come to this city and participate in these rallies. Because the business of the Government is the business of the people — and the people are right here.
Speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City to support his program of “medical care for the aged.” (20 May 1962)[1][2]
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
Commencement address, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (11 June 1962) [3]
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
Address to Latin American diplomats at the White House (13 March 1962) [4]
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.
Address at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners (29 April 1962), quoted in The White House Diary, at the JFK Library
While geography has made us neighbors, tradition has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies — in a vast Alianza para el Progreso. Those whom nature has so joined together, let no man put asunder.
[ Address by the President at a Luncheon Given in His Honor by President Lopez Matcos (29 June 1962)
I have seen in many places housing which has been developed under government influences, but I have never seen any projects in which governments have played their part which have fountains and statues and grass and trees, which are as important to the concept of the home as the roof itself.”
Remarks at the Unidad Independencia Housing Project, City of Mexico (269)” (30 June 1962)
It’s only when they join together in a forward movement that this country moves ahead…
“Remarks at Los Banos, CA at the Groundbreaking Ceremonies for the San Luis Dam (337)” (18 August 1962)
I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”
“Remarks in Newport at the Australian Ambassador’s Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews (383)” (14 September 1962)
All students, members of the faculty, and public officials in both Mississippi and the Nation will be able, it is hoped, to return to their normal activities with full confidence in the integrity of American law. This is as it should be, for our Nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny. The law which we obey includes the final rulings of the courts, as well as the enactments of our legislative bodies. Even among law-abiding men few laws are universally loved, but they are uniformly respected and not resisted. Americans are free, in short, to disagree with the law but not to disobey it. For in a government of laws and not of men, no man, however prominent or powerful, and no mob however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law. If this country should ever reach the point where any man or group of men by force or threat of force could long defy the commands of our court and our Constitution, then no law would stand free from doubt, no judge would be sure of his writ, and no citizen would be safe from his neighbors.
Radio and Television Report to the Nation on the Situation at the University of Mississippi (30 September 1962)]
In 1945 a Mississippi sergeant, Jake Lindsey, was honored by an unusual joint session of the Congress. I close therefore, with this appeal to the students of the University, the people who are most concerned. You have a great tradition to uphold, a tradition of honor and courage won on the field of battle and on the gridiron as well as the University campus. You have a new opportunity to show that you are men of patriotism and integrity. For the most effective means of upholding the law is not the State policeman or the marshals or the National Guard. It is you. It lies in your courage to accept those laws with which you disagree as well as those with which you agree.
Radio and Television Report to the Nation on the Situation at the University of Mississippi (30 September 1962)
Bullfight critics row on row
Fill the enormous Plaza de toros
But only one is there who knows
And he is the one who fights the bull.
Slightly misquoting Domingo Ortega, as translated by the English poet Robert Graves), in remarks during a Presidential Backgrounder before the National Foreign Policy Conference for Editors and Radio-TV Public Affairs Broadcasters (16 October 1962)]; “Presidential Backgrounder 16 October 1962 #50,” Box 134, Classified Background Briefing Material Series, Pierre Salinger Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
The original poem: Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous Plaza full
But only one is there who knows
And he’s the man who fights the bull.
I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
“Remarks at a Closed-circuit Television Broadcast on Behalf of the National Cultural Center (527)” (29 November 1962)
It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough jobs or enough profits.
“Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club of New York (549)” (14 December 1962)
If the economy of today were operating close to capacity levels with little unemployment, or if a sudden change in our military requirements should cause a scramble for men and resources, then I would oppose tax reductions as irresponsible and inflationary; and I would not hesitate to recommend a tax increase if that were necessary.
“Address and Question and Answer Period at the Economic Club of New York (549)” (14 December 1962)
There is a limitation, in other words, upon the power of the United States to bring about solutions. I think our people get awfully impatient and maybe fatigued and tired, and saying “We have been carrying this burden for 17 years; can we lay it down?” We can’t lay it down, and I don’t see how we are going to lay it down in this century. So that I would say that the problems are more difficult than I had imagined them to be. The responsibilities placed on the United States are greater than I imagined them to be, and there are greater limitations upon our ability to bring about a favorable result than I had imagined them to be. And I think that is probably true of anyone who becomes President, because there is such a difference between those who advise or speak or legislate, and between the man who must select from the various alternatives proposed and say that this shall be the policy of the United States. It is much easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments, because unfortunately your advisers are frequently divided. If you take the wrong course, and on occasion I have, the President bears the burden of the responsibility quite rightly. The advisers may move on to new advice.
John F. Kennedy: “Television and Radio Interview: “After Two Years — a Conversation With the President” (17 December 1962)
To further the appreciation of culture among all the people, to increase respect for the creative individual, to widen participation by all the processes and fulfillments of art — this is one of the fascinating challenges of these days.
“The Arts in America” in LOOK magazine (18 December 1962), p. 110; also reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 907 and inscribed on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
Too often in the past, we have thought of the artist as an idler and dilettante and of the lover of arts as somehow sissy and effete. We have done both an injustice. The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intense application and intense discipline.
“LOOK Magazine Article ‘The Arts in America’ (552)” (18 December 1962)
The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose…and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.
“LOOK Magazine Article ‘The Arts in America’ (552)” (18 December 1962); also inscribed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
Second State of the Union Address

Second State of the Union Address (11 January 1962)
Members of the Congress, the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress. We are all trustees for the American people, custodians of the American heritage. It is my task to report the State of the Union — to improve it is the task of us all.
The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining — by filling three basic gaps in our anti-recession protection.
World order will be secured only when the whole world has laid down these weapons which seem to offer us present security but threaten the future survival of the human race. That armistice day seems very far away. The vast resources of this planet are being devoted more and more to the means of destroying, instead of enriching, human life.
But the world was not meant to be a prison in which man awaits his execution. Nor has mankind survived the tests and trials of thousands of years to surrender everything — including its existence — now. This Nation has the will and the faith to make a supreme effort to break the log jam on disarmament and nuclear tests — and we will persist until we prevail, until the rule of law has replaced the ever dangerous use of force.
These various elements in our foreign policy lead, as I have said, to a single goal — the goal of a peaceful world of free and independent states. This is our guide for the present and our vision for the future — a free community of nations, independent but interdependent, uniting north and south, east and west, in one great family of man, outgrowing and transcending the hates and fears that rend our age.
We will not reach that goal today, or tomorrow. We may not reach it in our own lifetime. But the quest is the greatest adventure of our century. We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But there is no comfort or security for us in evasion, no solution in abdication, no relief in irresponsibility.
Address at Independence Hall

Address at Independence Hall by John F. Kennedy in Independence Square at Independence Hall in Philadelphia (4 July 1962). In his speech President Kennedy praises the American democratic system which encourages differences and allows for dissent, discusses the enduring relevance of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and addresses the role of the United States in relation to the emerging European Community.
The necessity for comity between the National Government and the several States is an indelible lesson of our long history. Because our system is designed to encourage both differences and dissent, because its checks and balances are designed to preserve the rights of the individual and the locality against preeminent central authority, you and I, Governors, recognize how dependent we both are, one upon the other, for the successful operation of our unique and happy form of government. Our system and our freedom permit the legislative to be pitted against the executive, the State against the Federal Government, the city against the countryside, party against party, interest against interest, all in competition or in contention one with another. Our task — your task in the State House and my task in the White House — is to weave from all these tangled threads a fabric of law and progress. We are not permitted the luxury of irresolution. Others may confine themselves to debate, discussion, and that ultimate luxury — free advice. Our responsibility is one of decision — for to govern is to choose.
The theory of independence is as old as man himself, and it was not invented in this hall. But it was in this hall that the theory became a practice; that the word went out to all, in Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, that “the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” And today this Nation — conceived in revolution, nurtured in liberty, maturing in independence — has no intention of abdicating its leadership in that worldwide movement for independence to any nation or society committed to systematic human oppression.
As apt and applicable as the Declaration of Independence is today, we would do well to honor that other historic document drafted in this hall — the Constitution of the United States. For it stressed not independence but interdependence — not the individual liberty of one but the indivisible liberty of all.
A great new edifice is not built overnight. It was 11 years from the Declaration of Independence to the writing of the Constitution. The construction of workable federal institutions required still another generation. The greatest works of our Nation’s founders lay not in documents and in declarations, but in creative, determined action. The building of the new house of Europe has followed the same practical, purposeful course. Building the Atlantic partnership now will not be easily or cheaply finished.
In most of the old colonial world, the struggle for independence is coming to an end. Even in areas behind the Curtain, that which Jefferson called “the disease of liberty” still appears to be infectious. With the passing of ancient empires, today less than 2 percent of the world’s population lives in territories officially termed “dependent.” As this effort for independence, inspired by the American Declaration of Independence, now approaches a successful close, a great new effort — for interdependence — is transforming the world about us. And the spirit of that new effort is the same spirit which gave birth to the American Constitution. That spirit is today most clearly seen across the Atlantic Ocean. The nations of Western Europe, long divided by feuds far more bitter than any which existed among the 13 colonies, are today joining together, seeking, as our forefathers sought, to find freedom in diversity and in unity, strength.
Acting on our own, by ourselves, we cannot establish justice throughout the world; we cannot insure its domestic tranquility, or provide for its common defense, or promote its general welfare, or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. But joined with other free nations, we can do all this and more. We can assist the developing nations to throw off the yoke of poverty. We can balance our worldwide trade and payments at the highest possible level of growth. We can mount a deterrent powerful enough to deter any aggression. And ultimately we can help to achieve a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion.
On this fourth day of July, 1962, we who are gathered at this same hall, entrusted with the fate and future of our States and Nation, declare now our vow to do our part to lift the weights from the shoulders of all, to join other men and nations in preserving both peace and freedom, and to regard any threat to the peace or freedom of one as a threat to the peace and freedom of all.
Rice University speech

The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort, Houston, TX (12 September 1962); addresses the necessity for the United States to become an international leader in space exploration and famously states, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
The greater our knowledge increases the greater our ignorance unfolds.
No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50 thousand years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.
This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.
So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward — and so will space.
If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.
Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it — we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again.
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.
The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will reap the harvest of these gains. And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this state, and this region, will share greatly in this growth.
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
Cuban Missile Crisis speech

Radio and televison address about the Cuban missile crisis (22 October 1962). This reports on the establishment of offensive missile sites presumably intended to launch a nuclear offensive against Western nations. The President characterizes the transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base as an explicit threat to American security, and explains seven components to his proposed course of action: quarantine all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba, increase the degree of surveillance, regard a possible attack launched from Cuba as a Soviet attack, reinforce the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, call for a meeting of the Organ of Consultation, call for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, and demand that Premier Nikita Khrushchev cease his current course of action.
Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.
The 1930’s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war.
We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of a worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth — but neither shall we shrink from that risk any time it must be faced.
The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are; but it is one of the most consistent with our character and our courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high — but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and this is the path of surrender or submission. Our goal is not victory of might but the vindication of right — not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved. Thank you, and good night.
First letter to Nikita Khrushchev

JFK points out that the U.S. is pursuing a “minimum response” but will do whatever is necessary to assure its security.(22 October 1962)
A copy of the statement I am making tonight concerning developments in Cuba and the reaction of my Government thereto has been handed to your Ambassador in Washington. In view of the gravity of the developments to which I refer, I want you to know immediately and accurately the position of my Government in this matter.
In our discussions and exchanges on Berlin and other international questions, the one thing that has most concerned me has been the possibility that your Government would not correctly understand the will and determination of the United States in any given situation, since I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would, in this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.
At our meeting in Vienna and subsequently, I expressed our readiness and desire to find, through peaceful negotiation, a solution to any and all problems that divide us. At the same time. I made clear that in view of the objectives of the ideology to which you adhere, the United States could not tolerate any action on your part which in a major way disturbed the existing over-all balance of power in the world. I stated that an attempt to force abandonment of our responsibilities and commitments in Berlin would constitute such an action and that the United States would resist with all the power at its command.
It was in order to avoid any incorrect assessment on the part of your Government with respect to Cuba that I publicly stated that if certain developments in Cuba took place, the United States would do whatever must be done to protect its own security and that of its allies.
Moreover, the Congress adopted a resolution expressing its support of this declared policy. Despite this, the rapid development of long-range missile bases and other offensive weapons systems in Cuba has proceeded. I must tell you that the United States is determined that this threat to the security of this hemisphere be removed. At the same time, I wish to point out that the action we are taking is the minimum necessary to remove the threat to the security of the nations of this hemisphere. The fact of this minimum response should not be taken as a basis, however, for any misjudgment on your part.
I hope that your Government will refrain from any action which would widen or deepen this already grave crisis and that we can agree to resume the path of peaceful negotiation.
Second Letter to Nikita Khrushchev

This is a response from Kennedy to Nikita Khrushchev reassuring the Soviets that the U.S. would not invade Cuba. President Kennedy responded to the requests of Khrushchev’s first letter to him, disregarding the second letter. Upon agreement of these letters, the Missile Crisis was over (27 October 1962)
I have read your letter of October 26th with great care and welcomed the statement of your desire to seek a prompt solution to the problem. The first thing that needs to be done, however, is for work to cease on offensive missile bases on Cuba and for all weapons systems in Cuba capable of offensive use to be rendered inoperable, under effective United Nations arrangements.
Assuming this is done promptly, I have given my representatives in New York instructions that will permit them to work out this weekend — in cooperation with the Acting Secretary General and your representative — an arrangement for a permanent solution to the Cuban problem along the lines suggested in your letter of October 26th. As I read your letter, the key elements of your proposals — which seem generally acceptable as I understand them — are as follows:
1) You would agree to remove these weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision; and undertake, with suitable safeguards, to halt the further introduction of such weapons systems into Cuba.
2) We, on our part, would agree — upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments — (a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against an invasion of Cuba. I am confident that other nations of the Western Hemisphere would be prepared to do likewise.
If you will give your representative similar instructions, there is no reason why we should not be able to complete these arrangements and announce them to the world within a couple of days. The effect of such a settlement on easing world tensions would enable us to work toward a more general arrangement regarding “other armaments,” as proposed in your second letter which you made public. I would like to say again that the United States is very much interested in reducing tensions and halting the arms race; and if your letter signifies that you are prepared to discuss a detente affecting NATO and the Warsaw Pact, we are quite prepared to consider with our allies any useful proposals.
But the first ingredient, let me emphasize, is the cessation of work on missile sites on Cuba and measures to render such weapons inoperable, under effective international guarantees. The continuations of this threat, or prolonging of this discussion concerning Cuba by linking these problems to the broader questions of European and world security, would surely lead to the peace of the world. For this reason I hope we can quickly agree along the lines outlined in this letter of October 26th.

Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask “why not?”.
A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.
Remarks Recorded for the Opening of a USIA Transmitter at Greenville, North Carolina (8 February 1963) Audio at JFK Library (01:29 – 01:40) · Text of speech at The American Presidency Project
This increase in the life span and in the number of our senior citizens presents this Nation with increased opportunities: the opportunity to draw upon their skill and sagacity — and the opportunity to provide the respect and recognition they have earned. It is not enough for a great nation merely to have added new years to life — our objective must also be to add new life to those years.
Special message to the Congress on the needs of the nation’s senior citizens (21 February 1963); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 189
With all of the history of war, and the human race’s history unfortunately has been a good deal more war than peace, with nuclear weapons distributed all through the world, and available, and the strong reluctance of any people to accept defeat, I see the possibility in the 1970’s of the President of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have these weapons.”
The President’s News Conference (107)” (21 March 1963)
“…we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.'”
[ “Address in Berkeley at the University of California (109)” (23 March 1962)
I think when we talk about corporal punishment, and we have to think about our own children, and we are rather reluctant, it seems to me, to have other people administering punishment to our own children, because we are reluctant, it puts a special obligation on us to maintain order and to send children out from our homes who accept the idea of discipline. So I would not be for corporal punishment in the school, but I would be for very strong discipline at home so we don’t place an unfair burden on our teachers.
News Conference 56 (22 May 1963)
“O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”
“Remarks in New York City at the Dedication of the East Coast Memorial to the Missing at Sea (203)” (23 May 1963) Quoting an old Breton fishermen’s prayer that Admiral Rickover had inscribed on plaques that he gave to newly commissioned submarine captains. Rickover presented President Kennedy with one of these plaques, which sat on his desk in the Oval Office.
No country can possibly move ahead, no free society can possibly be sustained, unless it has an educated citizenry whose qualities of mind and heart permit it to take part in the complicated and increasingly sophisticated decisions that pour not only upon the President and upon the Congress, but upon all the citizens who exercise the ultimate power…Quite obviously, there is a higher purpose, and that is the hope that you will turn to the service of the State the scholarship, the education, the qualities which society has helped develop in you; that you will render on the community level, or on the state level, or on the national level, or render on the community level, or on the state level, or on the national level, or the international level a contribution to the maintenance of freedom and peace and the security of our country and those associated with it in a most critical time.
“Commencement Address at San Diego State College (226)” (6 June 1963)
This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.
Radio and television report to the American people on civil rights (11 June 1963)]
Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
At the signing of a charter establishing the German Peace Corps, Bonn, West Germany (24 June 1963);
according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum President Kennedy got his facts wrong. Dante never made this statement. The closest to what President Kennedy meant is in the Inferno where the souls in the ante-room of hell, who “lived without disgrace and without praise,” and the coward angels, who did not rebel but did not resist the cohorts of Lucifer, are condemned to being whirled through the air by great winds while being stung by wasps and horseflies. Dante placed those who “non furon ribelli né fur fedeli” — were neither for nor against God, in a special region near the mouth of Hell; the lowest part of Hell, a lake of ice, was for traitors. According to Kennedy’s remark may have been inspired by the passage from Dante Alighieri’s La Comedia Divina “Inferno,” canto 3, lines 35–42 (1972) passage as translated by Geoffrey L. Bickersteth: “by those disbodied wretches who were loth when living, to be either blamed or praised. […] Fear to lose beauty caused the heavens to expel these caitiffs; nor, lest to the damned they theng ave cause to boast, receives them the deep hell.” A more modern-sounding translation from the foregoing Dante’s Inferno passage was translataed 1971 by Mark Musa thus: “They are mixed with that repulsive choir of angels … undecided in neutrality. Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out, but even Hell itself would not receive them for fear the wicked there might glory over them.”
There are those who regard this history of past strife and exile as better forgotten. But, to use the phrase of Yeats, let us not casually reduce “that great past to a trouble of fools.” For we need not feel the bitterness of the past to discover its meaning for the present and the future.
Speech to a joint session of the Dail and the Seanad, Dublin, Ireland (28 June 1963)
The world is even smaller today, though the enemy of John Boyle O’Reilly is no longer a hostile power. Indeed, across the gulfs and barriers that now divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. Hostility today is a fact, but it is not a ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and our common vulnerability on this planet.
Speech to a joint session of the Dail and the Seanad, Dublin, Ireland (28 June 1963)
The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask “why not?”.
Speech delivered to the Dail (Parliament of Ireland) (28 June 1963)
The peace-keeping machinery of the United Nations cannot work without the help of the smaller nations, nations whose forces threaten no one and whose forces can thus help create a world in which no nation is threatened. Great powers have their responsibilities and their burdens, but the smaller nations of the world must fulfill their obligations as well.
Speech to a joint session of the Dail and the Seanad, Dublin, Ireland (28 June 1963)
Five score years ago the ground on which we here stand shuddered under the clash of arms and was consecrated for all time by the blood of American manhood. Abraham Lincoln, in dedicating this great battlefield, has expressed, in words too eloquent for paraphrase or summary, why this sacrifice was necessary. Today, we meet not to add to his words nor to amend his sentiment but to recapture the feeling of awe that comes when contemplating a memorial to so many who placed their lives at hazard for right, as God gave them to see right. Among those who fought here were young men who but a short time before were pursuing truth in the peaceful halls of the then new University of Notre Dame. Since that time men of Notre Dame have proven, on a hundred battlefields, that the words, “For God, For Country, and For Notre Dame,” are full of meaning. Let us pray that God may grant us the wisdom to find and to follow a path that will enable the men of Notre Dame and all of our young men to seek truth in the halls of study rather than on the field of battle.”
“Message from the President on the Occasion of Field Mass at Gettysburg, delivered by John S. Gleason, Jr.” (29 June 1963); Box 10, President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence, White House Central Chronological Files, Papers of John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
I must say that though other days may not be so bright, as we look toward the future, that the brightest days will continue to be those we spent with you here in Ireland.
Speech at Eyre Square, Galway, Ireland (29 June 1963)
This is not the land of my birth, but it is the land for which I hold the greatest affection, and I certainly will come back in the springtime
Speech at Limerick, Ireland (29 June 1963)
Communism has sometimes succeeded as a scavenger, but never as a leader. It has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or corruption, or both.
Speech at NATO Headquarters, Naples Italy (2 July 1963)
Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.
Re: United States Committee for UNICEF (25 July 1963); Box 11, President’s Outgoing Executive Correspondence Series, White House Central Chronological File, Presidential Papers, Papers of John F. Kennedy
And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worth while, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: “I served in the United States Navy.”
Remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy (1 August 1963), Public Papers of the Presidents 321, p. 620
I want to drink a cup of tea to all those Kennedys who went and all those Kennedys who stayed.
While visiting his ancestral homestead in Wexford, as quoted in BBC News
This is a great country and requires a good deal of all of us, so I can imagine nothing more important than for all of you to continue to work in public affairs and be interested in them, not only to bring up a family, but also give part of your time to your community, your state, and your country.
“Remarks to the Delegates of Girls Nation (322)” (2 August 1963)
As this State’s income rises, so does the income of Michigan. As the income of Michigan rises, so does the income of the United States. A rising tide lifts all the boats and as Arkansas becomes more prosperous so does the United States and as this section declines so does the United States. So I regard this as an investment by the people of the United States in the United States.
Remarks in Heber Springs, Arkansas, at the Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam (3 October 1963)
Variant: Rising tide lifts all boats.
Remarks in Pueblo, Colorado following Approval of the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project (336)” (17 August 1962)
I can assure you that there is no career which you will adopt when you leave college that will bring you a more and greater sense of satisfaction and a greater feeling of participation in a great effort than will your work here or in your state or in your community…this generation of Americans — you here who will be in positions of responsibility for the rest of this century — will deal with the most difficult, sensitive, and dangerous problems that any society of people has ever dealt with at any age…The Greeks defined happiness as the full use of your powers along the lines of excellence, and I can imagine no place where you can use your powers more fully along lines more excellent in the 1960’s than to be in the service of the United States.
“Remarks to Student Participants in the White House Seminar in Government (334)” (27 August 1963)
A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget…. As the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues. Prosperity is the real way to balance our budget. By lowering tax rates, by increasing jobs and income, we can expand tax revenues and finally bring our budget into balance.
“Radio and Television Address to the Nation on the Test Ban Treaty and the Tax Reduction Bill” (18 September 1963)
What we seek to advance, what we seek to develop in all of our colleges and universities, are educated men and women who can bear the burdens of responsible citizenship, who can make judgments about life as it is, and as it must be, and encourage the people to make those decisions which can bring not only prosperity and security, but happiness to the people of the United Sates and those who depend upon it.
“Address at the University of North Dakota (379)” (25 September 1963)
I hope that all of you who are students here will recognize the great opportunity that lies before you in this decade, and in the decades to come, to be of service to our country. The Greeks once defined happiness as full use of your powers along lines of excellence, and I can assure you that there is no area of life where you will have an opportunity to use whatever powers you have, and to use them along more excellent lines, bringing ultimately, I think, happiness to you and those whom you serve.”
“Address at the University of Wyoming (381)” (25 September 1963)
I ask particularly that those of you who are now in school will prepare yourselves to bear the burden of leadership over the next 40 years here in the United States, and make sure that the United States — which I believe almost alone has maintained watch and ward for freedom — that the United States meet its responsibility. That is a wonderful challenge for us as a people.
“Remarks at the Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington (387)” (27 September 1963)
A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living. Today’s military rejects include tomorrow’s hard core unemployed.
President JOHN F. KENNEDY, statement on the need for training or rehabilitation of Selective Service rejectees” (30 September 1963); also: [ John F. Kennedy: “Statement by the President on the Need for Training or Rehabilitation of Selective Service Rejectees” (30 September 1963)
Things don’t just happen, they are made to happen.
Speech given at the Arkansas State Fairground, Little Rock, United States of America (3 October 1963); quoted in John F. Kennedy in Quotations: A Topical Dictionary, with Sources (2013), McFarland, entry 1729
We can say with some assurance that, although children may be the victims of fate, they will not be the victims of our neglect.
“Remarks upon signing the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Bill (434)” (24 October 1963)]
A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.
Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as dispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.
Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.
Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure.
Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.
Remarks at Amherst College (26 October 1963)
I have said that control of arms is a mission that we undertake particularly for our children and our grandchildren and that they have no lobby in Washington.
“Statement by the President to American Women Concerning their Role in Securing World Peace (449)” (1 November 1963)
This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it.
“Remarks in San Antonio at the Dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center (472),” (21 November 1963); the original anecdote from which Kennedy derived this comparison is in An Only Child (1961) by Frank O’Connor, p. 180.
Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers — for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.
Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings — let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals — and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.
“Proclamation 3560 — Thanksgiving Day, 1963” (5 November 1963)
I come here today…not just because you are doing well and because you are outstanding students, but because we expect something of you. And unless in this free country of ours we are able to demonstrate that we are able to make this society work and progress, unless we can hope that from you we are going to get back all of the talents which society has helped develop in you, then, quite obviously, all the hopes of all of us that freedom will not only endure but prevail, of course, will be disappointed. So we ask the best of you…I congratulate you on what you have done, and most of all I congratulate you on what you are going to do.
“Remarks in New York City to the National Convention of the Catholic Youth Organization (463),” (15 November 1963)
Third State of the Union Address

“Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union” (14 January 1963)
Little more than 100 weeks ago I assumed the office of President of the United States. In seeking the help of the Congress and our countrymen, I pledged no easy answers. I pledged — and asked — only toil and dedication. These the Congress and the people have given in good measure.
In short, both at home and abroad, there may now be a temptation to relax. For the road has been long, the burden heavy, and the pace consistently urgent. But we cannot be satisfied to rest here. This is the side of the hill, not the top. The mere absence of war is not peace. The mere absence of recession is not growth. We have made a beginning — but we have only begun. Now the time has come to make the most of our gains — to translate the renewal of our national strength into the achievement of our national purpose.
I am convinced that the enactment this year of tax reduction and tax reform overshadows all other domestic problems in this Congress. For we cannot for long lead the cause of peace and freedom, if we ever cease to set the pace here at home. For we cannot for long lead the cause of peace and freedom, if we ever cease to set the pace here at home.
This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.
The future of any country which is dependent upon the will and wisdom of its citizens is damaged, and irreparably damaged, whenever any of its children is not educated to the full extent of his talent, from grade school through graduate school.
As the idealism of our youth has served world peace, so can it serve the domestic tranquility.
These are not domestic concerns alone. For upon our achievement of greater vitality and strength here at home hang our fate and future in the world: our ability to sustain and supply the security of free men and nations, our ability to command their respect for our leadership, our ability to expand our trade without threat to our balance of payments, and our ability to adjust to the changing demands of cold war competition and challenge. We shall be judged more by what we do at home than by what we preach abroad. Nothing we could do to help the developing countries would help them half as much as a booming U.S. economy. And nothing our opponents could do to encourage their own ambitions would encourage them half as much as a chronic lagging U.S. economy. These domestic tasks do not divert energy from our security — they provide the very foundation for freedom’s survival and success.
But complacency or self-congratulation can imperil our security as much as the weapons of tyranny. A moment of pause is not a promise of peace.
For the road to world peace and freedom is still long, and there are burdens which only full partners can share — in supporting the common defense, in expanding world trade, in aligning our balance of payments, in aiding the emergent nations, in concerting political and economic policies, and in welcoming to our common effort other industrialized nations, notably Japan, whose remarkable economic and political development of the 1950’s permits it now to play on the world scene a major constructive role.
For the unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion.
While we shall never weary in the defense of freedom, neither shall we ever abandon the pursuit of peace.
For we seek not the worldwide victory of one nation or system but a worldwide victory of man. The modern globe is too small, its weapons are too destructive, and its disorders are too contagious to permit any other kind of victory.
Address at Vanderbilt University

Liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain.

Only an educated and informed people will be a free people.

Law is the adhesive force in the cement of society, creating order out of chaos and coherence in place of anarchy.

Only a respect for the law makes it possible for free men to dwell together in peace and progress.
Remarks in Nashville at the 90th Anniversary Convocation of Vanderbilt University (18 May 1963). In May of 1963, President Kennedy added his weight to the federal government’s preparation for the impending clash with the state of Alabama over the integration of the University of Alabama. Less than a week after the bombing of a Black American’s home and hotel in Birmingham, President Kennedy made a one-day trip to Tennessee and Alabama, saluting the ninetieth anniversary of Vanderbilt University and the thirtieth anniversary of the Tennessee Valley Authority, but in addition reminding his listeners of their roles and responsibilities as citizens. In a spirited and eloquent speech before an estimated crowd of 30,000 people in the stadium at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee on May 18, 1963, President Kennedy reminded his listeners that it falls to the educated man to assume the greater obligations of citizenship — for the pursuit of learning, to serve the public and to uphold the law.
The essence of Vanderbilt is still learning, the essence of its outlook is still liberty, and liberty and learning will be and must be the touchstones of Vanderbilt University and of any free university in this country or the world. I say two touchstones, yet they are almost inseparable, inseparable if not indistinguishable, for liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain.
This State, this city, this campus, have stood long for both human rights and human enlightenment — and let that forever be true. This Nation is now engaged in a continuing debate about the rights of a portion of its citizens. This Nation is now engaged in a continuing debate about the rights of a portion of its citizens. That will go on, and those rights will expand until the standard first forged by the Nation’s founders has been reached, and all Americans enjoy equal opportunity and liberty under law. But this Nation was not founded solely on the principle of citizens’ rights. Equally important, though too often not discussed, is the citizen’s responsibility. For our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities. Each can be neglected only at the peril of the other. I speak to you today, therefore, not of your rights as Americans, but of your responsibilities. They are many in number and different in nature. They do not rest with equal weight upon the shoulders of all. Equality of opportunity does not mean equality of responsibility. All Americans must be responsible citizens, but some must be more responsible than others, by virtue of their public or their private position, their role in the family or community, their prospects for the future, or their legacy from the past. Increased responsibility goes with increased ability, for “of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
You have responsibilities, in short, to use your talents for the benefit of the society which helped develop those talents. You must decide, as Goethe put it, whether you will be an anvil or a hammer, whether you will give to the world in which you were reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education. Of the many special obligations incumbent upon an educated citizen, I would cite three as outstanding: your obligation to the pursuit of learning, your obligation to serve the public, your obligation to uphold the law.
If the pursuit of learning is not defended by the educated citizen, it will not be defended at all. For there will always be those who scoff at intellectuals, who cry out against research, who seek to limit our educational system. Modern cynics and skeptics see no more reason for landing a man on the moon, which we shall do, than the cynics and skeptics of half a millennium ago saw for the discovery of this country. They see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.
But the educated citizen knows how much more there is to know. He knows that “knowledge is power,” more so today than ever before. He knows that only an educated and informed people will be a free people, that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all, and that if we can, as Jefferson put it, “enlighten the people generally … tyranny and the oppressions of mind and body will vanish, like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” And, therefore, the educated citizen has a special obligation to encourage the pursuit of learning, to promote exploration of the unknown, to preserve the freedom of inquiry, to support the advancement of research, and to assist at every level of government the improvement of education for all Americans, from grade school to graduate school.
Secondly, the educated citizen has an obligation to serve the public. He may be a precinct worker or President. He may give his talents at the courthouse, the State house, the White House. He may be a civil servant or a Senator, a candidate or a campaign worker, a winner or a loser. But he must be a participant and not a spectator. “At the Olympic games,” Aristotle wrote, “it is not the finest and strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists-for out of these the prize-men are elected. So, too, in life, of the honorable and the good, it is they who act who rightly win the prizes.”
I urge all of you today, especially those who are students, to act, to enter the lists of public service and rightly win or lose the prize. For we can have only one form of aristocracy in this country, as Jefferson wrote long ago in rejecting John Adams’ suggestion of an artificial aristocracy of wealth and birth. It is, he wrote, the natural aristocracy of character and talent, and the best form of government, he added, was that which selected these men for positions of responsibility.
I would hope that all educated citizens would fulfill this obligation — in politics, in Government, here in Nashville, here in this State, in the Peace Corps, in the Foreign Service, in the Government Service, in the Tennessee Valley, in the world. You will find the pressures greater than the pay. You may endure more public attacks than support. But you will have the unequaled satisfaction of knowing that your character and talent are contributing to the direction and success of this free society.
Third, and finally, the educated citizen has an obligation to uphold the law. This is the obligation of every citizen in a free and peaceful society — but the educated citizen has a special responsibility by the virtue of his greater understanding. For whether he has ever studied history or current events, ethics or civics, the rules of a profession or the tools of a trade, he knows that only a respect for the law makes it possible for free men to dwell together in peace and progress.
He knows that law is the adhesive force in the cement of society, creating order out of chaos and coherence in place of anarchy. He knows that for one man to defy a law or court order he does not like is to invite others to defy those which they do not like, leading to a breakdown of all justice and all order. He knows, too, that every fellowman is entitled to be regarded with decency and treated with dignity. Any educated citizen who seeks to subvert the law, to suppress freedom, or to subject other human beings to acts that are less than human, degrades his heritage, ignores his learning, and betrays his obligation.
Certain other societies may respect the rule of force — we respect the rule of law.
Ninety years from now I have no doubt that Vanderbilt University will still be fulfilling this mission. It will still uphold learning, encourage public service, and teach respect for the law. It will neither turn its back on proven wisdom or turn its face from newborn challenge. It will still pass on to the youth of our land the full meaning of their rights and their responsibilities. And it will still be teaching the truth — the truth that makes us free and will keep us free.
American University speech

Commencement Address at American University (10 June 1963); also entitled “Strategy of Peace”, is considered one of Kennedy’s most powerful speeches, in which Kennedy laid out a hopeful, yet realistic route for world peace at a time when the U.S. and Soviet Union faced the potential for an escalating nuclear arms race. Kennedy addressed American University graduates mere months after the fierce standoff over the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the time of his speech world powers were gathered in Geneva to discuss complete nuclear disarmament. In his speech the President asks the graduates to re-examine their attitudes towards peace, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War, famously remarking, “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.” The President also announces that he, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan have agreed to hold discussions concerning a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Finally, he explains that the United States will not conduct atmospheric nuclear tests on the condition that other countries uphold this same promise.

Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue.

Nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.
I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived — yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn. Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles — which can only destroy and never create — is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war — and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.
Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament — and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude — as individuals and as a Nation — for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward — by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.
Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable — that mankind is doomed — that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.
I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace — based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace — no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process — a way of solving problems.
Kennedy’s “focus on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution of human institutions.” was quoted by Barack Obama in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor — it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors.
Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.
No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue.
In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours — and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest. So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different. We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists’ interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world. To secure these ends, America’s weapons are nonprovocative, carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self- restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility. For we can seek a relaxation of tension without relaxing our guard. And, for our part, we do not need to use threats to prove that we are resolute. We do not need to jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will be eroded. We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people — but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.
The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security — it would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort nor the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.
The quality and spirit of our own society must justify and support our efforts abroad.
And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights — the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation — the right to breathe air as nature provided it — the right of future generations to a healthy existence?
While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both.
No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion. But it can — if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement and if it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers — offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.
The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression. We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on — not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.
Civil Rights Address

The Civil Rights Address delivered on radio and television from the Oval Office (11 June 1963) in which he proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He responds to the threats of violence and obstruction on the University of Alabama campus following desegregation attempts, explaining that the United States was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and thus, all American students are entitled to attend public educational institutions, regardless of race. He also discusses how discrimination affects education, public safety, and international relations, noting that the country cannot preach freedom internationally while ignoring it domestically. The President asks Congress to enact legislation protecting all Americans’ voting rights, legal standing, educational opportunities, and access to public facilities, but recognizes that legislation alone cannot solve the country’s problems concerning race relations.

This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

This Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.
Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.
It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal. It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.
This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.
The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?
The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives. We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.
This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that. Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents. As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.
We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.
Address in the Assembly Hall at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt

We must seek a world of peace — a world in which peoples dwell together in mutual respect and work together in mutual regard — a world where peace is not a mere interlude between wars, but an incentive to the creative energies of humanity.
“Address in the Assembly Hall at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, West Germany” (25 June 1963); The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 519; also in The Burden and the Glory (1964) by John F. Kennedy, edited by Allan Nevins, p. 115]
Partnership is not a posture but a process-a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.
As they say on my own Cape Cod, a rising tide lifts all the boats. And a partnership, by definition, serves both partners, without domination or unfair advantage. Together we have been partners in adversity — let us also be partners in prosperity.
But Goethe tells us in his greatest poem that Faust lost the liberty of his soul when he said to the passing moment: “Stay, thou art so fair.” And our liberty, too, is endangered if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress. For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
Variant: Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
Documents on International Affairs, 1963, Royal Institute of International Affairs, ed. Sir John Wheeler Wheeler-Bennett, p. 36.
The mission is to create a new social order, rounded on liberty and justice, in which men are the masters of their fate, in which states are the servants of their citizens, and in which all men and women can share a better life for themselves and their children. That is the object of our common policy. To realize this vision, we must seek a world of peace — a world in which peoples dwell together in mutual respect and work together in mutual regard — a world where peace is not a mere interlude between wars, but an incentive to the creative energies of humanity. We will not find such a peace today, or even tomorrow. The obstacles to hope are large and menacing. Yet the goal of a peaceful world — today and tomorrow-must shape our decisions and inspire our purposes. So we are all idealists. We are all visionaries. Let it not be said of this Atlantic generation that we left ideals and visions to the past, nor purpose and determination to our adversaries. We have come too far, we have sacrificed too much, to disdain the future now. And we shall ever remember what Goethe told us — that the “highest wisdom, the best that mankind ever knew” was the realization that “he only earns his freedom and existence who daily conquers them anew.”
Ich bin ein Berliner

“Ich bin ein Berliner” address at ‘Rathaus Schöneberg’ in West-Berlin, Germany (26 June 1963); presented in the midst of a five-nation tour of Western Europe, Kennedy discusses his hopes for the reunification of Germany, and emphasizes the philosophical differences between capitalism and communism, noting, “Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” In his remarks President Kennedy famously proclaims, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum.” Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.
Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. […] While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.
What is true of this city is true of Germany — real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.
Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.
All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Address at the Free University of Berlin

Address at the Free University of Berlin (26 June 1963)

The duty of the scholar, of the educated man, of the man or woman whom society has developed talents in, the duty of that man or woman is to help build the society which has made their own advancement possible.

What does truth require? It requires us to face the facts as they are, not to involve ourselves in self-deception; to refuse to think merely in slogans. […] let us deal with the realities as they actually are, not as they might have been, and not as we wish they were.
Prince Bismarck once said that one-third of the students of German universities broke down from overwork; another third broke down from dissipation, and the other third ruled Germany.
The duty of the scholar, of the educated man, of the man or woman whom society has developed talents in, the duty of that man or woman is to help build the society which has made their own advancement possible.
The scholar, the teacher, the intellectual, have a higher duty than any of the others, for society has trained you to think as well as do.
First, what does truth require? It requires us to face the facts as they are, not to involve ourselves in self-deception; to refuse to think merely in slogans. If we are to work for the future of the city, let us deal with the realities as they actually are, not as they might have been, and not as we wish they were.
We must first bring others to see their own true interests better than they do today.
Secondly, what does justice require? In the end, it requires liberty.
This right of free choice is no special privilege claimed by the Germans alone. It is an elemental requirement of human justice.
The truth doesn’t die. The desire for liberty cannot be fully suppressed.
As I said this morning, I am not impressed by the opportunities open to popular fronts throughout the world. I do not believe that any democrat can successfully ride that tiger. But I do believe in the necessity of great powers working together to preserve the human race, or otherwise we can be destroyed.
But life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met — obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.
Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty speech

Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (26 July 1963), asserting that the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty will strengthen national security, lessen the risk and fear of radioactive fallout, reduce world tension by encouraging further dialogue, and prevent acquisition of nuclear weapons by nations not currently possessing them. The President emphasizes that while the treaty does not eliminate the threat of nuclear war, a limited test ban is safer than an unlimited arms race.

I ask you to stop and think for a moment what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world. There would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament.
Eighteen years ago the advent of nuclear weapons changed the course of the world as well as the war. Since that time, all mankind has been struggling to escape from the darkening prospect of mass destruction on earth. In an age when both sides have come to possess enough nuclear power to destroy the human race several times over, the world of communism and the world of free choice have been caught up in a vicious circle of conflicting ideology and interest. Each increase of tension has produced an increase of arms; each increase of arms has produced an increase of tension.
Yesterday a shaft of light cut into the darkness. Negotiations were concluded in Moscow on a treaty to ban all nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. For the first time, an agreement has been reached on bringing the forces of nuclear destruction under international control-a goal first sought in 1946 when Bernard Baruch presented a comprehensive control plan to the United Nations.
I do not say that a world without aggression or threats of war would be an easy world. It will bring new problems, new challenges from the Communists, new dangers of relaxing our vigilance or of mistaking their intent. But those dangers pale in comparison to those of the spiraling arms race and a collision course towards war. Since the beginning of history, war has been mankind’s constant companion. It has been the rule, not the exception. Even a nation as young and as peace-loving as our own has fought through eight wars.
A war today or tomorrow, if it led to nuclear war, would not be like any war in history. A full-scale nuclear exchange, lasting less than 60 minutes, with the weapons now in existence, could wipe out more than 300 million Americans, Europeans, and Russians, as well as untold numbers elsewhere. And the survivors, as Chairman Khrushchev warned the Communist Chinese, “the survivors would envy the dead.” For they would inherit a world so devastated by explosions and poison and fire that today we cannot even conceive of its horrors. So let us try to turn the world away from war. Let us make the most of this opportunity, and every opportunity, to reduce tension, to slow down the perilous nuclear arms race, and to check the world’s slide toward final annihilation.
Continued unrestricted testing by the nuclear powers, joined in time by other nations which may be less adept in limiting pollution, will increasingly contaminate the air that all of us must breathe. Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard — and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby — who may be born long after we are gone — should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent.
During the next several years, in addition to the four current nuclear powers, a small but significant number of nations will have the intellectual, physical, and financial resources to produce both nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. In time, it is estimated, many other nations will have either this capacity or other ways of obtaining nuclear warheads, even as missiles can be commercially purchased today. I ask you to stop and think for a moment what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world. There would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament. There would only be the increased chance of accidental war, and an increased necessity for the great powers to involve themselves in what otherwise would be local conflicts. If only one thermonuclear bomb were to be dropped on any American, Russian, or any other city, whether it was launched by accident or design, by a madman or by an enemy, by a large nation or by a small, from any corner of the world, that one bomb could release more destructive power on the inhabitants of that one helpless city than all the bombs dropped in the Second World War.
No one can be certain what the future will bring. No one can say whether the time has come for an easing of the struggle. But history and our own conscience will judge us harsher if we do not now make every effort to test our hopes by action. And this is the place to begin.
According to the ancient Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” My fellow Americans, let us take that first step. Let us, if we can, step back from the shadows of war and seek out the way of peace. And if that journey is a thousand miles, or even more, let history record that we, in this land, at this time, took the first step.
UN speech

The task of building the peace lies with the leaders of every nation, large and small. … The long labor of peace is an undertaking for every nation — and in this effort none of us can remain unaligned.To this goal none can be uncommitted.
Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations (20 September 1963). In his speech the President discusses the recently signed treaty banning atmospheric nuclear weapons tests (later known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty or Limited Test Ban Treaty), remarking that peace may be attainable when two nations with incompatible ideologies negotiate with each other. The President famously asks, “Space offers no problems of sovereignty…Why, therefore, should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition?” President Kennedy also explains that the task of maintaining peace and decreasing global tension must be shared by all nations. He proposes ways for the United Nations to increase and improve their efforts in developing countries, specifically focusing on health, human rights, agriculture, communication, and the environment.
The world has not escaped from the darkness. The long shadows of conflict and crisis envelop us still. But we meet today in an atmosphere of rising hope, and at a moment of comparative calm. My presence here today is not a sign of crisis, but of confidence. I am not here to report on a new threat to the peace or new signs of war. I have come to salute the United Nations and to show the support of the American people for your daily deliberations. For the value of this body’s work is not dependent on the existence of emergencies — nor can the winning of peace consist only of dramatic victories. Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.
The task of building the peace lies with the leaders of every nation, large and small. For the great powers have no monopoly on conflict or ambition. The cold war is not the only expression of tension in this world — and the nuclear race is not the only arms race. Even little wars are dangerous in a nuclear world. The long labor of peace is an undertaking for every nation — and in this effort none of us can remain unaligned. To this goal none can be uncommitted.
Chronic disputes which divert precious resources from the needs of the people or drain the energies of both sides serve the interests of no one — and the badge of responsibility in the modern world is a willingness to seek peaceful solutions.
I would say to the leaders of the Soviet Union, and to their people, that if either of our countries is to be fully secure, we need a much better weapon than the H-bomb — a weapon better than ballistic missiles or nuclear submarines — and that better weapon is peaceful cooperation.
In these and other ways, let us move up the steep and difficult path toward comprehensive disarmament, securing mutual confidence through mutual verification, and building the institutions of peace as we dismantle the engines of war. We must not let failure to agree on all points delay agreements where agreement is possible. And we must not put forward proposals for propaganda purposes.
Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity — in the field of space — there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nations Charter will apply. Why, therefore, should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries — indeed of all the world — cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending someday in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all of our countries.
The contest will continue — the contest between those who see a monolithic world and those who believe in diversity — but it should be a contest in leadership and responsibility instead of destruction, a contest in achievement instead of intimidation. Speaking for the United States of America, I welcome such a contest. For we believe that truth is stronger than error — and that freedom is more enduring than coercion. And in the contest for a better life, all the world can be a winner.
The effort to improve the conditions of man, however, is not a task for the few. It is the task of all nations — acting alone, acting in groups, acting in the United Nations, for plague and pestilence, and plunder and pollution, the hazards of nature, and the hunger of children are the foes of every nation. The earth, the sea, and the air are the concern of every nation. And science, technology, and education can be the ally of every nation. Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world — or to make it the last.
New efforts are needed if this Assembly’s Declaration of Human Rights, now 15 years old, is to have full meaning. And new means should be found for promoting the free expression and trade of ideas — through travel and communication, and through increased exchanges of people, and books, and broadcasts. For as the world renounces the competition of weapons, competition in ideas must flourish — and that competition must be as full and as fair as possible.
The United Nations cannot survive as a static organization. Its obligations are increasing as well as its size. Its Charter must be changed as well as its customs. The authors of that Charter did not intend that it be frozen in perpetuity. The science of weapons and war has made us all, far more than 18 years ago in San Francisco, one world and one human race, with one common destiny. In such a world, absolute sovereignty no longer assures us of absolute security. The conventions of peace must pull abreast and then ahead of the inventions of war. The United Nations, building on its successes and learning from its failures, must be developed into a genuine world security system.
But peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. And if it is cast out there, then no act, no pact, no treaty, no organization can hope to preserve it without the support and the wholehearted commitment of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper; let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.
Two years ago I told this body that the United States had proposed, and was willing to sign, a limited test ban treaty. Today that treaty has been signed. It will not put an end to war. It will not remove basic conflicts. It will not secure freedom for all. But it can be a lever, and Archimedes, in explaining the principles of the lever, was said to have declared to his friends: “Give me a place where I can stand — and I shall move the world.” My fellow inhabitants of this planet: Let us take our stand here in this Assembly of nations. And let us see if we, in our own time, can move the world to a just and lasting peace.
Speech at Amherst College

Remarks upon receiving an honorary degree, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts (October 26, 1963); reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 817. In his speech President Kennedy explains the importance of public service from educated citizens, and describes the role of an artist in society, noting Frost’s contributions to American arts, culture, and ideology. The President discusses the nature of strength and power, famously stating, “When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”

When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations…
Privilege is here, and with privilege goes responsibility.
A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.
The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.
When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.
The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, a lover’s quarrel with the world. In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role. If Robert Frost was much honored in his lifetime, it was because a good many preferred to ignore his darker truths. Yet in retrospect, we see how the artist’s fidelity has strengthened the fibre of our national life. If sometimes our great artist have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.
If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. And as Mr. MacLeish once remarked of poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society — in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”
I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.
I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.
President John F. Kennedy’s last formal speech and public words

President John F. Kennedy last formal speech and public words at Aerospace Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas on November 21, 1963.
For more than 3 years I have spoken about the New Frontier. This is not a partisan term, and it is not the exclusive property of Republicans or Democrats. It refers, instead, to this Nation’s place in history, to the fact that we do stand on the edge of a great new era, filled with both crisis and opportunity, an era to be characterized by achievement and by challenge. It is an era which calls for action and for the best efforts of all those who would test the unknown and the uncertain in every phase of human endeavor. It is a time for pathfinders and pioneers.
Many Americans make the mistake of assuming that space research has no values here on earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the wartime development of radar gave us the transistor, and all that it made possible, so research in space medicine holds the promise of substantial benefit for those of us who are earthbound. For our effort in space is not as some have suggested, a competitor for the natural resources that we need to develop the earth. It is a working partner and a coproducer of these resources. And nothing makes this clearer than the fact that medicine in space is going to make our lives healthier and happier here on earth.
I give you three examples: first, medical space research may open up new understanding of man’s relation to his environment. Examinations of the astronaut’s physical, and mental, and emotional reactions can teach us more about the differences between normal and abnormal, about the causes and effects of disorientation, about changes in metabolism which could result in extending the life span. When you study the effects on our astronauts of exhaust gases which can contaminate their environment, and you seek ways to alter these gases so as to reduce their toxicity, you are working on problems similar to those in our great urban centers which themselves are being corrupted by gases and which must be clear.
And second, medical space research may revolutionize the technology and the techniques of modern medicine. Whatever new devices are created, for example, to monitor our astronauts, to measure their heart activity, their breathing, their brain waves, their eye motion, at great distances and under difficult conditions, will also represent a major advance in general medical instrumentation. Heart patients may even be able to wear a light monitor which will sound a warning if their activity exceeds certain limits. An instrument recently developed to record automatically the impact of acceleration upon an astronaut’s eyes will also be of help to small children who are suffering miserably from eye defects, but are unable to describe their impairment. And also by the use of instruments similar to those used in Project Mercury, this Nation’s private as well as public nursing services are being improved, enabling one nurse now to give more critically ill patients greater attention than they ever could in the past.
And third, medical space research may lead to new safeguards against hazards common to many environments. Specifically, our astronauts will need fundamentally new devices to protect them from the ill effects of radiation which can have a profound influence upon medicine and man’s relations to our present environment.
I think the United States should be a leader. A country as rich and powerful as this which bears so many burdens and responsibilities, which has so many opportunities, should be second to none. And in December, while I do not regard our mastery of space as anywhere near complete, while I recognize that there are still areas where we are behind — at least in one area, the size of the booster — this year I hope the United States will be ahead. And I am for it. We have a long way to go. Many weeks and months and years of long, tedious work lie ahead. There will be setbacks and frustrations and disappointments. There will be, as there always are, pressures in this country to do less in this area as in so many others, and temptations to do something else that is perhaps easier. But this research here must go on. This space effort must go on. The conquest of space must and will go ahead. That much we know. That much we can say with confidence and conviction.
Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall — and then they had no choice but to follow them.
This Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome. Whatever the hazards, they must be guarded against. With the vital help of this Aerospace Medical Center, with the help of all those who labor in the space endeavor, with the help and support of all Americans, we will climb this wall with safety and with speed-and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side.
The original anecdote from whence Kennedy derived this comparison is in An Only Child, Frank O’Connor, London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd., 1961; p. 180.
Remarks Prepared for Delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas

The following quotes were meant to be delivered on 22 November 1963, in Dallas, Texas. They were however never delivered; Kennedy was on his way to the Trade Mart when he was assassinated.

If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.

Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live.
It is fitting that these two symbols of Dallas progress are united in the sponsorship of this meeting, for they represent the best qualities, I am told, of leadership and learning in this city — and leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for financial and political support and the products of that learning, in turn, are essential to the leadership’s hopes for continued progress and prosperity. It is not a coincidence that those communities possessing the best in research and graduate facilities — from MIT to Cal Tech — tend to attract the new and growing industries. […] This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level, it is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason, or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.
We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people”. But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.
I want to discuss with you today the status of our strength and our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship. For this Nation’s strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment of diplomats subjected to discrimination. Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.
In this administration also it has been necessary at times to issue specific warnings — warnings that we could not stand by and watch the Communists conquer Laos by force, or intervene in the Congo, or swallow West Berlin, or maintain offensive missiles on Cuba. But while our goals were at least temporarily obtained in these and other instances, our successful defense of freedom was due not to the words we used, but to the strength we stood ready to use on behalf of the principles we stand ready to defend. This strength is composed of many different elements, ranging from the most massive deterrents to the most subtle influences. And all types of strength are needed — no one kind could do the job alone.
Our security and strength, in the last analysis, directly depend on the security and strength of others, and that is why our military and economic assistance plays such a key role in enabling those who live on the periphery of the Communist world to maintain their independence of choice. Our assistance to these nations can be painful, risky and costly, as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task. For our assistance makes possible the stationing of 3-5 million allied troops along the Communist frontier at one-tenth the cost of maintaining a comparable number of American soldiers.
Our foreign aid program is not growing in size, it is, on the contrary, smaller now than in previous years. It has had its weaknesses, but we have undertaken to correct them. And the proper way of treating weaknesses is to replace them with strength, not to increase those weaknesses by emasculating essential programs. Dollar for dollar, in or out of government, there is no better form of investment in our national security than our much-abused foreign aid program.
Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.
Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom. That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions — it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations — it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.
We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men”. That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Remarks Intended for Delivery to the Texas Democratic State Committee in the Municipal Auditorium in Austin

JFK’s words at a speech he planned to give at Texas Welcome Dinner at Municipal Auditorium, Austin, Texas, night of 11/22/1963. The following quotes were meant to be delivered on 22 November 1963, in Austin, Texas. They were however never delivered; Kennedy was on his way to the Trade Mart when he was assassinated. Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian and PBS contributor, flagged the final lines of the speech that JFK would have given on the night of his assassination. Sources: John F. Kennedy: “Remarks Intended for Delivery to the Texas Democratic State Committee in the Municipal Auditorium in Austin,” November 22, 1963. , [ JFK: the last word by The Guardian’s Alex Hannaford on November 6, 2013, The Last Lines Of The Speech JFK Would Have Given The Night Of His Assassination by The Huffington Post’s Paige Lavender on November 7, 2013, and Read the Last Lines of the Speech JFK Was Supposed to Give on the Night of His Assassination by The Blaze’s Jason Howert on November 7, 2013
Civilization, it was once said, is a race between education and catastrophe — and we intend to win that race for education.
For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake.
Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause — united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future — and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.

Just as I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow, my brother Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, Teddy would take over for him.
Quoted in The Remarkable Kennedys, Joe McCarthy, New York: Dial Press, 1960, page 114.
I’m always rather nervous about how you talk about women who are active in politics, whether they want to be talked about as women or as politicians.
Quoted in Bill Adler, “The Presidency,” The Wit of President Kennedy (1964).
[JFK was speaking]…To a group of women delegates to the United Nations who had suggested that there might one day be a woman President.
Whether I serve one or two terms in the Presidency, I will find myself at the end of that period at what might be called the awkward age — too old to begin a new career and too young to write my memoirs.
Quoted in A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Arthur Schlesinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), page 1017. According to a footnote in Schlesinger’s manuscript (1st draft, page 1378), this was stated on February 13, 1961.
All my life I’ve known better than to depend on the experts. How could I have been so stupid, to let them go ahead?
Conversation with Theodore C. Sorensen concerning the Bay of Pigs Invasion; as quoted in Sorensen’s Kennedy (1965), p. 309.
If anyone is crazy enough to want to kill a president of the United States, he can do it. All he must be prepared to do is give his life for the president’s.
Pierre Salinger, With Kennedy (1966), Chapter 1: Lancer to Wayside, page 1
When discussing the possibility of a complete military takeover in the country after reading the book Seven Days in May, President Kennedy said, “…if there were a third Bay of Pigs, it could happen.” He paused and then said “But it won’t happen on my watch.”
Related in The Pleasure of His Company, Paul Fay, Jr., New York: Harper & Row, 1966, p. 190.
I have a nice home, the office is close by, and the pay is good.
Quoted in Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, Kenneth O’Donnell, Dave Powers, and Joseph McCarthy, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1970, page 262.
I was assured by every son of a bitch I checked with — all the military experts and the CIA — that the plan would succeed.
Comment to Richard Nixon, about the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as quoted in The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (1978) by Richard Nixon
Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.
As quoted in Mayor (1984) by Ed Koch
It really is true that foreign affairs is the only important issue for a president to handle, isn’t? … I mean, Who gives a shit if the minimum wage is $1.15 or $1.25 in comparison to something like this?
Comment to Richard Nixon, after the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as quoted in John F. Kennedy: The Presidential Portfolio : History as told through the collection of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum (2000) by Charles Kenney
A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.
Upon hearing about the construction of the Berlin Wall, as quoted in “Savage century” in “The Sunday Times (28 May 2006)
I think ‘Hail to the Chief’ has a nice ring to it.
When asked what his favorite song was, as quoted in The Ultimate Book of Useless Information (2007) by Noel Botham
I’m an idealist without illusions.
Comment about JFK by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as quoted in the Audiobook Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (December 27, 2011) by Caroline Kennedy (Author, Narrator), Michael Beschloss (Author, Narrator), Jacqueline Kennedy (Narrator) & Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (Narrator) and published by Hyperion AudioBooks.
What would Lincoln have been without the Civil War? Just another railroad lawyer!
JFK to Gore Vidal, quoted in David Swanson’s Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (2011).

A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.
Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in the US Senate (9 May 1966)
One person can make a difference, and every person should try.
Political scientist Thomas E. Cronin, “Leadership and Democracy”, in ‘Liberal Education’, 1987
A child miseducated is a child lost.
Umaru Tanko Al-Makura on 29th July, 2013 at The Official Commissioning Of Ta’al Model School, Lafia By Nigeria’s President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan where Umaru Tanko Al-Makura said: “And, because the human mind is our fundamental resource, we are determined to avail our children the opportunity to acquire the best education possible, since a child mis-educated is a child lost.”
Quotes about Kennedy

President Kennedy stood for the belief that idealism, high aspirations, and deep convictions are not incompatible with the most practical and efficient of programs — that there is no basic inconsistency between ideals and realistic possibilities, no separation between the deepest desires of heart and of mind and the rational application of human effort to human problems. ~ Robert F. Kennedy
McCarthy was a Republican. The Democrats, however, have skeletons in their own closet and it’s worth remembering them, too. For example, Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, who was just as rabid an anti-Communist as McCarthy, did far more to repress free speech and political freedom than McCarthy ever attempted. It wasn’t a Republican president who locked up thousands of loyal Americans of Japanese descent in concentration camps for years. It was Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. And it wasn’t a Republican who wiretapped and snooped on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but Democrats John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, who signed the order as Attorney General.
Bruce Bartlett, as quoted in Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past (2008), by B. Bartlett, p. xi.
I met him in the 1950s when I was at Harvard, and I thought the world of him. I was greatly inspired by him when he became president, I found his inaugural address moving, I liked that special sense of vigor and enthusiasm that he injected into an America that seemed to be a little bit uncertain of itself, especially after the launch of the Sputnik. And I was profoundly shocked when he was shot. I remember that moment vividly, but I have to add that the more I learned about him later on, the more I became inclined to temper my enthusiasm for him. I began to see that he was much more manipulative, much more opportunistic, much more self-serving, much less guided by any profound sort of code of conduct or standard than I had believed. So it was, in a way, a disillusioning reassessment.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, “The World According to Zbig” by Charles Gati in Politico, November 27, 2013.
Kennedy was at the hawkish end of the administration.
Noam Chomsky in Rethinking Camelot (1993).
“I’m sure Obama is an atheist, I’m sure Kennedy was an atheist, but I doubt if Pope Frank is.
Richard Dawkins Interview with Bill Maher (2013)
Kennedy survived as an orator to the point of delivering his own funeral oration, since Theodore Sorensen continued to write speeches for his successor in the same style that had contributed so much toward the dead man’s public persona.
Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (1967)
[The] premise is that Kennedy was a very good president, and might have been a great one if he’d lived. Few serious historians take this view … In reality, the kindest interpretation of Kennedy’s presidency is that he was a mediocrity whose death left his final grade as “incomplete.” The harsher view would deem him a near disaster — ineffective in domestic policy, evasive on civil rights and a serial blunderer in foreign policy, who barely avoided a nuclear war that his own brinksmanship had pushed us toward … We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement.
Ross Douthat The Enduring Cult of Kennedy, New York Times, November 26, 2011.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, has been taken from us by an act which outrages decent men everywhere. He upheld the faith of our fathers, which is freedom for all men. He broadened the frontiers of that faith, and backed it with the energy and the courage which are the mark of the Nation he led. A man of wisdom, strength, and peace, he moulded and moved the power of our Nation in the service of a world of growing liberty and order. All who love freedom will mourn his death. As he did not shrink from his responsibilities, but welcomed them, so he would not have us shrink from carrying on his work beyond this hour of national tragedy. […] I earnestly recommend the people […] to pay their homage of love and reverence to the memory of a great and good man.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Lyndon B. Johnson declaration upon John F. Kennedy’s assassination (1963)
The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time. Today John Fitzgerald Kennedy lives on in the immortal words and works that he left behind. He lives on in the mind and memories of mankind. He lives on in the hearts of his countrymen. No words are sad enough to express our sense of loss. No words are strong enough to express our determination to continue the forward thrust of America that he began. The dream of conquering the vastness of space — the dream of partnership across the Atlantic — and across the Pacific as well-the dream of a Peace Corps in less developed nations — the dream of education for all of our children — the dream of jobs for all who seek them and need them — the dream of care for our elderly — the dream of an all-out attack on mental illness — and above all, the dream of equal rights for all Americans, whatever their race or color — these and other American dreams have been vitalized by his drive and by his dedication. And now the ideas and the ideals which he so nobly represented must and will be translated into effective action.
Lyndon B. Johnson, [ Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress (27 November 1963)
Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired. He sought out those people who had demonstrated in some way, whether it was on a battlefield or a baseball diamond, in a speech or fighting for a cause, that they had courage that they would stand up, that they could be counted on.
Robert F. Kennedy, 1964 Memorial Edition of Profiles in Courage, Foreword by Robert F. Kennedy, p. 9
But if there was one thing that President Kennedy stood for that touched the most profound feeling of young people around the world, it was the belief that idealism, high aspirations, and deep convictions are not incompatible with the most practical and efficient of programs — that there is no basic inconsistency between ideals and realistic possibilities, no separation between the deepest desires of heart and of mind and the rational application of human effort to human problems.
Robert F. Kennedy, Day of Affirmation Address (1966).
In the Vietnam War, the leaders of the White House claimed at the time that it was a necessary and crucial war, and during it, Donald Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers. And when Kennedy took over the presidency and deviated from the general line of policy drawn up for the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefiting from its continuation. And so Kennedy was killed, and al-Qaida wasn’t present at that time, but rather, those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing. And the war continued after that for approximately one decade. But after it became clear to you that it was an unjust and unnecessary war, you made one of your greatest mistakes, in that you neither brought to account nor punished those who waged this war, not even the most violent of its murderers, Rumsfeld.
Osama bin Laden, as quoted in Not Popular.
Kennedy would have ordered nuclear retaliation on Cuba — and perhaps the Soviet Union — if nuclear weapons had been fired at United States forces.
Robert McNamara, U.S. secretary of defense under President John F. Kennedy, according to The New York Times; On the Brink of Nuclear War, Awake! magazine, May 22, 1992.
And who was JFK the Man, ultimately? A gifted speaker and eloquent communicator. A man who understood the pulse of the nation enough in 1946 when he postioned himself apart from the natural heirs to the liberal New Deal tradition. A man who recognized early the need for an assertive stance in the developing days of the Cold War, and who positioned himself perfectly within the framework of what Louis Hartz has called the “Age of Consensus.” Part of the consensus on America’s place in the world, and on the moral correctness of the Cold War struggle that would endure until the late 1960s. A man who understood the moral correctness of integration but who was reluctant to press too far in the struggle for racial justice. A man who as President, never forgot his roots and was an active Cold Warrior in the tradition of Truman and Eisenhower, and who in domestic policy kept himself positoned to the right of the Democratic party’s liberal wing
Eric Paddon (Department of History, Wheaton College): St John the Liberal?
Shouldn’t someone tag Mr. Kennedy’s “bold new imaginative” program with its proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut it is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his “State Socialism” and way before him it was “benevolent monarchy.”
Ronald Reagan in a 1960 letter to the GOP presidential candidate Richard Nixon, quoted in Matthew Dallek’s The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan’s First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics (2000), p. 38
Yet another universally held conviction [among Europeans is that] Americans make it a point of honor to elect only mental defectives as Presidents. From the Missouri tie salesman Harry Truman to the Texas cretin George W. Bush, not to mention the peanut farmer Jimmy Carter and the B-movie actor Ronald Reagan, the White House offers us a gallery of nincompoops. Only John F. Kennedy, in the eyes of the French, rose a little above this undistinguished bunch, probably because he had the merit of having married someone of French extraction; naturally, this union could not fail to raise President Kennedy’s intelligence to at least average level — but doubtless still too high for his fellow citizens, who never forgave him and ended up assassinating him.
Jean-François Revel, “Europe’s Anti-American Obsession” (2003)
Jack ought to show a little less profile and a little more courage.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted in James C. Humes’s My Fellow Americans: Presidential Addresses that Shaped History (1992).
I was charmed and delighted by Kennedy personally, and certainly he was intelligent. But any man who gave us an invasion of Cuba, a missile crisis, and the war in Vietnam in 1,000 days — give him another 1,000 days, and we would be irradiated atoms in space. No, he was a mistake as president.
Gore Vidal, quoted in I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics: Interviews with Jon Wiener (2013).
He was in my view the most dangerous cold warrior that we have had since the end of World War II.
Historian Richard Walton, “Kennedy Remembered”, Newsweek, November 28, 1983.
External links

The White House Biography
John F. Kennedy Library
John F. Kennedy at the Notable Names Database
Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas (12 September 1960)
Video, Audio, Text of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
World Peace Speech at The American University (10 June 1963)
Video footage of John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Birthplace National Historic Site
JFK at the Avalon Project
JFK’s Secret White House Recordings @ University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs
Kennedy Administration Official Documentary Historical Record of Major Foreign Policy Decisions
Armigerous American Presidents Series
The JFK Years And Popular Culture
Audio clips of Kennedy’s speeches and other commentary
JFK Reloaded — Recreate the assassination of JFK
InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse: Nelley Connally (TV Interview with an eye witness of the Kennedy assassination)
Assassination of President Kennedy Encyclopaedia
McAdams website about JFK
Facts and Fiction in the Kennedy Assassination
John F. Kennedy in United States Census Records
Medical and Health history of John F. Kennedy
Works by John F. Kennedy at Project Gutenberg
St. John the Liberal?
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
John F. Kennedy Audio Soundboard
Gretchen Rubin radio interview: November 4, 2005 on Up To Date
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: from the National Archives
Presidents of the United States collection of audio recordings

Divine Comedy

Front Cover.jpg
‘Climb with me the steep…..’

Keats, sonnet ‘O Solitude!’ line 3.
The Divine Comedy

Dante bust.jpg


A Translation into English Prose

by A. S. KLINE

Published in Entirety with Index, Notes

& Illustrations by GUSTAVE DORÉ


© Copyright 2000 A. S. Kline

Cover design by Poetry in Translation

All rights reserved under International and Pan American Copyright Conventions.

This work MAY be FREELY reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any NON-COMMERCIAL purpose. Usage of any material for commercial purposes resulting in direct, indirect or incidental commercial gain requires permission to be sought and granted in writing from the copyright holder

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This digital edition is published by Poetry In Translation (

ISBN-10: 1502732777

ISBN-13: 978-1502732774


The Text is fully hyper-linked to the index and notes and vice versa. Each Canto is arranged in paragraphs, with each paragraph headed by the corresponding line reference in the Italian text.

The Inferno

The Purgatorio

The Paradiso


Notes to the Inferno

Notes to the Purgatorio

Notes to the Paradiso

The Inferno


Inferno Canto I:1-60 The Dark Wood and the Hill
Inferno Canto I:61-99 Dante meets Virgil
Inferno Canto I:100-111 The salvation of Italy
Inferno Canto I:112-136 Virgil will be his guide through Hell
Inferno Canto II:1-42 Dante’s doubts as to his fitness for the journey
Inferno Canto II:43-93 Virgil explains his mission:Beatrice
Inferno Canto II:94-120 The Virgin sends Lucia to Beatrice
Inferno Canto II:121-142 Virgil strengthens Dante’s will
Inferno Canto III:1-21 The Gate of Hell
Inferno Canto III:22-69 The spiritually neutral
Inferno Canto III:58-69 Their punishment
Inferno Canto III:70-99 Charon, the ferryman of the Acheron
Inferno Canto III:100-136 The souls by the shore of Acheron
Inferno Canto IV:1-63 The First Circle: Limbo:The Heathens
Inferno Canto IV:64-105 The Great Poets
Inferno Canto IV:106-129 The Heroes and Heroines
Inferno Canto IV:130-151 The Philosophers and other great spirits
Inferno Canto V:1-51 The Second Circle:Minos:The Carnal Sinners
Inferno Canto V:52-72 Virgil names the sinners
Inferno Canto V:70-142 Paolo and Francesca
Inferno Canto VI:1-33 The Third Circle: Cerberus: The Gluttonous
Inferno Canto VI:34-63 Ciacco, the glutton.
Inferno Canto VI:64-93 Ciacco’s prophecy concerning Florence
Inferno Canto VI:94-115 Virgil speaks of The Day of Judgement
Inferno Canto VII:1-39 The Fourth Circle: Plutus: The Avaricious
Inferno Canto VII:40-66 The avaricious and prodigal churchmen
Inferno Canto VII:67-99 Virgil speaks about Fortune
Inferno Canto VII:100-130 The Styx: They view the Fifth Circle
Inferno Canto VIII:1-30 The Fifth Circle: Phlegyas: The Wrathful
Inferno Canto VIII:31-63 They meet Filippo Argenti
Inferno Canto VIII:64-81 They approach the city of Dis
Inferno Canto VIII:82-130 The fallen Angels obstruct them
Inferno Canto IX:1-33 Dante asks about precedents
Inferno Canto IX:34-63 The Furies (Conscience) and Medusa (Obduracy)
Inferno Canto IX:64-105 The Messenger from Heaven
Inferno Canto IX:106-133 The Sixth Circle: Dis: The Heretics
Inferno Canto X:1-21 Epicurus and his followers
Inferno Canto X:22-51 Farinata degli Uberti
Inferno Canto X:52-72 Cavalcante Cavalcanti
Inferno Canto X:73-93 Farinata prophesies Dante’s long exile
Inferno Canto X:94-136 The prophetic vision of the damned
Inferno Canto XI:1-66 The structure of Hell: The Lower Circles
Inferno Canto XI:67-93 The structure of Hell: The Upper Circles
Inferno Canto XI:94-115 Virgil explains usury
Inferno Canto XII:1-27 Above the Seventh Circle: The Minotaur
Inferno Canto XII:28-48 The descent to the Seventh Circle
Inferno Canto XII:49-99 The First Ring: The Centaurs: The Violent
Inferno Canto XII:100-139 The Tyrants, Murderers and Warriors
Inferno Canto XIII:1-30 The Second Ring: The Harpies: The Suicides
Inferno Canto XIII:31-78 The Wood of Suicides: Pier delle Vigne
Inferno Canto XIII:79-108 The fate of The Suicides
Inferno Canto XIII:109-129 Lano Maconi and Jacomo da Sant’ Andrea
Inferno Canto XIII:130-151 The unnamed Florentine
Inferno Canto XIV:1-42 The Third Ring: The Violent against God
Inferno Canto XIV:43-72 Capaneus
Inferno Canto XIV:73-120 The Old Man of Crete
Inferno Canto XIV:121-142 The Rivers Phlegethon and Lethe
Inferno Canto XV:1-42 The Violent against Nature: Brunetto Latini
Inferno Canto XV:43-78 Brunetto’s prophecy
Inferno Canto XV:79-99 Dante accepts his fate
Inferno Canto XV:100-124 Brunetto names some of his companions
Inferno Canto XVI:1-45 Rusticucci, Guido Guerra, Aldobrandi
Inferno Canto XVI:46-87 The condition of Florence
Inferno Canto XVI:88-136 The monster Geryon
Inferno Canto XVII:1-30 The poets approach Geryon
Inferno Canto XVII:31-78 The Usurers
Inferno Canto XVII:79-136 The poets descend on Geryon’s back
Inferno Canto XVIII:1-21 The Eighth Circle: Malebolge: Simple Fraud
Inferno Canto XVIII:22-39 The First Chasm: The Pimps and Seducers
Inferno Canto XVIII:40-66 The Panders: Venedico de’ Caccianemico
Inferno Canto XVIII:67-99 The Seducers: Jason
Inferno Canto XVIII:100-136 The Second Chasm: The Flatterers
Inferno Canto XIX:1-30 The Third Chasm: The Sellers of Sacred Offices
Inferno Canto XIX:31-87 Pope Nicholas III
Inferno Canto XIX:88-133 Dante speaks against Simony
Inferno Canto XX:1-30 The Fourth Chasm: The Seers and Sorcerers
Inferno Canto XX:31-51 The Seers
Inferno Canto XX:52-99 Manto and the founding of Mantua
Inferno Canto XX:100-130 The Soothsayers and Astrologers
Inferno Canto XXI:1-30 The Fifth Chasm: The Sellers of Public Offices
Inferno Canto XXI:31-58 The Barrators
Inferno Canto XXI:59-96 Virgil challenges the Demons’ threats
Inferno Canto XXI:97-139 The Demons escort the Poets
Inferno Canto XXII:1-30 The Poets view more of the Fifth Chasm
Inferno Canto XXII:31-75 Ciampolo
Inferno Canto XXII:76-96 Ciampolo names other Barrators
Inferno Canto XXII:97-123 Ciampolo breaks free of the Demons
Inferno Canto XXII:124-151 The Malebranche quarrel
Inferno Canto XXIII:1-57 The Sixth Chasm: The Hypocrites
Inferno Canto XXIII:58-81 The Hypocrites
Inferno Canto XXIII:82-126 The Frauti Gaudenti: Caiaphas
Inferno Canto XXIII:127-148 The Poets leave the Sixth Chasm
Inferno Canto XXIV:1-60 The Poets climb up: Virgil exhorts Dante
Inferno Canto XXIV:61-96 The Seventh Chasm: The Thieves
Inferno Canto XXIV:97-129 Vanni Fucci and the serpent
Inferno Canto XXIV:130-151 Vanni Fucci’s prophecy
Inferno Canto XXV:1-33 Cacus
Inferno Canto XXV:34-78 Cianfa and Agnello
Inferno Canto XXV:79-151 Buoso degli Abati and Francesco
Inferno Canto XXVI:1-42 The Eighth Chasm: The Evil Counsellors
Inferno Canto XXVI:43-84 Ulysses and Diomede
Inferno Canto XXVI:85-142 Ulysses’s last voyage
Inferno Canto XXVII:1-30 Guido Da Montefeltro
Inferno Canto XXVII:31-57 The situation in Romagna
Inferno Canto XXVII:58-136 Guido’s history
Inferno Canto XXVIII:1-21 The Ninth Chasm: The Sowers of Discord
Inferno Canto XXVIII:22-54 Mahomet: the Caliph Ali
Inferno Canto XXVIII:55-90 Pier della Medicina and others
Inferno Canto XXVIII:91-111 Curio and Mosca
Inferno Canto XXVIII:112-142 Bertrand de Born
Inferno Canto XXIX:1-36 Geri del Bello
Inferno Canto XXIX:37-72 The Tenth Chasm: The Falsifiers
Inferno Canto XXIX:73-99 Griffolino and Capocchio
Inferno Canto XXIX:100-120 Griffolino’s narrative
Inferno Canto XXIX:121-139 The Spendthrift Brigade
Inferno Canto XXX:1-48 Schicci and Myrrha
Inferno Canto XXX:49-90 Adam of Brescia
Inferno Canto XXX:91-129 Sinon: Potiphar’s wife
Inferno Canto XXX:130-148 Virgil reproves Dante
Inferno Canto XXXI:1-45 The Giants that guard the central pit
Inferno Canto XXXI:46-81 Nimrod
Inferno Canto XXXI:82-96 Ephialtes
Inferno Canto XXXI:97-145 Antaeus
Inferno Canto XXXII:1-39 The Ninth Circle: The frozen River Cocytus
Inferno Canto XXXII:40-69 The Caïna: The degli Alberti: Camicion
Inferno Canto XXXII:70-123 The Antenora: Bocca degli Abbati
Inferno Canto XXXII:124-139 Ugolino and Ruggieri
Inferno Canto XXXIII:1-90 Count Ugolino’s story
Inferno Canto XXXIII:91-157 Friar Alberigo and Branca d’Oria
Inferno Canto XXXIV:1-54 The Judecca: Satan
Inferno Canto XXXIV:55-69 Judas: Brutus: Cassius
Inferno Canto XXXIV:70-139 The Poets leave Hell
Inferno Canto I:1-60 The Dark Wood and the Hill

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 1, 2

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.
I cannot rightly say how I entered it. I was so full of sleep, at that point where I abandoned the true way. But when I reached the foot of a hill, where the valley, that had pierced my heart with fear, came to an end, I looked up and saw its shoulders brightened with the rays of that sun that leads men rightly on every road. Then the fear, that had settled in the lake of my heart, through the night that I had spent so miserably, became a little calmer. And as a man, who, with panting breath, has escaped from the deep sea to the shore, turns back towards the perilous waters and stares, so my mind, still fugitive, turned back to see that pass again, that no living person ever left.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 1, 5

After I had rested my tired body a while, I made my way again over empty ground, always bearing upwards to the right. And, behold, almost at the start of the slope, a light swift leopard with spotted coat. It would not turn from before my face, and so obstructed my path, that I often turned, in order to return.

The time was at the beginning of the morning, and the sun was mounting up with all those stars, that were with him when Divine Love first moved all delightful things, so that the hour of day, and the sweet season, gave me fair hopes of that creature with the bright pelt. But not so fair that I could avoid fear at the sight of a lion, that appeared, and seemed to come at me, with raised head and rabid hunger, so that it seemed the air itself was afraid; and a she-wolf that looked full of craving in its leanness, and, before now, has made many men live in sadness. She brought me such heaviness of fear, from the aspect of her face, that I lost all hope of ascending. And as one who is eager for gain, weeps, and is afflicted in his thoughts, if the moment arrives when he loses, so that creature, without rest, made me like him: and coming at me, little by little, drove me back to where the sun is silent.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 1, 7

Inferno Canto I:61-99 Dante meets Virgil

While I was returning to the depths, one appeared, in front of my eyes, who seemed hoarse from long silence. When I saw him, in the great emptiness, I cried out to him ‘Have pity on me, whoever you are, whether a man, in truth, or a shadow!’ He answered me: ‘Not a man: but a man I once was, and my parents were Lombards, and both of them, by their native place, Mantuans.
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 1, 11

I was born sub Julio though late, and lived in Rome, under the good Augustus, in the age of false, deceitful gods. I was a poet, and sang of Aeneas, that virtuous son of Anchises, who came from Troy when proud Ilium was burned. But you, why do you turn back towards such pain? Why do you not climb the delightful mountain, that is the origin and cause of all joy?’

I answered him, with a humble expression: ‘Are you then that Virgil, and that fountain, that pours out so great a river of speech? O, glory and light to other poets, may that long study, and the great love, that made me scan your work, be worth something now. You are my master, and my author: you alone are the one from whom I learnt the high style that has brought me honour. See the creature that I turned back from: O, sage, famous in wisdom, save me from her, she that makes my veins and my pulse tremble.’

When he saw me weeping, he answered: ‘You must go another road, if you wish to escape this savage place. This creature, that distresses you, allows no man to cross her path, but obstructs him, to destroy him, and she has so vicious and perverse a nature, that she never sates her greedy appetite, and after food is hungrier than before.’

Inferno Canto I:100-111 The salvation of Italy

‘Many are the creatures she mates with, and there will be many more, until the Greyhound comes who will make her die in pain. He will not feed himself on land or wealth, but on wisdom, love and virtue, and his birthplace will lie between Feltro and Feltro. He will be the salvation of that lower Italy for which virgin Camilla died of wounds, and Euryalus, Turnus, and Nisus. He will chase the she-wolf through every city, until he has returned her to Hell, from which envy first loosed her.’

Inferno Canto I:112-136 Virgil will be his guide through Hell

‘It is best, as I think and understand, for you to follow me, and I will be your guide, and lead you from here through an eternal space where you will hear the desparate shouts, will see the ancient spirits in pain, so that each one cries out for a second death: and then you will see others at peace in the flames, because they hope to come, whenever it may be, among the blessed. Then if you desire to climb to them, there will be a spirit, fitter than I am, to guide you, and I will leave you with her, when we part, since the Lord, who rules above, does not wish me to enter his city, because I was rebellious to his law.
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 1, 15

He is lord everywhere, but there he rules, and there is his city, and his high throne: O, happy is he, whom he chooses to go there!’

And I to him: ‘Poet, I beg you, by the God, you did not acknowledge, lead me where you said, so that I might escape this evil or worse, and see the Gate of St. Peter, and those whom you make out to be so saddened.’

Then he moved: and I moved on behind him.

Inferno Canto II:1-42 Dante’s doubts as to his fitness for the journey

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 2, 17

The day was going, and the dusky air was freeing the creatures of the earth, from their labours, and I, one, alone, prepared myself to endure the inner war, of the journey and its pity, that the mind, without error, shall recall.
O Muses, O high invention, aid me, now! O memory, that has engraved what I saw, here your nobility will be shown.

I began: ‘Poet, who guides me, examine my virtue, see if I am fitting, before you trust me to the steep way. You say that Aeneas, the father of Sylvius, while still corruptible flesh, went to the eternal world, and in his senses. But if God, who opposes every evil, was gracious to him, thinking of the noble consequence, of who and what should derive from him, then that does not seem unreasonable to a man of intellect, since he was chosen to be the father of benign Rome, and of her empire. Both of them were founded as a sacred place, where the successor of the great Peter is enthroned. By that journey, by which you graced him, Aeneas learned things that were the source of his victory and of the Papal Mantle. Afterwards Paul, the Chosen Vessel, went there, to bring confirmation of the faith that is the entrance to the way of salvation.

But why should I go there? Who allows it? I am not Aeneas: I am not Paul. Neither I, nor others, think me worthy of it. So, if I resign myself to going, I fear that going there may prove foolish: you know, and understand, better than I can say.’ And I rendered myself, on that dark shore, like one who un-wishes what he wished, and changes his purpose, in new thinking, so that he leaves off what he began, completely, since in thought I consumed action, that had been so ready to begin.

Inferno Canto II:43-93 Virgil explains his mission:Beatrice

The ghost of the generous poet replied: ‘If I have understood your words correctly, your spirit is attacked by cowardly fear, that often weighs men down, so that it deflects them from honourable action, like a creature seeing phantoms in the dusk. That you may shake off this dread yourself, I will tell you why I came, and what I heard at the first moment when I took pity on you.
I was among those, in Limbo, in suspense, and a lady called to me, she so beautiful, so blessed, that I begged her to command me. Her eyes shone more brightly than the stars, and she began to speak, gently, quietly, in an angelic voice, in her language: ‘O noble Mantuan spirit, whose fame still endures in the world, and will endure as long as time endures, my friend, not fortune’s friend, is so obstructed in his way, along the desert strand, that he turns back in terror, and I fear he is already so far lost, that I have started too late to his aid, from what I heard of him in heaven. Now go, and help him so, with your eloquence, and with whatever is needed for his relief, that I may be comforted. I am Beatrice, who asks you to go: I come from a place, I long to return to: love moved me that made me speak. When I am before my Lord, I will often praise you to him.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 2, 21

Then she was silent, and I began: ‘O lady of virtue, in whom, alone, humanity exceeds all that is contained in the lunar heaven, which has the smallest sphere, your command is so pleasing to me, that, obeying, were it done already, it were done too slow: you have no need to explain your wishes further. But tell me why you do not hesitate to descend here, to this centre below, from the wide space you burn to return to.’

She replied: ‘Since you wish to know, I will tell you this much, briefly, of why I do not fear to enter here. Those things that have the power to hurt are to be feared: not those other things that are not fearful. I am made such, by God’s grace, that your suffering does not touch me, nor does the fire of this burning scorch me.’

Inferno Canto II:94-120 The Virgin sends Lucia to Beatrice

‘There is a gentle lady in heaven, who has such compassion, for this trouble I send you to relieve, that she overrules the strict laws on high. She called Lucia, to carry out her request, and said: “Now, he who is faithful to you, needs you, and I commend him to you.” Lucia, who is opposed to all cruelty, rose and came to the place where I was, where I sat with that Rachel of antiquity. Lucia said: “Beatrice, God’s true praise, why do you not help him, who loved you, so intensely, he left behind the common crowd for you? Do you not hear how pitiful his grief is? Do you not see the spiritual death that comes to meet him, on that dark river, over which the sea has no power?”
No one on earth was ever as quick to search for their good, or run from harm, as I to descend, from my blessed place, after these words were spoken, and place my faith in your true speech, that honours you and those who hear it.’ She turned away, with tears in her bright eyes, after saying this to me, and made me, by that, come here all the quicker: and so I came to you, as she wished, and rescued you in the face of that wild creature, that denied you the shortest path to the lovely mountain.’

Inferno Canto II:121-142 Virgil strengthens Dante’s will

‘What is it then? Why, do you hold back? Why? Why let such cowardly fear into your heart? Why, when three such blessed ladies, in the courts of heaven, care for you, and my words promise you so much good, are you not free and ardent?’
As the flowers, bent down and closed, by the night’s cold, erect themselves, all open, on their stems, when the sun shines on them, so I rose from weakened courage: and so fine an ardour coursed through my heart, that I began to speak, like one who is freed: ‘O she, who pities, who helps me, and you, so gentle, who swiftly obeyed the true words she commanded, you have filled my heart with such desire, by what you have said, to go forward, that I have turned back to my first purpose.

Go now, for the two of us have but one will, you, the guide, the lord, the master.’ So I spoke to him, and he going on, I entered on the steep, tree-shadowed, way.

Inferno Canto III:1-21 The Gate of Hell




Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 3, 27

These were the words, with their dark colour, that I saw written above the gate, at which I said: ‘Master, their meaning, to me, is hard.’ And he replied to me, as one who knows: ‘Here, all uncertainty must be left behind: all cowardice must be dead. We have come to the place where I told you that you would see the sad people who have lost the good of the intellect.’ And placing his hand on mine, with a calm expression, that comforted me, he led me towards the hidden things.

Inferno Canto III:22-69 The spiritually neutral

Here sighs, complaints, and deep groans, sounded through the starless air, so that it made me weep at first. Many tongues, a terrible crying, words of sadness, accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, with sounds of hands amongst them, making a turbulence that turns forever, in that air, stained, eternally, like sand spiralling in a whirlwind. And I, my head surrounded by the horror, said: ‘Master, what is this I hear, and what race are these, that seem so overcome by suffering?’
And he to me: ‘This is the miserable mode in which those exist, who lived without praise, without blame. They are mixed in with the despised choir of angels, those not rebellious, not faithful to God, but for themselves. Heaven drove them out, to maintain its beauty, and deep Hell does not accept them, lest the evil have glory over them.’ And I: ‘Master, what is so heavy on them, that makes them moan so deeply?’ He replied: ‘I will tell you, briefly. They have no hope of death, and their darkened life is so mean that they are envious of every other fate. Earth allows no mention of them to exist: mercy and justice reject them: let us not talk of them, but look and pass.’

And I, who looked back, saw a banner, that twirling round, moved so quickly, that it seemed to me scornful of any pause, and behind it came so long a line of people, I never would have believed that death had undone so many.

Inferno Canto III:58-69 Their punishment

When I had recognised some among them, I saw and knew the shade of him who from cowardice made ‘the great refusal’. Immediately I understood that this was the despicable crew, hateful to God and his enemies. These wretches, who never truly lived, were naked, and goaded viciously by hornets, and wasps, there, making their faces stream with blood, that, mixed with tears, was collected, at their feet, by loathsome worms.

Inferno Canto III:70-99 Charon, the ferryman of the Acheron

And then, as I looked onwards, I saw people on the bank of a great river, at which I said: ‘Master, now let me understand who these are, and what custom makes them so ready to cross over, as I can see by the dim light.’ And he to me: ‘The thing will be told you, when we halt our steps, on the sad strand of Acheron.’ Then, fearing that my words might have offended him, I stopped myself from speaking, with eyes ashamed and downcast, till we had reached the flood.
And see, an old man, with white hoary locks, came towards us in a boat, shouting: ‘Woe to you, wicked spirits! Never hope to see heaven: I come to carry you to the other shore, into eternal darkness, into fire and ice. And you, who are there, a living spirit, depart from those who are dead.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 3, 31

But when he saw that I did not depart, he said: ‘By other ways, by other means of passage, you will cross to the shore: a quicker boat must carry you.’ And my guide said to him: ‘Charon, do not vex yourself: it is willed there, where what is willed is done: ask no more.’ Then the bearded mouth, of the ferryman of the livid marsh, who had wheels of flame round his eyes, was stilled.

Inferno Canto III:100-136 The souls by the shore of Acheron

But those spirits, who were naked and weary, altered colour, and gnashed their teeth, when they heard his former, cruel words. They blasphemed against God, and their parents, the human species, the place, time, and seed of their conception, and of their birth. Then, all together, weeping bitterly, they neared the cursed shore that waits for every one who has no fear of God.
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 3, 35

Charon, the demon, with eyes of burning coal, beckoning, gathers them all: and strikes with his oar whoever lingers. As the autumn leaves fall, one after another, till the branches see all their spoilage on the ground, so, one by one, the evil seed of Adam, threw themselves down from the bank when signalled, like the falcon at its call. So they vanish on the dark water, and before they have landed over there, over here a fresh crowd collects.

The courteous Master said: ‘My son, those who die subject to God’s anger, all gather here, from every country, and they are quick to cross the river, since divine justice goads them on, so that their fear is turned to desire. This way no good spirit ever passes, and so if Charon complains at you, you can well understand, now, the meaning of his words.

When he had ended, the gloomy ground trembled so violently, that the memory of my terror still drenches me with sweat. The weeping earth gave vent, and flashed with crimson light, overpowering all my senses, and I fell, like a man overcome by sleep.

Inferno Canto IV:1-63 The First Circle: Limbo:The Heathens

A heavy thunder shattered the deep sleep in my head, so that I came to myself, like someone woken by force, and standing up, I moved my eyes, now refreshed, and looked round, steadily, to find out what place I was in. I found myself, in truth, on the brink of the valley of the sad abyss that gathers the thunder of an infinite howling. It was so dark, and deep, and clouded, that I could see nothing by staring into its depths.
The poet, white of face, began: ‘Now, let us descend into the blind world below: I will go first, and you go second.’ And I, who saw his altered colour, said: ‘How can I go on, if you are afraid, who are my comfort when I hesitate?’ And he to me: ‘The anguish of the people, here below, brings that look of pity to my face, that you mistake for fear. Let us go, for the length of our journey demands it.’ So he entered, and so he made me enter, into the first circle that surrounds the abyss.

Here there was no sound to be heard, except the sighing, that made the eternal air tremble, and it came from the sorrow of the vast and varied crowds of children, of women, and of men, free of torment. The good Master said to me: ‘You do not demand to know who these spirits are that you see. I want you to learn, before you go further, that they had no sin, yet, though they have worth, it is not sufficient, because they were not baptised, and baptism is the gateway to the faith that you believe in. Since they lived before Christianity, they did not worship God correctly, and I myself am one of them. For this defect, and for no other fault, we are lost, and we are only tormented, in that without hope we live in desire.’

When I heard this, great sadness gripped my heart, because I knew of people of great value, who must be suspended in that Limbo. Wishing to be certain in that faith that overcomes every error, I began: ‘Tell me my Master, tell me, sir, did anyone ever go from here, through his own merit or because of others’ merit, who afterwards was blessed?’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 4, 39

And he, understanding my veiled question, replied: ‘I was new to this state, when I saw a great one come here crowned with the sign of victory. He took from us the shade of Adam, our first parent, of his son Abel, and that of Noah, of Moses the lawgiver, and Abraham, the obedient Patriarch, King David, Jacob with his father Isaac, and his children, and Rachel, for whom he laboured so long, and many others, and made them blessed, and I wish you to know that no human souls were saved before these.

Inferno Canto IV:64-105 The Great Poets

We did not cease moving, though he was speaking, but passed the wood meanwhile, the wood, I say, of crowded spirits. We had not gone far from where I slept, when I saw a flame that overcame a hemisphere of shadows. We were still some way from it, but not so far that I failed to discern in part what noble people occupied that place.
‘O you, who value every science and art, who are these, who have such honour that they stand apart from all the rest?’ And he to me: ‘Their fame, that sounds out for them, honoured in that life of yours, brings them heaven’s grace that advances them.’ Meanwhile I heard a voice: ‘Honour the great poet: his departed shade returns.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 4, 43

After the voice had paused, and was quiet, I saw four great shadows come towards us, with faces that were neither sad nor happy. The good Master began to speak: ‘Take note of him, with a sword in hand, who comes in front of the other three, as if he were their lord: that is Homer, the sovereign poet: next Horace the satirist: Ovid is the third, and last is Lucan. Because each is worthy, with me, of that name the one voice sounded, they do me honour, and, in doing so, do good.’

So I saw gathered together the noble school, of the lord of highest song, who soars, like an eagle, above the rest. After they had talked for a while amongst themselves, they turned towards me with a sign of greeting, at which my Master smiled. And they honoured me further still, since they made me one of their company, so that I made a sixth among the wise.

So we went onwards to the light, speaking of things about which it is best to be silent, just as it was best to speak of them, where I was.

Inferno Canto IV:106-129 The Heroes and Heroines

We came to the base of a noble castle; surrounded seven times by a high wall; defended by a beautiful, encircling, stream. This we crossed as if it were solid earth: I entered through seven gates, with the wise: we reached a meadow of fresh turf. The people there were of great authority in appearance, with calm, and serious looks, speaking seldom, and then with soft voices. We moved to one side, into an open space, bright and high, so that every one, of them all, could be seen. There, on the green enamel, the great spirits were pointed out to me, directly, so that I feel exalted, inside me, at having seen them.
I saw Electra with many others, amongst whom I knew Hector, Aeneas and Caesar, armed, with his eagle eye. I saw Camilla and Penthesilea, on the other side, and the King of Latium, Latinus, with Lavinia his daughter. I saw that Brutus who expelled Tarquin, Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia, and I saw Saladin, by himself, apart.

Inferno Canto IV:130-151 The Philosophers and other great spirits

When I lifted my eyes a little higher, I saw the Master of those who know, Aristotle, sitting amongst the company of philosophers. All gaze at him: all show him honour. There I saw Socrates, and Plato, who stand nearest to him of all of them; Democritus, who ascribes the world to chance, Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales; Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Zeno; and I saw the good collector of the qualities of plants, I mean Dioscorides: and saw Orpheus, Cicero, Linus, and Seneca the moralist; Euclid the geometer, and Ptolemaeus; Hippocrates, Avicenna, and Galen; and Averrhoës, who wrote the vast commentary.
I cannot speak of them all in full, because the great theme drives me on, so that the word falls, many times, short of the fact. The six companions reduce to two: the wise guide leads me, by another path, out of the quiet, into the trembling air, and I come to a region, where nothing shines.

Inferno Canto V:1-51 The Second Circle:Minos:The Carnal Sinners

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 5, 47

So I descended from the first circle to the second, that encloses a smaller space, and so much more pain it provokes howling. There Minos stands, grinning horribly, examines the crimes on entrance, judges, and sends the guilty down as far as is signified by his coils: I mean that when the evil-born spirit comes before him, it confesses everything, and that knower of sins decides the proper place in hell for it, and makes as many coils with his tail, as the circles he will force it to descend. A multitude always stand before him, and go in turn to be judged, speak and hear, and then are whirled downwards.
When Minos saw me, passing by the actions of his great office, he said: ‘O you, who come to the house of pain, take care how you enter, and in whom you trust, do not let the width of the entrance deceive you.’ And my guide replied: ‘Why do you cry out? Do not obstruct his destined journey: so it is willed, where what is willed is done: demand no more.’ Now the mournful notes begin to reach me: now I come where much sorrowing hurts me.

I came to a place devoid of light, that moans like a tempestuous sea, when it is buffeted by warring winds. The hellish storm that never ceases drives the spirits with its force, and, whirling and striking, it molests them. When they come to the ruins there are shouts, moaning and crying, where they blaspheme against divine power. I learnt that the carnal sinners are condemned to these torments, they who subject their reason to their lust.

And, as their wings carry the starlings, in a vast, crowded flock, in the cold season, so that wind carries the wicked spirits, and leads them here and there, and up and down. No hope of rest, or even lesser torment, comforts them. And as the cranes go, making their sounds, forming a long flight, of themselves, in the air, so I saw the shadows come, moaning, carried by that war of winds, at which I said: ‘Master, who are these people, that the black air chastises so?’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 5, 51

Inferno Canto V:52-72 Virgil names the sinners

He replied: ‘The first, of those you wish to know of, was Empress of many languages, so corrupted by the vice of luxury, that she made licence lawful in her code, to clear away the guilt she had incurred. She is Semiramis, of whom we read, that she succeeded Ninus, and was his wife: she held the countries that the Sultan rules.
The next is Dido who killed herself for love, and broke faith with Sichaeus’s ashes: then comes licentious Cleopatra. See Helen, for whom, so long, the mills of war revolved: and see the great Achilles, who fought in the end with love, of Polyxena. See Paris; Tristan; and he pointed out more than a thousand shadows with his finger, naming, for me, those whom love had severed from life.

Inferno Canto V:70-142 Paolo and Francesca

After I had heard my teacher name the ancient knights and ladies, pity overcame me, and I was as if dazed. I began: ‘Poet, I would speak, willingly, to those two who go together, and seem so light upon the wind.’ And he to me: ‘You will see, when they are nearer to us, you can beg them, then, by the love that leads them, and they will come.’
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 5, 53

As soon as the wind brought them to us, I raised my voice: ‘O weary souls, come and talk with us, if no one prevents it.’ As doves, claimed by desire, fly steadily, with raised wings, through the air, to their sweet nest, carried by the will, so the spirits flew from the crowd where Dido is, coming towards us through malignant air, such was the power of my affecting call.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 5, 57

‘O gracious and benign living creature, that comes to visit us, through the dark air, if the universe’s king were our friend, we, who tainted the earth with blood, would beg him to give you peace, since you take pity on our sad misfortune. While the wind, as now, is silent, we will hear you and speak to you, of what you are pleased to listen to and talk of.

The place where I was born is by the shore, where the River Po runs down to rest at peace, with his attendant streams. Love, that is quickly caught in the gentle heart, filled him with my fair form, now lost to me, and the nature of that love still afflicts me. Love, that allows no loved one to be excused from loving, seized me so fiercely with desire for him, it still will not leave me, as you can see. Love led us to one death. Caïna, in the ninth circle waits, for him who quenched our life.’

These words carried to us, from them. After I had heard those troubled spirits, I bowed my head, and kept it bowed, until the poet said: ‘What are you thinking?’ When I replied, I began: ‘O, alas, what sweet thoughts, what longing, brought them to this sorrowful state? Then I turned to them again, and I spoke, and said: ‘Francesca, your torment makes me weep with grief and pity. But tell me, in that time of sweet sighs, how did love allow you to know these dubious desires?’

And she to me: ‘There is no greater pain, than to remember happy times in misery, and this your teacher knows. But if you have so great a yearning to understand the first root of our love, I will be like one who weeps and tells. We read, one day, to our delight, of Lancelot and how love constrained him: we were alone and without suspicion. Often those words urged our eyes to meet, and coloured our cheeks, but it was a single moment that undid us. When we read how that lover kissed the beloved smile, he who will never be separated from me, kissed my mouth all trembling. That book was a Galeotto, a pandar, and he who wrote it: that day we read no more.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 5, 61

While the one spirit spoke, the other wept, so that I fainted out of pity, and, as if I were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 5, 63

Inferno Canto VI:1-33 The Third Circle: Cerberus: The Gluttonous

When my senses return, that closed themselves off from pity of those two kindred, who stunned me with complete sadness, I see around me new torments, and new tormented souls, wherever I move, or turn, and wherever I gaze. I am in the third circle, of eternal, accursed, cold and heavy rain: its kind and quality is never new. Large hail, tainted water, and sleet, pour down through the shadowy air: and the earth is putrid that receives it.
Cerberus, the fierce and strange monster, triple-throated, barks dog-like over the people submerged in it. His eyes are crimson, his beard is foul and black, his belly vast, and his limbs are clawed: he snatches the spirits, flays, and quarters them. The rain makes them howl like dogs: they protect one flank with the other: often writhing: miserable wretches.

When Cerberus, the great worm, saw us, he opened his jaws, and showed his fangs: not a limb of his stayed still. My guide, stretching out his hands, grasped earth, and hurled it in fistfuls into his ravening mouth. Like a dog that whines for food, and grows quiet when he eats it, only fighting and struggling to devour it, so did demon Cerberus’s loathsome muzzles that bark, like thunder, at the spirits, so that they wish that they were deaf.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 6, 67

Inferno Canto VI:34-63 Ciacco, the glutton.

We passed over the shades, that the heavy rain subdues, and placed our feet on each empty space that seems a body. They were all lying on the ground but one, who sat up straight away when he saw us cross in front of him: He said to me: ‘O you, who are led through this Inferno, recognise me if you can: you were made before I was unmade.’ And I to him: ‘The anguish that you suffer, conceals you perhaps from my memory, so that it seems as if I never knew you. But tell me who you are, that are lodged so sadly, and undergo such punishment, that though there are others greater, none is so unpleasant.’
And he to me: ‘Your city, Florence, that is so full of envy it overflows, held me in the clear life. You, the citizens, called me Ciacco: and for the damnable sin of gluttony, as you see, I languish beneath the rain: and I am not the only wretched spirit, since all these are punished likewise for like sin. I answered him: ‘Ciacco, your affliction weighs on me, inviting me to weep, but tell me, if you can, what the citizens of that divided city will come to; if any there are just: and the reason why such discord tears it apart.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 6, 69

Inferno Canto VI:64-93 Ciacco’s prophecy concerning Florence

And he to me: ‘After long struggle, they will come to blood, and, the Whites, the party of the woods, will throw out the Blacks, with great injury. Within three years, then, it must happen, that the Blacks will conquer, with the help of him, who now veers about. That party will hold its head high for a long time, weighing the Whites down, under heavy oppression, however they weep and however ashamed they are. Two men are just, but are not listened to. Pride, Envy and Avarice are the three burning coals that have set all hearts on fire.’
Here he ended the mournful prophecy, and I said to him: I want you to instruct me still, and grant me a little more speech. Tell me where Farinata and Tegghiaio are, who were worthy enough, and Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, Mosca, and the rest who set their minds to doing good: let me know of them, for a great longing urges me to discover whether Heaven soothes them, or Hell poisons them.’

And he to me: ‘They are among the blackest spirits, another crime weighs them to the bottom: if you descend so deep, you may see them. But when you are, again, in the sweet world, I beg you to recall me to other minds: I tell you no more, and more I will not answer.’ At that he turned his fixed gaze askance, and looked at me a while: then, bent his head, and lowered himself, and it, among his blind companions.

Inferno Canto VI:94-115 Virgil speaks of The Day of Judgement

And my guide said to me: ‘He will not stir further, until the angelic trumpet sounds, when the Power opposing evil will come: each will revisit his sad grave, resume his flesh and form, and hear what will resound through eternity.’ So we passed over the foul brew of rain and shadows, with slow steps, speaking a little of the future life.
Of this I asked: ‘Master, will these torments increase, after the great judgement, or lessen, or stay as fierce?’ And he to me: ‘Remember your science, that says, that the more perfect a thing is, the more it feels pleasure and pain. Though these accursed ones will never achieve true perfection, they will be nearer to it after, than before.’

We circled along that road, speaking of much more than I repeat: we came to the place where the descent begins, where we found Plutus, the god of wealth, the great enemy.

Inferno Canto VII:1-39 The Fourth Circle: Plutus: The Avaricious

‘Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe,’ Plutus, began to croak, and the gentle sage, who understood all things, comforted me, saying: ‘Do not let fear hurt you, since whatever power he has, he will not prevent you descending this rock.’ Then he turned to that swollen face and said: ‘Peace, evil wolf! Devour yourself inside, in your rage. Our journey to the depths is not without reason: it is willed on high, there where Michael made war on the great dragon’s adulterating pride.’
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 7, 75

Like a sail, bellying in the wind, that falls, in a heap, if the mast breaks, so that cruel creature fell to earth. In that way we descended into the fourth circle, taking in a greater width of the dismal bank, that encloses every evil of the universe.

O Divine Justice! Who can tell the many new pains and troubles, that I saw, and why our guilt so destroys us? As the wave, over Charybdis, strikes against the wave it counters, so the people here are made to dance. I found more people here than elsewhere, on the one side and on the other, rolling weights by pushing with their chests, with loud howling. They struck against each other, and then each wheeled around where they were, rolling the reverse way, shouting: ‘Why do you hold?’ and ‘Why do you throw away.’

So they returned along the gloomy circle, from either side to the opposite point, shouting again their measure of reproach. Then each one, when he had reached it, wheeled through his half circle onto the other track. And I, who felt as if my heart were pierced, said: ‘My Master, show me now who these people are: and whether all those, with tonsures, on our left were churchmen.’

Inferno Canto VII:40-66 The avaricious and prodigal churchmen

And he to me: ‘They were so twisted in mind in their first life, that they made no balanced expenditure. Their voices bark this out most clearly when they come to the two ends of the circle, where opposing sins divide them.
These were priests, that are without hair on their heads, and Popes and Cardinals, in whom avarice does its worst. And I: ‘Master, surely, amongst this crowd, I ought to recognise some of those tainted with these evils.’ And he to me: ‘You link idle thoughts: the life without knowledge, that made them ignoble, now makes them incapable of being known. They will go butting each other to eternity: and these will rise from their graves with grasping fists, and those with shorn hair.

Useless giving, and useless keeping, has robbed them of the bright world, and set them to this struggle: what struggle it is, I do not amplify. But you, my son, can see now the vain mockery of the wealth controlled by Fortune, for which the human race fight with each other, since all the gold under the moon, that ever was, could not give peace to one of these weary souls.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 7, 79

Inferno Canto VII:67-99 Virgil speaks about Fortune

I said to him: ‘Master, now tell me about Fortune also, that subject you touched on, who is she, who has the wealth of the world in her arms?’ And he to me: ‘O, blind creatures, how great is the ignorance that surrounds you! I want you, now, to hear my judgement of her.
He whose wisdom transcends all things, made the heavens, and gave them ruling powers, so that each part illuminates the others, distributing the light equally. Similarly he put in place a controller, and a guide, for earthly splendour, to alter, from time to time, idle possession, between nation and nation, and from kin to kin, beyond the schemes of human reason. So one people commands: another wanes, obeying her judgement, she who is concealed, like a snake in the grass.

Your wisdom cannot comprehend her: she furnishes, adjudicates, and maintains her kingdom, as the other gods do theirs. Her permutations never end: necessity makes her swift: so, often, someone comes who creates change. This is she: so often reviled, even by those who ought to praise her, but, wrongly, blame her, with malicious words. Still, she is in bliss, and does not hear: she spins her globe, joyfully, among the other primal spirits, and tastes her bliss.

Now let us descend to greater misery: already every star is declining, that was rising when I set out, and we are not allowed to stay too long.’

Inferno Canto VII:100-130 The Styx: They view the Fifth Circle

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 7, 83

We crossed the circle to the other bank, near a spring, that boils and pours down, through a gap that it has made. The water was darker than a dark blue-grey, and we entered the descent by a strange path, in company with the dusky waves. This woeful stream forms the marsh called Styx, when it has fallen to the foot of the grey malignant walls. And I who stood there, intent on seeing, saw muddy people in the fen, naked, and all with the look of anger. They were striking each other, not only with hands, but head, chest, and feet, mangling each other with their teeth, bite by bite.
The kind Master said: ‘Now, son, see the souls of those overcome by anger, and also, I want you to know, in truth, there are people under the water, who sigh, and make it bubble on the surface, as your eye can see whichever way it turns. Fixed in the slime they say: “We were sullen in the sweet air, that is gladdened by the sun, bearing indolent smoke in our hearts: now we lie here, sullen, in the black mire.” This measure they gurgle in their throats, because they cannot utter it in full speech.’

So we covered a large arc of the loathsome swamp, between the dry bank and its core, our eyes turned towards those who swallow its filth: we came at last to the base of a tower.

Inferno Canto VIII:1-30 The Fifth Circle: Phlegyas: The Wrathful

I say, pursuing my theme, that, long before we reached the base of the high tower, our eyes looked upwards to its summit, because we saw two beacon-flames set there, and another, from so far away that the eye could scarcely see it, gave a signal in return. And I turned to the fount of all knowledge, and asked: ‘What does it say? And what does the other light reply? And who has made the signal?’ And he to me: ‘Already you can see, what is expected, coming over the foul waters, if the marsh vapours do not hide it from you.’
No bowstring ever shot an arrow that flew through the air so quickly, as the little boat, that I saw coming towards us, through the waves, under the control of a single steersman, who cried: ‘Are you here, now, fierce spirit?’ My Master said: ‘Phlegyas, Phlegyas, this time you cry in vain: you shall not keep us longer than it takes us to pass the marsh.’

Phlegyas in his growing anger, was like someone who listens to some great wrong done him, and then fills with resentment. My guide climbed down into the boat, and then made me board after him, and it only sank in the water when I was in. As soon as my guide and I were in the craft, its prow went forward, ploughing deeper through the water than it does carrying others.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 8, 87

Inferno Canto VIII:31-63 They meet Filippo Argenti

While we were running through the dead channel, one rose up in front of me, covered with mud, and said: ‘Who are you, that come before your time?’ And I to him: ‘If I come, I do not stay here: but who are you, who are so mired?’ He answered: ‘You see that I am one who weeps.’ And I to him: ‘Cursed spirit, remain weeping and in sorrow! For I know you, muddy as you are.’
Then he stretched both hands out to the boat, at which the cautious Master pushed him off, saying: ‘Away, there, with the other dogs!’ Then he put his arms around my neck, kissed my face, and said: ‘Blessed be she who bore you, soul, who are rightly indignant. He was an arrogant spirit in your world: there is nothing good with which to adorn his memory: so, his furious shade is here. How many up there think themselves mighty kings, that will lie here like pigs in mire, leaving behind them dire condemnation!’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 8, 89

And I: ‘Master, I would be glad to see him doused in this swill before we quit the lake’. And he to me: ‘You will be satisfied, before the shore is visible to you: it is right that your wish should be gratified.’ Not long after this I saw the muddy people make such a rending of him, that I still give God thanks and praise for it. All shouted: ‘At Filippo Argenti!’ That fierce Florentine spirit turned his teeth in vengeance on himself.

Inferno Canto VIII:64-81 They approach the city of Dis

We left him there, so that I can say no more of him, but a sound of wailing assailed my ears, so that I turned my gaze in front, intently. The kind Master said: ‘Now, my son, we approach the city they call Dis, with its grave citizens, a vast crowd.’ And I: ‘Master, I can already see its towers, clearly there in the valley, glowing red, as if they issued from the fire.’ And he to me: ‘The eternal fire, that burns them from within, makes them appear reddened, as you see, in this deep Hell.’
We now arrived in the steep ditch, that forms the moat to the joyless city: the walls seemed to me as if they were made of iron. Not until we had made a wide circuit, did we reach a place where the ferryman said to us: ‘Disembark: here is the entrance.’

Inferno Canto VIII:82-130 The fallen Angels obstruct them

I saw more than a thousand of those angels, that fell from Heaven like rain, above the gates, who cried angrily: ‘Who is this, that, without death goes through the kingdom of the dead?’ And my wise Master made a sign to them, of wishing to speak in private. Then they furled their great disdain, and said: ‘Come on, alone, and let him go, who enters this kingdom with such audacity. Let him return, alone, on his foolish road: see if he can: and you, remain, who have escorted him, through so dark a land.’
Think, Reader, whether I was not disheartened at the sound of those accursed words, not believing I could ever return here. I said: ‘O my dear guide, who has ensured my safety more than the seven times, and snatched me from certain danger that faced me, do not leave me, so helpless: and if we are prevented from going on, let us quickly retrace our steps.’ And that lord, who had led me there, said to me: ‘Have no fear: since no one can deny us passage: it was given us by so great an authority. But you, wait for me, and comfort and nourish your spirit with fresh hope, for I will not abandon you in the lower world.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 8, 93

So the gentle father goes, and leaves me there, and I am left in doubt: since ‘yes’ and ‘no’ war inside my head. I could not hear what terms he offered them, but he had not been standing there long with them, when, each vying with the other, they rushed back. Our adversaries closed the gate in my lord’s face, leaving him outside, and he turned to me again with slow steps. His eyes were on the ground, and his expression devoid of all daring, and he said, sighing: ‘Who are these who deny me entrance to the house of pain?’ And to me he said: ‘Though I am angered, do not you be dismayed: I will win the trial, whatever obstacle those inside contrive. This insolence of theirs is nothing new, for they displayed it once before, at that less secret gate we passed, that has remained unbarred. Over it you saw the fatal writing, and already on this side of its entrance, one is coming, down the steep, passing the circles unescorted, one for whom the city shall open to us.’

Inferno Canto IX:1-33 Dante asks about precedents

The colour that cowardice had printed on my face, seeing my guide turn back, made him repress his own heightened colour more swiftly. He stopped, attentive, like one who listens, since his eyes could not penetrate far, through the black air and the thick fog. ‘Nevertheless we must win this struggle,’ he began, ‘if not … then help such as this was offered to us. Oh, how long it seems to me, that other’s coming!’ I saw clearly, how he hid the meaning of his opening words with their sequel, words differing from his initial thought. None the less his speech made me afraid, perhaps because I took his broken phrases to hold a worse meaning than they did.
‘Do any of those whose only punishment is deprivation of hope, ever descend, into the depths of this sad chasm, from the first circle?’ I asked this question, and he answered me: ‘It rarely happens, that any of us make the journey that I go on. It is true that I was down here, once before, conjured to do so by that fierce sorceress Erichtho, who recalled spirits to their corpses. My flesh had only been stripped from me a while when she forced me to enter inside that wall, to bring a spirit out of the circle of Judas. That is the deepest place, and the darkest, and the furthest from that Heaven that surrounds all things: I know the way well: so be reassured. This marsh, that breathes its foul stench, circles the woeful city round about, where we also cannot enter now without anger.’

Inferno Canto IX:34-63 The Furies (Conscience) and Medusa (Obduracy)

And he said more that I do not remember, because my eyes had been drawn to the high tower, with the glowing crest, where, in an instant, three hellish Furies, stained with blood, had risen, that had the limbs and aspects of women, covered with a tangle of green hydras, their hideous foreheads bound with little adders, and horned vipers. And Virgil, who knew the handmaids of the queen of eternal sadness well, said to me: ‘See, the fierce Erinyes.’
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 9, 97

That is Megaera on the left: the one that weeps, on the right, is Alecto: Tisiphone is in the middle.’: then he was silent. Each one was tearing at her breast with her claws, beating with her hands, and crying out so loudly, that I pressed close to the poet, out of fear. ‘Let Medusa come,’ they all said, looking down on us, ‘so that we can turn him to stone: we did not fully revenge Theseus’s attack.’

‘Turn your back.’ said the Master, and he himself turned me round. ‘Keep your eyes closed, since there will be no return upwards, if she were to show herself, and you were to see her.’ Not leaving it to me, he covered them, also, with his own hands.

O you, who have clear minds, take note of the meaning that conceals itself under the veil of clouded verse!

Inferno Canto IX:64-105 The Messenger from Heaven

Now, over the turbid waves, there came a fearful crash of sound, at which both shores trembled; a sound like a strong wind, born of conflicting heat, that strikes the forest, remorselessly, breaks the branches, and beats them down, and carries them away, advances proudly in a cloud of dust, and makes wild creatures, and shepherds, run for safety. Virgil uncovered my eyes, and said: ‘Now direct your vision to that ancient marsh, there, where the mists are thickest.’ Like frogs, that all scatter through the water, in front of their enemy the snake, until each one squats on the bottom, so I saw more than a thousand damaged spirits scatter, in front of one who passed the Stygian ferry with dry feet. He waved that putrid air from his face, often waving his left hand before it, and only that annoyance seemed to weary him. I well knew he was a messenger from Heaven, and I turned to the Master, who made a gesture that I should stay quiet, and bow to him.
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 9, 101

How full of indignation he seemed to me! He reached the gate, and opened it with a wand: there was no resistance. On the vile threshold he began to speak: ‘O, outcasts from Heaven, why does this insolence still live in you? Why are you recalcitrant to that will, whose aims can never be frustrated, and that has often increased your torment? What use is it to butt your heads against the Fates? If you remember, your Cerberus still shows a throat and chin scarred from doing so.’

Then he returned, over the miry pool, and spoke no word to us, but looked like one preoccupied and driven by other cares, than of those who stand before him. And we stirred our feet towards the city, in safety, after his sacred speech.

Inferno Canto IX:106-133 The Sixth Circle: Dis: The Heretics

We entered Dis without a conflict, and I gazed around, as soon as I was inside, eager to know what punishment the place enclosed, and saw on all sides a vast plain full of pain and vile torment.
As at Arles, where the Rhone stagnates, or Pola, near the Gulf of Quarnaro, that confines Italy, and bathes its coast, the sepulchres make the ground uneven, so they did here, all around, only here the nature of it was more terrible.

Flames were scattered amongst the tombs, by which they were made so red-hot all over, that no smith’s art needs hotter metal. Their lids were all lifted, and such fierce groans came from them, that, indeed, they seemed to be those of the sad and wounded.

And I said: ‘Master, who are these people, entombed in those vaults, who make themselves known by tormented sighing?’ And he to me: ‘Here are the arch-heretics, with their followers, of every sect: and the tombs contain many more than you might think. Here like is buried with like, and the monuments differ in degrees of heat.’ Then after turning to the right, we passed between the tormented, and the steep ramparts.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 9, 105

Inferno Canto X:1-21 Epicurus and his followers

Now my Master goes, and I, behind him, by a secret path between the city walls and the torments. I began: ‘O, summit of virtue, who leads me round through the circles of sin, as you please, speak to me, and satisfy my longing. Can those people, who lie in the sepulchres, be seen? The lids are all raised, and no one keeps guard.’ And he to me: ‘They will all be shut, when they return here, from Jehoshaphat, with the bodies they left above. In this place Epicurus and all his followers are entombed, who say the soul dies with the body. Therefore, you will soon be satisfied, with an answer to the question that you ask me, and also the longing that you hide from me, here, inside.’ And I: ‘Kind guide, I do not keep my heart hidden from you, except by speaking too briefly, something to which you have previously inclined me.’

Inferno Canto X:22-51 Farinata degli Uberti

‘O Tuscan, who goes alive through the city of fire, speaking so politely, may it please you to rest in this place. Your speech shows clearly you are a native of that noble city that I perhaps troubled too much.’ This sound came suddenly from one of the vaults, at which, in fear, I drew a little closer to my guide. And he said to me: ‘Turn round: what are you doing: look at Farinata, who has raised himself: you can see him all from the waist up.’
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 10, 109

I had already fixed my gaze on him, and he rose erect in stance and aspect, as if he held the Inferno in great disdain. The spirited and eager hands of my guide pushed me through the sepulchres towards him, saying: ‘Make sure your words are measured.’ When I was at the base of the tomb, Farinata looked at me for a while, and then almost contemptuously, he demanded of me: ‘Who were your ancestors?’

I, desiring to obey, concealed nothing, but revealed the whole to him, at which he raised his brows a little. Then he said: ‘They were fiercely opposed to me, and my ancestors and my party, so that I scattered them twice.’ I replied: ‘Though they were driven out, they returned from wherever they were, the first and the second time, but your party have not yet learnt that skill.’

Inferno Canto X:52-72 Cavalcante Cavalcanti

Then, a shadow rose behind him, from the unclosed space, visible down to the tip of its chin: I think it had raised itself on to its knees. It gazed around me, as if it wished to see whether anyone was with me, but when all its hopes were quenched, it said, weeping: ‘If by power of intellect, you go through this blind prison, where is my son, and why is he not with you?’ And I to him: ‘I do not come through my own initiative: he that waits there, whom your Guido disdained perhaps, leads me through this place’
His words and the nature of his punishment had spelt his name to me, so that my answer was a full one. Suddenly raising himself erect, he cried: ‘What did you say? Disdained? Is he not still alive? Does the sweet light not strike his eyes?’ When he saw that I delayed in answering, he dropped supine again, and showed himself no more.

Inferno Canto X:73-93 Farinata prophesies Dante’s long exile

But the other one, at whose wish I had first stopped, generously did not alter his aspect or move his neck, or turn his side. Continuing his previous words, he said: ‘And if my party have learnt that art of return badly, it tortures me more than this bed, but the face of the moon-goddess Persephone, who rules here, will not be crescent fifty times, before you learn the difficulty of that art. And, as you wish to return to the sweet world, tell me why that people is so fierce towards my kin, in all its lawmaking?’ At which I answered him: ‘The great slaughter and havoc, that dyed the Arbia red, is the cause of those indictments against them, in our churches.’
Then he shook his head, sighing, and said: ‘I was not alone in that matter, nor would I have joined with the others without good cause, but I was alone, there, when all agreed to raze Florence to the ground, and I openly defended her.

Inferno Canto X:94-136 The prophetic vision of the damned

‘Ah, as I hope your descendants might sometime have peace,’ I begged him, ‘solve the puzzle that has entangled my mind. It seems, if I hear right, that you see beforehand what time brings, but have a different knowledge of the present.’ ‘Like one who has imperfect vision,’ he said, ‘we see things that are distant from us: so much of the light the supreme Lord still allows us. But when they approach, or come to be, our intelligence is wholly void, and we know nothing of your human state, except what others tell us. So you may understand that all our knowledge of the future will end, from the moment when the Day of Judgement closes the gate of futurity.’
Then, as if conscious of guilt, I said: ‘Will you therefore, tell that fallen one, now, that his son is still joined to the living. And if I was silent before in reply, let him know it was because my thoughts were already entangled in that error you have resolved for me.’

And now my Master was recalling me, at which I begged the spirit, with more haste, to tell me who was with him. He said to me: ‘I lie here with more than a thousand: here inside is Frederick the Second, and the Cardinal, Ubaldini, and of the rest I am silent.’ At that he hid himself, and I turned my steps towards the poet of antiquity, reflecting on the words that boded trouble for me.

Virgil moved on, and then, as we were leaving, said to me: ‘Why are you so bewildered?’ And I satisfied his question. The sage exhorted me: ‘Let your mind retain what you have heard of your fate, and note this,’ and he raised his finger, ‘When you stand before the sweet rays of that lady, whose bright eyes see everything, you will learn the journey of your life through her.’

Then he turned his feet towards the left: we abandoned the wall, and went towards the middle, by a path that makes its way into a valley, that, even up there, forced us to breathe its foulness.

Inferno Canto XI:1-66 The structure of Hell: The Lower Circles

On the edge of a high bank, made of great broken rocks in a circle, we came above a still more cruel crowd, and here, because of the repulsive, excessive stench that the deep abyss throws out, we approached it in the shelter of a grand monument, on which I saw an inscription that said: ‘I hold Anastasius, that Photinus drew away from the true path.’
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 11, 115

The Master said: ‘We must delay our descent until our sense is somewhat used to the foul wind, and then we will not notice it.’ I said to him: ‘Find us something to compensate, so that the time is not wasted.’ And he: ‘See, I have thought of it.’ He began: ‘My son, within these walls of stone, are three graduated circles like those you are leaving. They are all filled with accursed spirits: but so that the sight of them may be enough to inform you, in future, listen how and why they are constrained.

The outcome of all maliciousness, that Heaven hates, is harm: and every such outcome, hurts others, either by force or deceit. But because deceit is a vice peculiar to human beings, it displeases God more, and therefore the fraudulent are placed below, and more pain grieves them. The whole of the seventh circle is for the violent, but, since violence can be done to three persons, it is constructed and divided in three rings. I say violence may be done to God, or to oneself, or one’s neighbour, and their person or possessions, as you will hear, in clear discourse.

Death or painful wounds may be inflicted on one’s neighbour; and devastation, fire, and pillage, on his substance. Therefore the first ring torments all homicides; every one who lashes out maliciously; and thieves and robbers; in their diverse groups.

A man may do violence to himself and to his property, and so, in the second ring, all must repent, in vain, who deprive themselves of your world; or gamble away and dissipate their wealth; or weep there, when they should be happy.

Violence may be done, against the Deity, denying him and blaspheming in the heart, and scorning Nature and her gifts, and so the smallest ring stamps with its seal both Sodom and Cahors, and those who speak scornfully of God, in their hearts.

Human beings may practise deceit, which gnaws at every conscience, on one who trusts them, or on one who places no trust. This latter form of fraud only severs the bond of love that Nature created, and so, in the eighth circle, are nested hypocrisy; sorcery; flattery; cheating; theft and selling of holy orders; pimps; corrupters of public office; and similar filth.

In the previous form, that love that Nature creates is forgotten, and also that which is added later, giving rise to special trust. So, in the ninth, the smallest circle, at the base of the universe, where Dis has his throne, every traitor is consumed eternally.’

Inferno Canto XI:67-93 The structure of Hell: The Upper Circles

And I said: ‘Master, your reasoning proceeds most clearly, and lays out excellently this gulf, and those that populate it, but tell me why those of the great marsh, those whom the wind drives, and the rain beats, and those who come together with sharp words, are not punished in the burning city, if God’s anger is directed towards them? And if not why they are in such a state?’ And he to me: ‘Why does your mind err so much more than usual, or are your thoughts somewhere else?
Do you not remember the words with which your Aristotelian Ethics speaks of the three natures that Heaven does not will: incontinence, malice and mad brutishness, and how incontinence offends God less and incurs less blame? If you consider this doctrine correctly, and recall to mind who those are, that suffer punishment out there, above, you will see, easily, why they are separated from these destructive spirits, and why divine justice strikes them with less anger.’

I said: ‘O Sun, that heals all troubled sight, you make me so content when you explain to me, that to question is as delightful as to know.’

Inferno Canto XI:94-115 Virgil explains usury

‘Go back a moment, to where you said that usury offends divine goodness, and unravel that knot.’ He said to me: ‘To him who attends, Philosophy shows, in more than one place, how Nature takes her path from the Divine Intelligence, and its arts, and if you note your Physics well, you will find, not many pages in, that art, follows her, as well as it can, as the pupil does the master, so that your art is as it were the grandchild of God. By these two, art and nature, man must earn his bread and flourish, if you recall to mind Genesis, near its beginning.
Because the usurer holds to another course, he denies Nature, in herself, and in that which follows her ways, putting his hopes elsewhere.

But follow me, now, by the path I choose, for Pisces quivers on the horizon, and all Bootës covers Caurus, the north-west wind, and over there, some way, we descend the cliff.’

Inferno Canto XII:1-27 Above the Seventh Circle: The Minotaur

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 12, 123

The place we reached to climb down the bank was craggy, and, because of the creature there, also, a path that every eye would shun. The descent of that rocky precipice was like the landslide that struck the left bank of the Adige, this side of Trento, caused by an earthquake or a faulty buttress, since the rock is so shattered, from the summit of the mountain, where it started, to the plain, that it might form a route, for someone above: and at the top of the broken gully, the infamy of Crete, the Minotaur, conceived on Pasiphaë, in the wooden cow, lay stretched out.
When he saw us he gnawed himself, like someone consumed by anger inside. My wise guide called to him: ‘Perhaps you think that Theseus, the Duke of Athens, is here, who brought about your death, in the world above? Leave here, monstrous creature. This man does not come here, aided by your sister, Ariadne, but passes through to see the punishments.’

Like a bull, breaking loose, at the moment when it receives the fatal blow, that cannot go forward, but plunges here and there, so I saw the Minotaur, and my cautious guide cried: ‘Run to the passage: while he is in a fury, it is time for you to descend.’

Inferno Canto XII:28-48 The descent to the Seventh Circle

So we made our way, downwards, over the landslide of stones, that often shifted beneath my feet, from the unaccustomed weight. I went thoughtfully, and he said: ‘Perhaps you are contemplating this fallen mass of rock, guarded by the bestial anger that I quelled a moment ago. I would have you know that the previous time I came down here to the deep Inferno, this spill had not yet fallen. But, if I discern the truth, the deep and loathsome valley, shook, not long before He came to take the great ones of the highest circle, so that I thought the universe thrilled with love, by which as some believe, the world has often been overwhelmed by chaos. In that moment ancient rocks, here and elsewhere, tumbled.
But fix your gaze on the valley, because we near the river of blood, in which those who injure others by violence are boiled.’

Inferno Canto XII:49-99 The First Ring: The Centaurs: The Violent

O blind desires, evil and foolish, which so goad us in our brief life, and then, in the eternal one, ruin us so bitterly! I saw a wide canal bent in an arc, looking as if it surrounded the whole plain, from what my guide had told me. Centaurs were racing, one behind another, between it and the foot of the bank, armed with weapons, as they were accustomed to hunt on earth.
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 12, 127

Seeing us descend they all stood still, and three, elected leaders, came from the group, armed with bows and spears. And one of them shouted from the distance: ‘What torment do you come for, you that descend the rampart? Speak from there, if not, I draw the bow.’ My Master said: ‘We will make our reply to Chiron, who is there, nearby. Sadly, your nature was always rash.’ Then he touched me, and said: ‘That is Nessus, who died because of his theft of the lovely Deianira, and, for his blood, took vengeance, through his blood.

He, in the centre, whose head is bowed to his chest, is the great Chiron, who nursed Achilles: the other is Pholus, who was so full of rage. They race around the ditch, in thousands, piercing with arrows any spirit that climbs further from the blood than its guilt has condemned it to. We drew near the swift creatures. Chiron took an arrow, and pushed back his beard from his face with the notched flight. When he had uncovered his huge mouth, he said to his companions: ‘Have you noticed that the one behind moves whatever he touches? The feet of dead men do not usually do so.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 12, 129

And my good guide, who was by Chiron’s front part, where the two natures join, replied: ‘He is truly alive, and, alone, I have to show him the dark valley. Necessity brings him here, and not desire. She, who gave me this new duty, came from singing Alleluiahs: he is no thief: nor am I a wicked spirit. But, by that virtue, by means of which I set my feet on so unsafe a path, lend us one of your people whom we can follow, so that he may show us where the ford is, and carry this one over on his back, since he cannot fly as a spirit through the air.’

Chiron twisted to his right, and said to Nessus: ‘Turn, and guide them, then, and if another crew meet you, keep them off.’

Inferno Canto XII:100-139 The Tyrants, Murderers and Warriors

We moved onwards with our trustworthy guide, along the margin of the crimson boiling, in which the boiled were shrieking loudly. I saw people immersed as far as the eyebrows, and the great Centaur said: ‘These are tyrants who indulged in blood, and rapine. Here they lament their offences, done without mercy. Here is Alexander, and fierce Dionysius of Syracuse, who gave Sicily years of pain. That head of black hair is Azzolino, and the other, which is blonde, is Obizzo da Este, whose life was quenched, in truth, by his stepson, up in the world.’ Then I turned to the poet, and he said: ‘Let him guide you first, now, and I second.’
A little further on, Nessus paused, next to people who seemed to be sunk in the boiling stream up to their throat. He showed us a shade, apart by itself, saying: ‘That one, Guy de Montfort, in God’s church, pierced that heart that is still venerated by the Thames.’

Then I saw others, who held their heads and all their chests, likewise, free of the river: and I knew many of these. So the blood grew shallower and shallower, until it only cooked their feet, and here was our ford through the ditch.

The Centaur said: ‘As you see the boiling stream continually diminishing, on this side, so, on the other, it sinks more and more, till it comes again to where tyrants are doomed to grieve. Divine Justice here torments Attila, the scourge of the earth; and Pyrrhus, and Sextus Pompeius; and for eternity milks tears, produced by the boiling, from Rinier da Corneto, and Rinier Pazzo, who made war on the highways.’ Then he turned back, and recrossed the ford.

Inferno Canto XIII:1-30 The Second Ring: The Harpies: The Suicides

Nessus had not yet returned to the other side, when we entered a wood, unmarked by any path. The foliage was not green, but a dusky colour: the branches were not smooth, but warped and knotted: there were no fruits there, but poisonous thorns. The wild beasts, that hate the cultivated fields, in the Tuscan Maremma, between Cecina and Corneto, have lairs less thick and tangled. Here the brutish Harpies make their nests, they who chased the Trojans from the Strophades, with dismal pronouncements of future tribulations.
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 13, 135

They have broad wings, and human necks and faces, clawed feet, and large feathered bellies, and they make mournful cries in that strange wood. The kind Master said: ‘Before you go further, be aware you are in the second ring, and will be until you come to the dreadful sands. So look carefully, and you will see things that might make you mistrust my words.’

Already I heard sighs on every side, and saw no one to make them, at which, I stood totally bewildered. I think that he thought that I was thinking that many of those voices came from among the trees, from people who hid themselves because of us. So the Master said: ‘If you break a little twig from one of these branches, the thoughts you have will be seen to be in error.’

Inferno Canto XIII:31-78 The Wood of Suicides: Pier delle Vigne

Then I stretched my hand out a little, and broke a small branch from a large thorn, and its trunk cried out: ‘Why do you tear at me?’ And when it had grown dark with blood, it began to cry out again: ‘Why do you splinter me? Have you no breath of pity? We were men, and we are changed to trees: truly, your hand would be more merciful, if we were merely the souls of snakes.’
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 13, 137

Just as a green branch, burning at one end, spits and hisses with escaping air at the other, so from that broken wood, blood and words came out together: at which I let the branch fall, and stood, like a man afraid. My wise sage replied: ‘Wounded spirit, if he had only believed, before, what he had read in my verse, he would not have lifted his hand to you, but the incredible nature of the thing made me urge him to do what grieves me. But tell him who you were, so that he might make you some amends, and renew your fame up in the world, to which he is allowed to return.

And the tree replied: ‘You tempt me so, with your sweet words, that I cannot keep silent, but do not object if I am expansive in speech. I am Pier delle Vigne, who held both the keys to Frederick’s heart, and employed them, locking and unlocking, so quietly, that I kept almost everyone else from his secrets. I was so faithful to that glorious office that through it I lost my sleep and my life.

The whore that never turned her eyes from Caesar’s household, Envy, the common disease and vice of courts, stirred all minds against me, and being stirred they stirred Augustus, so that my fine honours were changed to grievous sorrows. My spirit, in a scornful mode, thinking to escape scorn by death, made me, though I was just, unjust to myself. By the strange roots of this tree, I swear to you, I never broke faith with my lord, so worthy of honour. If either of you return to the world, raise and cherish the memory of me, that still lies low from the blow Envy gave me.’

Inferno Canto XIII:79-108 The fate of The Suicides

The poet listened for a while, then said to me: ‘Since he is silent, do not lose the moment, but speak, and ask him to tell you more.’ At which I said to him: ‘You ask him further, about what you think will interest me, because I could not, such pity fills my heart.’ So he continued: ‘That the man may do freely what your words request from him, imprisoned spirit, be pleased to tell us further how the spirits are caught in these knots: and tell us, if you can, whether any of them free themselves from these limbs.’
Then the trunk blew fiercely, and the breath was turned to words like these: ‘My reply will be brief. When the savage spirit leaves the body, from which it has ripped itself, Minos sends it to the seventh gulf. It falls into this wood, and no place is set for it, but, wherever chance hurls it, there it sprouts, like a grain of German wheat, shoots up as a sapling, and then as a wild tree. The Harpies feeding then on its leaves hurt it, and give an outlet to its hurt.

Like others we shall go to our corpses on the Day of Judgement, but not so that any of us may inhabit them again, because it would not be just to have what we took from ourselves. We shall drag them here, and our bodies will be hung through the dismal wood, each on the thorn-tree of its tormented shade.

Inferno Canto XIII:109-129 Lano Maconi and Jacomo da Sant’ Andrea

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 13, 143

We were still listening to the tree, thinking it might tell us more, when we were startled by a noise, like those who think the wild boar is nearing where they stand, and hear the animals and the crashing of branches. Behold, on the left, two naked, torn spirits, running so hard they broke every thicket of the wood. The leader, cried: ‘Come Death, come now!’ and the other, Jacomo, who felt himself to be too slow cried: ‘Lano, your legs were not so swift at the jousts of Toppo.’ And since perhaps his breath was failing him, he merged himself with a bush.
The wood behind them was filled with black bitch hounds, eager and quick as greyhounds that have slipped the leash. They clamped their teeth into Lano, who squatted, and tore him bit by bit, then carried off his miserable limbs.

Inferno Canto XIII:130-151 The unnamed Florentine

My guide now took me by the hand, and led me to the bush, which was grieving, in vain, through its bleeding splinters, crying: ‘O Jacomo da Sant’ Andrea, what have you gained by making me your screen? What blame do I have for your sinful life? When the Master had stopped next to it, he said: ‘Who were you, that breathe out your mournful speech, with blood, through so many wounds?
And he to us: ‘You spirits, who have come to view the dishonourable mangling that has torn my leaves from me, gather them round the foot of this sad tree. I was of Florence, that city, which changed Mars, its patron, for St John the Baptist, because of which that god, through his powers, will always make it sorrowful. Were it not that some fragments of his statue remain where Ponte Vecchio crosses the Arno, those citizens, who rebuilt it on the ashes Attila left, would have worked in vain. I made a gibbet for myself, from my own roofbeam.’

Inferno Canto XIV:1-42 The Third Ring: The Violent against God

As the love of my native place stirred in me, I gathered up the scattered leaves, and gave them back to him who was already hoarse. Then we came to the edge, where the second round is divided from the third, where a fearsome form of justice is seen. To make these new things clear, I say we reached a plain, where the land repels all vegetation. The mournful wood makes a circle round it, as the ditch surrounds the wood: here we stepped close to its very rim.
The ground was dry, thick sand, no different in form than that which Cato once trod. O God’s vengeance, how what was shown to my sight should be feared, by all who read! I saw many groups of naked spirits, who were all moaning bitterly: and there seemed to be diverse rules applied to them. Some were lying face upward on the ground; some sat all crouched: and others roamed around continuously.

Those who moved were more numerous, and those that lay in torment fewer, but uttering louder cries of pain. Dilated flakes of fire, falling slowly, like snow in the windless mountains, rained down over all the vast sands. Like the flames that Alexander saw falling, in the hot zones of India, over all his army, until they reached the ground, fires that were more easily quenched while they were separate, so that his troops took care to trample the earth – like those, fell this eternal heat, kindling the sand like tinder beneath flint and steel, doubling the pain.

The dance of their tortured hands was never still, now here, now there, shaking off the fresh burning.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 14, 147

Inferno Canto XIV:43-72 Capaneus

I began: ‘Master, you who overcome everything except the obdurate demons, that came out against us at the entrance to the gate, who is that great spirit, who seems indifferent to the fire, and lies there, scornful, contorted, so that the rain does not seem to deepen his repentance?’ And he himself, noting that I asked my guide about him, cried: ‘What I was when I was living, I am now I am dead. Though Jupiter exhausts Vulcan, his blacksmith, from whom he took, in anger, the fierce lightning bolt, that I was struck down with on my last day, and though he exhausts the others, the Cyclopes, one by one, at the black forge of Aetna, shouting: ‘Help, help, good Vulcan’, just as he did at the battle of Phlegra, between the gods and giants, and hurls his bolts at me with all his strength, he shall still not enjoy a true revenge.’
Then my guide spoke, with a force I had not heard before: ‘O Capaneus, you are punished more in that your pride is not quenched: no torment would produce pain fitting for your fury, except your own raving.’ Then he turned to me with gentler voice, saying: ‘That was one of the seven kings who laid siege to Thebes: and he held God, and seems to hold him, in disdain, and value him lightly, but as I told him, his spite is an ornament that fits his breast.’

Inferno Canto XIV:73-120 The Old Man of Crete

‘Now follow me, and be careful not to place your feet yet on the burning sand, but always keep back close to the wood.’ We came, in silence, to the place, where a little stream gushes from the wood, the redness of which still makes me shudder. Like the rivulet that runs sulphur-red from the Bulicame spring, near Viterbo, that the sinful women share among themselves, so this ran down over the sand. Its bed and both its sloping banks were petrified, and its nearby margins: so that I realised our way lay there.
‘Among all the other things that I have shown you, since we entered though the gate, whose threshold is denied to no one, your eyes have seen nothing as noteworthy as this present stream, that quenches all the flames over it.’ These were my guide’s words, at which I begged him to grant me food, for which he had given me the appetite.

He then said: ‘There is a deserted island in the middle of the sea, named Crete, under whose king Saturn, the world was pure. There is a mountain, there, called Ida, which was once gladdened with waters and vegetation, and now is abandoned like an ancient spoil heap. Rhea chose it, once, as the trusted cradle of her son, and the better to hide him when he wept, caused loud shouts to echo from it.

Inside the mountain, a great Old Man, stands erect, with his shoulders turned towards Egyptian Damietta, and looks at Rome as if it were his mirror. His head is formed of pure gold, his arms and his breasts are refined silver: then he is bronze as far as the thighs. Downwards from there he is all of choice iron, except that the right foot is baked clay, and more of his weight is on that one than the other. Every part, except the gold, is cleft with a fissure that sheds tears, which collect and pierce the grotto. Their course falls from rock to rock into this valley. They form Acheron, Styx and Phlegethon, then, by this narrow channel, go down to where there is no further fall, and form Cocytus: you will see what kind of lake that is: so I will not describe it to you here.’

Inferno Canto XIV:121-142 The Rivers Phlegethon and Lethe

I said to him: ‘If the present stream flows down like that from our world, why does it only appear to us on this bank? And he to me: ‘You know the place is circular, and though you have come far, always to the left, descending to the depths, you have not yet turned through a complete round, so that if anything new appears to us, it should not bring an expression of wonder to your face.’
And I again: ‘Master, where are Lethe, and Phlegethon found, since you do not speak of the former, and say that the latter is formed from these tears?’ He replied: ‘You please me, truly, with all your questions, but the boiling red water might well answer to one of those you ask about. You will see Lethe, but above this abyss, there, on the Mount, where the spirits go to purify themselves, when their guilt is absolved by penitence.’

Then he said: ‘Now it is time to leave the wood: see that you follow me: the margins which are not burning form a path, and over them all the fire is quenched.’

Inferno Canto XV:1-42 The Violent against Nature: Brunetto Latini

Now one of the solid banks takes us on, and the smoke from the stream makes a shadow above, so that it shelters the water and its margins. Just as the Flemings between Bruges and Wissant make their dykes to hold back the sea, fearing the flood that beats against them; and as the Paduans do, along the Brenta, to defend their towns and castles, before Carinthia’s mountains feel the thaw; so those banks were similarly formed, though their creator, whoever it might be, made them neither as high or as deep.
Already we were so far from the wood, that I was unable to see where it was, unless I turned back, when we met a group of spirits, coming along the bank, and each of them looked at us, as, at twilight, men look at one another, under a crescent moon, and peered towards us, as an old tailor does at the eye of his needle. Eyed so by that tribe, I was recognised, by one who took me by the skirt of my robe, and said: ‘How wonderful!’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 15, 155

And I fixed my eyes on his baked visage, so that the scorching of his aspect did not prevent my mind from knowing him, and bending my face to his I replied: ‘Are you here Ser Brunetto?’ And he: ‘O my son, do not be displeased if Brunetto Latini turns back with you a while, and lets the crowd pass by.’ I said: ‘I ask it, with all my strength, and, if you want me to sit with you, I will, if it pleases him there, whom I go with.’

He said: ‘O my son, whoever of the flock stops for a moment, must lie there for a hundred years after, without cooling himself when the fire beats on him. So go on, I will follow at your heels, and then I will rejoin my crew again, who go mourning their eternal loss.’

Inferno Canto XV:43-78 Brunetto’s prophecy

I did not dare leave the road to be level with him, but kept my head bowed like one who walks reverently. He began: ‘What fate, or chance, bring you down here, before your final hour? Who is this who shows you the way?’ I replied: ‘I lost myself, in the clear life up above, in a valley, before my years were complete. Only yesterday morning I turned my back on it: he appeared to me as I was returning to it, and guides me back again, but by this path.’
And he to me: ‘If you follow your star, you cannot fail to reach a glorious harbour: if I judged clearly in the sweet life. If I had not died before you, I would have supported you in your work, seeing that Heaven is so kind to you. But that ungrateful, malignant people, who came down from Fiesole to Florence, in ancient times, and still have something of the mountain and the rock, will be inimical to you for the good you do, and with reason, since it is not fitting for the sweet fig tree to fruit, among the sour crab-apples.

Past report on earth declares them blind, an envious, proud and avaricious people: make sure you purge yourself of their faults. Your fate prophesies such honour for you, that both parties will hunger for you, but the goat will be far from the grass. Let the herd from Fiesole make manure of themselves, but not touch the plant in which the sacred seed of those Romans revives, who stayed, when that nest of malice was created, if any plant still springs from their ordure.’

Inferno Canto XV:79-99 Dante accepts his fate

I answered him: ‘If my wishes had been completely fulfilled, you would not have been separated, yet, from human nature, since, in my memory, the dear, and kind, paternal image of you is fixed, and now goes to my heart, how, when in the world, hour by hour, you taught me the way man makes himself eternal; and it is fitting my tongue should show what gratitude I hold, while I live. What you tell me of my fate, I write, and retain it with a former text, for a lady who will know, how to comment on it, if I reach her.
I would make this much known to you: I am ready for whatever Fortune wills, as long as conscience does not hurt me. Such prophecies are not new to my ears: so let Fortune turn her wheel as she pleases, and the peasant wield his mattock.’ At that, my Master, looked back, on his right, and gazed at me, then said: ‘He listens closely, who notes it.’

Inferno Canto XV:100-124 Brunetto names some of his companions

I carry on speaking, no less, with Ser Brunetto, and ask who are the most famous and noblest of his companions. And he to me: ‘It is good to know of some: of the rest it would be praiseworthy to keep silent, as the time would be too little for such a speech. In short, know that all were clerks, and great scholars, and very famous, tainted with the same sin on earth.
Priscian goes with that miserable crowd, and Francesco d’Accorso: and if you had any desire for such scum, you might have seen Andrea di Mozzi there, who by Boniface, the Pope, servus servorum Dei, servant of servants, was translated from the Arno to Vicenza’s Bacchiglione, where he departed from his ill-strained body.

I would say more, but my speech and my departure must not linger, since there I see new smoke, rising from the great sand. People come that I cannot be with: let my Tresoro be commended to you, in which I still live: more I ask not.’

Then he turned back, and seemed like one who runs for the green cloth, at Verona, through the open fields: and seemed one of those who wins, not one who loses.

Inferno Canto XVI:1-45 Rusticucci, Guido Guerra, Aldobrandi

I was already in a place where the booming of the water, that fell, into the next circle, sounded like a beehive’s humming, when three shades together, running, left a crowd that passed under the sharp burning rain. They came towards us, and each one cried: ‘Wait, you, who seem to us, by your clothes, to be someone from our perverse city.’
Ah me, what ancient, and recent, wounds I saw on their limbs, scorched there by the flames! It saddens me now, when I remember it. My teacher listened to their cries, turned his face towards me, and said: ‘Wait, now: courtesy is owed them, and if there were not this fire, that the place’s nature rains down, I would say that you were more hasty than them.’

As we rested, they started their former laments again, and when they reached us, all three of them formed themselves into a circle. Wheeling round, as champion wrestlers, naked and oiled, do, looking for a hold or an advantage, before they grasp and strike one another, each directed his face at me, so that his neck was turned, all the time, in an opposite direction to his feet.

And one of them began: ‘If the misery of this sinful place, and our scorched, stained look, renders us, and our prayers, contemptible, let our fame influence your mind to tell us who you are, that move your living feet, safely, through Hell. He, in whose footsteps you see me tread, all peeled and naked as he is, was greater in degree than you would think. His name is Guido Guerra, grandson of the good lady Gualdrada, and in his life he achieved much in council, and with his sword.

The other, that treads the sand behind me, is Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, whose words should have been listened to in the world. And I, who am placed with them in torment, am Jacopo Rusticucci, and certainly my fierce wife injured me more than anything else.’

Inferno Canto XVI:46-87 The condition of Florence

If I had been sheltered from the fire, I would have dropped down among them below, and I believe my teacher would have allowed it, but as I would have been burned and baked, myself, my fear overcame the goodwill, that made me eager to embrace them.
Then I began: ‘Your condition stirred sadness, not contempt, in me, so deeply, it will not soon be gone, when my guide spoke words to me by which I understood such men as yourselves might be approaching. I am of your city, and I have always heard, and rehearsed, your names and your deeds, with affection. I leave the gall behind, and go towards the sweet fruits promised me by my truthful guide, but first I must go downwards to the centre.’

He replied, then: ‘That your soul may long inhabit your body, and your fame shine after you, tell us if courtesy and courage, still live in our city as they used to, or if they have quite forsaken it? Gugliemo Borsiere, who has been in pain with us, a little while, and goes along there with our companions, torments us greatly with what he says.

‘New men, and sudden wealth, have created pride and excess in you, Florence, so that you already weep for it.’ So I cried with lifted face, and the three, who took this for an answer, gazed at one another, as one gazes at the truth. They replied together: ‘Happy are you, if, by speaking according to your will, it costs so little for you to satisfy others! So, if you escape these gloomy spaces, and turn, and see the beauty of the stars again, when you will be glad to say: “I was”, see that you tell people of us.’

Then they broke up their circle, and, as they ran, their swift legs seemed wings.

Inferno Canto XVI:88-136 The monster Geryon

An Amen could not have been said in so quick a time as their vanishing took, at which my Master was pleased to depart. I followed him. We had gone only a little way, when the sound of the water came so near us, that if we had been speaking we would hardly have heard each other.
Like that river (the first that takes its own course to the eastern seaboard, south of Monte Veso, where the Po rises, on the left flank of the Apennines, and is called Acquacheta above, before it falls to its lower bed, and loses its name, to become the Montone, at Forlì) which, plunging through a fall, echoes from the mountain, above San Benedetto, where there should be refuge for a thousand, so, down from a steep bank, we found that tainted water re-echoing, so much so that, in a short while, it would have dazed our hearing.

I had a cord tied round me, and with it I had once thought to catch the leopard with the spotted skin. After I had completely unwound it from myself, as my guide commanded, I held it out to him, gathered up and coiled. Then he turned towards the right, and threw the end of it, away from the edge a little, down into the steep gulf. I said to myself: ‘Surely something strange will follow this new sign of our intentions, that my master tracks with his eyes, as it falls.’

Ah, how careful men should be with those who do not only see our actions but, with their understanding, see into our thoughts! He said to me: ‘That which I expect will soon ascend, and, what your thoughts speculate about, will soon be apparent to your sight.’

A man should always shut his lips, as far as he can, to truth that seems like falsehood, since he incurs reproach, though he is blameless, but I cannot be silent here: and Reader, I swear to you, by the words of this Commedia, that they may not be free of lasting favour, that I saw a shape, marvellous, to every unshaken heart, come swimming upwards through the dense, dark air, as a man rises, who has gone down, sometime, to loose an anchor, caught on a rock or something else, hidden in the water, who spreads his arms out, and draws up his feet.

Inferno Canto XVII:1-30 The poets approach Geryon

‘See the savage beast, with the pointed tail, that crosses mountains, and pierces walls and armour: see him, who pollutes the whole world.’ So my guide began to speak to me, and beckoned to him to land near the end of our rocky path, and that vile image of Fraud came on, and grounded his head and chest, but did not lift his tail onto the cliff.
Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 17, 167

His face was the face of an honest man, it had so benign an outward aspect: all the rest was a serpent’s body. Both arms were covered with hair to the armpits; the back and chest and both flanks were adorned with knots and circles. Tartars or Turks never made cloths with more colour, background and embroidery: nor did Arachne spread such webs on her loom. As the boats rest on the shore, part in water and part on land, and as the beaver, among the guzzling Germans, readies himself for a fight, so that worst of savage creatures lay on the cliff that surrounds the great sand with stone.

The whole of his tail glanced into space, twisting the venomous fork upwards, that armed the tip, like a scorpion. My guide said: ‘Now we must direct our path, somewhat, towards the malevolent beast that rests there.’

Inferno Canto XVII:31-78 The Usurers

Then we went down, on the right, and took ten steps towards the edge, so that we could fully avoid the sand and flame, and when we reached him, I saw people sitting near the empty space, a little further away, on the ground.
Here my Master said: ‘Go and see the state of them, so that you may take away a complete knowledge of this round. Talk briefly with them: I will speak with this creature, until you return, so that he might carry us on his strong shoulders.’ So, still on the extreme edge of the seventh circle, I went, all alone, to where the sad crew were seated.

Their grief was gushing from their eyes: they kept flicking away the flames and sometimes the burning dust, on this side, or on that, with their hands, no differently than dogs do in summer, now with their muzzle, now with their paws, when they are bitten by fleas, or gnats, or horse-flies. When I set my eyes on the faces of several of them, on whom the grievous fire falls, I did not recognise any, but I saw that a pouch hung from the neck of each, that had a certain colour, and a certain seal, and it seemed their eye was feeding on it. And as I came among them, looking, I saw, on a golden-yellow purse, an azure seal that had the look and attitude of a lion.

Then my gaze continuing on its track, I saw another, red as blood, showing a goose whiter than butter. And one who had his white purse stamped with an azure, pregnant sow, said to me: ‘What are you doing in this pit? Now go away, and since you are still alive, know that my neighbour, Vitaliano, will come to sit here on my left. I, a Paduan, am with these Florentines. Many a time they deafen my hearing, shouting: ‘Let the noble knight come, who will carry the purse with three eagles’ beaks!’

Then he distorted his mouth, and thrust his tongue out, like an ox licking its nose, and I, dreading lest a longer stay might anger him, who had warned me to make a brief stay, turned back from those weary spirits.

Inferno Canto XVII:79-136 The poets descend on Geryon’s back

I found my guide, who had already mounted the flank of the savage creature, and he said to me: ‘Be firm and brave. Now we must descend by means of these stairs: you climb in front: I wish to be in the centre, so that the tail may not harm you.’
Like a man whose fit of the quartan fever is so near, that his nails are already pallid, and he shakes all over, by keeping in the shade, so I became when these words were said: but his reproof roused shame in me, that makes the servant brave in the presence of a worthy master. I set myself on those vast shoulders. I wished to say: ‘See that you clasp me tight.’ but my voice did not come out as I intended. He, who helped me in other difficulties, at other times, embraced me, as soon as I mounted, and held me upright. Then he said: ‘Now move, Geryon! Make large circles, and let your descent be gentle: think of the strange burden that you carry.’

As a little boat goes backwards, backwards, from its mooring, so the monster left the cliff, and when he felt himself quite free, he turned his tail around, to where his chest had been, and stretching, flicked it like an eel, and gathered the air towards him with his paws. I do not believe the fear was greater when Phaëthon let slip the reins, and the sky was scorched, as it still appears to be; or when poor Icarus felt the feathers melt from his arms, as the wax was heated, and his father Daedalus cried: ‘You are going the wrong way!’ as mine was when I saw myself surrounded by the air, on all sides, and saw everything vanish, except the savage beast.

He goes down, swimming slowly, slowly: wheels and falls: but I do not see it except by the wind, on my face, and from below. Already I heard the cataract, on the right, make a terrible roaring underneath us, at which I stretched my neck out, with my gaze downwards. Then I was more afraid to dismount, because I saw fires, and heard moaning, so that I cowered, trembling all over. And then I saw what I had not seen before, our sinking and circling through the great evils that drew close on every side.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 17, 171

As the falcon, that has been long on the wing, descends wearily, without seeing bird or lure, making the falconer cry: ‘Ah, you stoop!’ and settles far from his master disdainful and sullen, so Geryon set us down, at the base, close to the foot of the fractured rock, and relieved of our weight, shot off, like an arrow from the bow.

Inferno Canto XVIII:1-21 The Eighth Circle: Malebolge: Simple Fraud

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge, all of stone, and coloured like iron, as is the cliff that surrounds it. Right in the centre of the malignant space, a well yawns, very wide and deep, whose structure I will speak of in due place.
The margin that remains, between the base of the high rocky bank and the well, is circular, and its floor is divided into ten moats. Like the form the ground reveals, where successive ditches circle a castle, to defend the walls, such was the layout displayed here. And as there are bridges to the outer banks from the thresholds of the fortress, so, from the base of the cliff, causeways ran, crossing the successive banks and ditches, down to the well that terminates and links them.

We found ourselves there, shaken from Geryon’s back, and the Poet kept to the left, and I went on, behind him.

Inferno Canto XVIII:22-39 The First Chasm: The Pimps and Seducers

On the right I saw new pain and torment, and new tormentors, with which the first chasm was filled. In its depths the sinners were naked: on our inner side of its central round they came towards us, on the outer side, with us, but with larger steps. So the people of Rome, in that year, at the Jubilee, because of the great crowds, initiated this means to pass the people over the bridge: those on the one side all had their faces towards Castello Sant’ Angelo, and went to St Peter’s: those on the other towards Monte Giordano.
On this side and on that, along the fearful rock, I saw horned demons with large whips, who struck them fiercely, from behind. Ah, how it made them quicken their steps at the first stroke! Truly none waited for the second or third.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 18, 177

Inferno Canto XVIII:40-66 The Panders: Venedico de’ Caccianemico

As I went on, my eyes encountered one of them, and instantly I said: This shade I have seen before.’ So I stopped to scrutinise him, and the kind guide stood still with me, and allowed me to return a little. And that scourged spirit thought to hide himself, lowering his face, but it did not help, since I said: ‘You, who cast your eyes on the ground, if the features you display are not an illusion, you are Venedico Caccianimico: but what led you into such a biting pickle?’
And he to me: ‘I tell it unwillingly, but your clear speech that makes me remember the former world, compels me. It was I who induced the fair Ghisola to do the Marquis of Este’s will, however unpleasant the story sounds. And I am not the only Bolognese that weeps here: this place is so filled with us, that as many tongues are no longer taught to say sipa for sì, between the Savena’s stream that is west, and the Reno’s, that is east of Bologna. If you want assurance and testimony of it, recall to mind our avaricious hearts.’ And as he spoke, a demon struck him with his whip, and said: ‘Away, pander, there are no women here to sell.’

Inferno Canto XVIII:67-99 The Seducers: Jason

I rejoined my guide: then in a few steps we came to where a causeway ran from the cliff. This we climbed very easily, and, turning to the right on its jagged ridge, we moved away from that eternal round. When we reached the arch where it yawns below to leave a path for the scourged, my guide said: ‘Wait, and let the aspect of those other ill-born spirits strike you, whose faces you have not yet seen, since they have been going in our direction.’
We viewed their company from the ancient bridge, travelling towards us on the other side, chased likewise by the whip. Without my asking, the kind Master said to me: ‘Look at that great soul who comes, and seems not to shed tears of pain: what a royal aspect he still retains! That is Jason, who, by wisdom and courage, robbed the Colchians of the Golden Fleece.

He sailed by the Isle of Lemnos, after the bold merciless women there had put all their males to death. There with gifts and sweet words he deceived the young Hypsipyle, who had saved her father by deceiving all the rest. He left her there, pregnant and lonely: such guilt condemns him to such torment: and revenge is also taken for his abandoning Medea. With him go all who practise like deceit, and let this be enough for knowledge of the first chasm, and those whom it swallows.’

Inferno Canto XVIII:100-136 The Second Chasm: The Flatterers

We had already come to where the narrow causeway crosses the second bank, and forms a buttress to a second arch. Here we heard people whining in the next chasm, and blowing with their muzzles, and striking themselves with their palms.
The banks were crusted, with a mould from the fumes below that condenses on them, and attacks the eyes and nose. The floor is so deep, that we could not see any part of it, except by climbing to the ridge of the arch, where the rock is highest. We came there, and from it, in the ditch below, I saw people immersed in excrement, that looked as if it flowed from human privies. And while I was searching it, down there, with my eyes, I saw one with a head so smeared with ordure, that it was not clear if he was clerk or layman.

He shouted at me: ‘Why are you so keen to gaze at me more than the other mired ones?’ And I to him: ‘Because, if I remember rightly, I have seen you before with dry head, and you are Alessio Interminei of Lucca: so I eye you more than all the others.’ And he then, beating his forehead: ‘The flatteries, of which my tongue never wearied, have brought me down to this!’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 18, 181

At which my guide said to me: ‘Advance your head a little, so that your eyes can clearly see, over there, the face of that filthy and dishevelled piece, who scratches herself, with her soiled nails, now crouching down, now rising to her feet. It is Thais, the whore, who answered her lover’s message, in which he asked: “Do you really return me great thanks?” with “No, wondrous thanks.” And let our looking be sated with this.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 18, 183

Inferno Canto XIX:1-30 The Third Chasm: The Sellers of Sacred Offices

O Simon Magus! O you, his rapacious, wretched followers, who prostitute, for gold and silver, the things of God that should be wedded to virtue! Now the trumpets must sound for you, since you are in the third chasm.
Already we had climbed to the next arch, onto that part of the causeway that hangs right over the centre of the ditch. O Supreme Wisdom, how great the art is, that you display, in the heavens, on earth, and in the underworld, and how justly your virtue acts. On the sides and floor of the fosse, I saw the livid stone full of holes, all of one width, and each one rounded. They seemed no narrower or larger, than those in my beautiful Baptistery of St John, made as places to protect those baptising, one of which I broke, not many years ago, to aid a child inside: and let this be a sign of the truth to end all speculation.

From the mouth of each hole, a sinner’s feet and legs emerged, up to the calf, and the rest remained inside. The soles were all on fire, so that the joints quivered so strongly, that they would have snapped grass ropes and willow branches. As the flame of burning oily liquids moves only on the surface, so it was in their case, from the heels to the legs.

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 19, 187

Inferno Canto XIX:31-87 Pope Nicholas III

I said: ‘Master, who is that, who twists himself about, writhing more than all his companions, and licked by redder flames?’ And he to me: ‘If you will let me carry you down there by the lower bank, you will learn from him about his sins and himself.’ And I: ‘Whatever pleases you is good for me: you are my lord, and know that I do not deviate from your will, also you know what is not spoken.’
Then we came onto the fourth buttress: we turned and descended, on the left, down into the narrow and perforated depths. The kind master did not let me leave his side until he took me to the hole occupied by the one who so agonised with his feet.

I began to speak: ‘O, unhappy spirit, whoever you are, who have your upper parts below, planted like a stake, form words if you can.’ I stood like the friar who gives confession to a treacherous assassin, who, after being fixed in the ground, calls the confessor back, and so delays his burial. And he cried: ‘Are you standing there already, Boniface, are you standing there already? The book of the future has deceived me by several years. Are you sated, so swiftly, with that wealth, for which you did not hesitate to seize the Church, our lovely lady, and then destroy her?’

I became like those who stand, not knowing what has been said to them, and unable to reply, exposed to scorn. Then Virgil said: ‘Quickly, say to him, “I am not him, I am not whom you think.” ’ And I replied as I was instructed. At which the spirit’s legs writhed fiercely: then, sighing, in a tearful voice, he said to me: ‘Then what do you want of me? If it concerns you so much to know who I am, that you have left the ridge, know that I wore the Great Mantle, and truly I was son of the Orsini she-bear, so eager to advance her cubs, that I pursed up wealth, above, and here myself.

The other simonists, who came before me, are drawn down below my head, cowering inside the cracks in the stone. I too will drop down there, when Boniface comes, the one I mistook you for when I put my startled question. But the extent of time, in which I have baked my feet, and stood like this, reversed, is already longer than the time he shall stand planted in turn with glowing feet, since, after him, will come Clement, the lawless shepherd, of uglier actions, fit indeed to cap Boniface and me.

He will be a new Jason, the high priest, whom we read about in Maccabees: and as his king Antiochus was compliant, so will Philip be, who governs France.’

Inferno Canto XIX:88-133 Dante speaks against Simony

I do not know if I was too foolhardy then, but I answered him in this way: ‘Ah, now tell me, how much wealth the Lord demanded of Peter, before he gave the keys of the Church into his keeping? Surely he demanded nothing, saying only: ‘Follow me.’ Nor did Peter or the other Apostles, ask gold or silver of Matthias, when he was chosen to fill the place that Judas, the guilty soul, had forfeited. So, remain here, since you are justly punished, and keep well the ill-gotten money, that made you so bold against Charles of Anjou.
And were it not that I am still restrained by reverence for the great keys that you held in your hand in the joyful life, I would use even more forceful words, since your avarice grieves the world, trampling the good, and raising the wicked. John the Evangelist spoke of shepherds such as you, when he saw ‘the great whore that sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication’, she that was born with seven heads and, as long as virtue pleased her spouse, had justification.

You have made a god for yourselves of gold and silver, and how do you differ from the idolaters, except that he worships one image and you a hundred? Ah, Constantine, how much evil you gave birth to, not in your conversion, but in that Donation that the first wealthy Pope, Sylvester, received from you!’

And while I sung these notes to him, he thrashed violently with both his feet, either rage or conscience gnawing him. I think it pleased my guide, greatly, he had so satisfied an expression, listening to the sound of the true words I spoke. So he lifted me with both his arms, and when he had me quite upon his breast, climbed back up the path he had descended, and did not tire of carrying me clasped to him, till he had borne me to the summit of the arch, that crosses from the fourth to the fifth rampart.

Here he set his burden down, lightly: light for him, on the rough steep cliff, that would be a difficult path for a goat. From there another valley was visible to me.

Inferno Canto XX:1-30 The Fourth Chasm: The Seers and Sorcerers

I must make verses of new torments, and give matter for this twentieth Canto, of the Inferno that treats of the damned.
I was now quite ready to look into the ditch, bathed with tears of anguish, which was revealed to me: I saw people coming, silent and weeping, through the circling valley, at a pace which processions, that chant Litanies, take through the world. When my eyes looked further down on them, each of them appeared strangely distorted, between the chin and the start of the chest, since the head was reversed towards the body, and they had to move backwards, since they were not allowed to look forwards. Perhaps one might be so distorted by palsy, but I have not seen it, and do not credit it.

Reader, as God may grant that you profit from your reading, think now yourself how I could keep from weeping, when I saw our image so contorted, nearby, that the tears from their eyes bathed their hind parts at the cleft. Truly, I wept, leaning against one of the rocks of the solid cliff, so that my guide said to me: ‘Are you like other fools, as well? Pity is alive here, where it is best forgotten. Who is more impious than one who bears compassion for God’s judgement?’

Inferno Canto XX:31-51 The Seers

‘Lift your head, lift it and see him for whom earth opened, under the eyes of the Thebans, at which they all shouted: “Where are you rushing, Amphiaräus? Why do you quit the battle?” And he did not stop his downward rush until he reached Minos, who grasps every sinner. Note how he has made a chest of his shoulders: because he willed to see too far beyond him, he now looks behind and goes backwards.
See Tiresias, who changed his form, when he was made a woman, all his limbs altering: and later he had to strike the two entwined snakes with his staff, a second time, before he could resume a male aspect.

That one is Aruns, who has his back to Tiresias’s belly, he who in the mountains of Tuscan Luni, where the Carrarese hoe, who live beneath them, had a cave to live in, among the white marble, from which he could gaze at the stars and the sea, with nothing to spoil his view.’

Inferno Canto XX:52-99 Manto and the founding of Mantua

‘And she that hides her breasts, that you cannot see, with her flowing tresses, and has all hairy skin on the other side, was Manto, who searched through many lands, then settled where I was born, about which it pleases me to have you listen to me speak a while.
After her father departed from life, and Thebes, the city of Bacchus, came to be enslaved, she roamed the world a long time. A lake, Lake Garda, lies at the foot of the Alps, up in beautiful Italy, where Germany is closed off beyond the Tyrol. Mount Apennino, between the town of Garda and Val Camonica, is bathed by the water that settles in the lake. In the middle there is a place where the Bishops of Trent, Brescia, and Verona might equally give the blessing if they went that way. A strong and beautiful fortress stands, where the shoreline is lowest, to challenge the Brescians and Bergamese.

There, all the water that cannot remain in the breast of Lake Garda, has to descend through the green fields, and form a river. As soon as the water has its head, it is no longer Garda, but Mincio, down to Governolo where it joins the Po. It has not flowed far before it finds the level, on which it spreads and makes a marsh there, and in summer tends to be unwholesome. Manto, the wild virgin, passing that way, saw untilled land, naked of inhabitants, among the fens. There, to avoid all human contact, she stayed, with her followers, to practise her arts, and lived there, and left her empty body.

Then the people who were scattered round gathered together in that place, which was well defended by the marshes on every side. They built the city over those dead bones, and without other augury, called it Mantua, after her who first chose the place. Once there were more inhabitants, before Casalodi, was foolishly deceived by Pinamonte. So, I charge you, if you ever hear another story of the origin of my city, do not let falsehoods destroy the truth.’

Inferno Canto XX:100-130 The Soothsayers and Astrologers

And I said: ‘Master, your speeches are so sound to me, and so hold my belief, that any others are like spent ashes. But tell me about the people who are passing, if you see any of them worth noting, since my mind returns to that alone.’
Then he said to me: ‘That one, whose beard stretches down from his cheeks, over his dusky shoulders, was an augur, when Greece was so emptied of males, for the expedition against Troy, that there were scarcely any left, even in their cradles. Like Calchas at Aulis, he set the moment for cutting loose the first cable. Eurypylus is his name, and my high Poem sings of it in a certain place: you know it well, who know the whole thing.

The other, so thin about the flanks, is Michael Scott, who truly understood the fraudulent game of magic. See Guido Bonatti, see Asdente, who wishes now he had attended more to his shoemaker’s leather and cord, but repents too late. See the miserable women who abandoned needle, shuttle and spindle, and became prophetesses: they made witchcraft, using herbs and images.

But come, now, for Cain with his bundle of thorns, that Man in the Moon, reaches the western confines of both hemispheres, and touches the waves south of Seville, and already, last night, the Moon was full: you must remember it clearly, since she did not serve you badly in the deep wood.’ So he spoke to me, and meanwhile we moved on.

Inferno Canto XXI:1-30 The Fifth Chasm: The Sellers of Public Offices

So from bridge to bridge we went, with other conversation which my Commedía does not choose to recall, and were at the summit arch when we stopped to see the next cleft of Malebolge, and more vain grieving, and I found it marvellously dark.
As, in the Venetian Arsenal, the glutinous pitch boils in winter, that they use to caulk the leaking boats they cannot sail; and so, instead one man builds a new boat, another plugs the seams of his, that has made many voyages, one hammers at the prow, another at the stern, some make oars, and some twist rope, one mends a jib, the other a mainsail; so, a dense pitch boiled down there, not melted by fire, but by divine skill, and glued the banks over, on every side.

I saw it, but nothing in it, except the bubbles that the boiling caused, and the heaving of it all, and the cooling part’s submergence. While I was gazing fixedly at it, my guide said: ‘Take care. Take care!’ and drew me towards him, from where I stood. Then I turned round, like one who has to see what he must run from, and who is attacked by sudden fear, so that he dare not stop to look: and behind us I saw a black Demon come running up the cliff.

Inferno Canto XXI:31-58 The Barrators

Ah, how fierce his aspect was! And how cruel he seemed in action, with his outspread wings, and nimble legs! His high pointed shoulders, carried a sinner’s two haunches, and he held the sinews of each foot tight.
He cried: ‘You, Malebranche, the Evil-clawed, see here is one of Lucca’s elders, that city whose patron is Santa Zita: push him under while I go back for the rest, back to that city which is well provided with them: every one there is a barrator, except Bonturo; there they make ‘Yes’ of ‘No’ for money.

He threw him down, then wheeled back along the stony cliff, and never was a mastiff loosed so readily to catch a thief. The sinner plunged in, and rose again writhing, but the demons under cover of the bridge, shouted: ‘Here the face of Christ, carved in your cathedral, is of no avail: here you swim differently than in the Serchio: so, unless you want to try our grapples, do not emerge above the pitch.’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 21, 201

Then they struck at him with more than a hundred prongs, and said: ‘Here you must dance, concealed, so that you steal in private, if you can.’ No different is it, when the cooks make their underlings push the meat down into the depths of the cauldrons with their hooks, to stop it floating.

Inferno Canto XXI:59-96 Virgil challenges the Demons’ threats

The good master said to me: ‘Cower down behind a rock, so that you have a screen to protect yourself, and so that it is not obvious that you are here, and whatever insult is offered to me, have no fear, since I know these matters, having been in a similar danger before.’ Then he passed beyond the bridgehead, and when he arrived on the sixth bank, it was necessary for him to present a bold front.
The demons rushed from below the bridge, and turned their weapons against him, with the storm and fury with which a dog rushes at a poor beggar, who suddenly seeks alms when he stops. But Virgil cried: ‘None, of you, commit an outrage. Before you touch me with your forks, one of you come over here, to listen, and then discuss whether you will grapple me.’ They all cried: ‘You go, Malacoda’ at which one moved while the others stood still, and came towards Virgil, saying: ‘What good will it do him?’

Gustave Doré Illustration – Inferno Canto 21, 205

My Master said: ‘Malacoda, do you think I have come here without the Divine Will, and propitious fate, safe from all your obstructions? Let me go by, since it is willed, in Heaven, that I show another this wild road.’ Then the demon’s pride was so down, that he let the hook drop at his feet, and said to the others: ‘Now, do not hurt him!’ And my guide to me: ‘O you, who are sitting, crouching, crouching amongst the bridge’s crags, return to me safely, now!’ At which I moved, and came to him quickly, and the devils all pressed forward so that I was afraid they would not hold to their orders. So I once saw the infantry, marching out, under treaty of surrender, from Caprona, afraid at finding themselves surrounded by so many enemies.

Inferno Canto XXI:97-139 The Demons escort the Poets

I pressed my whole body close to my guide, and did not take my eyes away from their aspect, which was hostile. They lowered their hooks, and kept saying, to one another: ‘Shall I touch him on the backside?’ and answering, ‘Yes, see that you give him a nick.’
But that demon who was talking to my guide, turned round quickly, and said: ‘Be quiet, be quiet, Scarmiglione.’ Then he said to us: ‘It will not be possible to go any further along this causeway, since the sixth arch is lying broken at the base, and if you desire still to go forward, go along this ridge, and nearby is another cliff that forms a causeway. Yesterday, five hours later than this hour, twelve hundred and sixty-six years were completed, since this path here was destroyed.

I am sending some of my company here to see if anyone is out for an airing: go with them, they will not commit treachery.’ Then he began speaking: ‘Advance, Alichino and Calcabrina, and you, Cagnazzo: let Barbariccia lead the ten. Let Libicocco come as well, and Draghignazzo, tusked Ciriatto, Grafficane, Farfarello, and Rubicante the mad one. Search round the boiling glue: see these two safe, as far as the other cliff that crosses the chasms, completely, without a break.’

I said: ‘O me! Master, what do I see? Oh, let us go alone, without an escort, if you know the way: as for me, I would prefer not. If you are as cautious as usual, do you not see how they grind their teeth, and darken their brows, threatening us with mischief? And he to me: ‘I do not want you to be afraid: let them grin away at their will: since they do it for the boiled wretches.’

They turned by the left bank: but first, each of them had stuck his tongue out, between his teeth, towards their leader, as a signal, and he had made a trumpet of his arse.

Inferno Canto XXII:1-30 The Poets view more of the Fifth Chasm

I have seen cavalry moving camp, before now, starting a foray, holding muster, and now and then retiring to escape; I have seen war-horses on your territory, O Aretines, and seen the foraging parties, the clash of tournaments, and repeated jousts; now with trumpets, now with bells, with drums and rampart signals, with native and foreign devices, but I never yet saw infantry or cavalry, or ship at sight of shore or star, move to such an obscene trumpet.
We went with the ten demons: ah, savage company! But, they say: ‘In church with the saints, and in the inn with the drunkards.’ But my mind was on the boiling pitch, to see each feature of the chasm, and the people who were burning in it. Like dolphins, arching their backs, telling the sailors to get ready to save their ship, so, now and then, to ease the punishment, some sinner showed his back, and hid as quick as lightning.

And as frogs squat, at the edge of the ditchwater, with only mouths showing, so that their feet and the rest of them are hidden, so the sinners stood on every side: but they instantly shot beneath the seething, as Barbariccia approached.

Inferno Canto XXII:31-75 Ciampolo

I saw, and my heart still shudders at it, one linger, just as one frog remains when the others scatter: and Graffiacane, who was nearest him, hooked his pitchy hair, and hauled him up, looking, to me, like an otter. I already knew the names of every demon, so I noted them well as they were called, and when they shouted to each other, listened out.
‘O Rubicante, see you get your clutches in him, and flay him,’ all the accursed tribe cried together. And I: ‘Master, make out if you can, who that wretch is, who has fallen into the hands of his enemies.’ My guide drew close to him, and asked him where he came from, and he answered: ‘I was born in the kingdom of Navarre. My mother placed me as a servant to a lord, since she had borne me to a scurrilous waster of himself and his possessions. Then I was of the household of good King Thibaut, and there I took to selling offices, for which I serve my sentence in this heat.’

And Ciriatto, from whose mouth a tusk, like a boar’s, projected on each side, made him feel how one of them could rip. The mouse had come among the evil cats: but Barbariccia caught him in his arms, and said: ‘Stand back, while I fork him!’ And, turning to my Master, he said: ‘Ask away, if you want to learn more from him, before someone else gets at him.’

So my guide said: ‘Now say, do you know any of the oth