Great Quotes from American History

The purpose of this page is to provide some interesting quotes from characters in American history.

If you have suggestions about other quotes to include, please let me know.


"The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me."

Abraham Lincoln, 1839 

I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.
Abraham Lincoln
Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us?
William O. Douglas
Civil disobedience
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.
Henry David Thoreau
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Eleanor Roosevelt
Cuban Missile Crisis
Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium - and intermediate - range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no? Don't wait for the translation. Yes or no?  You are in the courtroom of world opinion. You have denied they exist, and I want to know if I understood you correctly. I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over. And I am also prepared to present the evidence in this room!
Adlai Stevenson
Equal opportunity
Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American.
Malcolm X
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.
John F. Kennedy
Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
Patrick Henry
No man is good enough to govern another man without his consent.
No man is good enough to govern any woman without her consent.
Susan B. Anthony
Freedom from fear
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Freedom of speech
I think the most un-American thing you can say is, 'You can't say that.
Garrison Keillor
Freedom of speech
Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter. The audience that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance.
William O. Douglas
Gender equity
I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislatures, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.
Jane Addams
The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
Benjamin Franklin
Independence's cost
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.
Thomas Paine
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
National debt
Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.
Herbert Hoover
To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say: You, too, can be president of the United States.
George W. Bush
Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.
Gloria Steinem
Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.
Mark Twain
My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
John F. Kennedy
Patriotism & the presidency
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
Theodore Roosevelt
I never had much faith in leaders. I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader. I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety. Give me the rank and file every day in the week. If you go to the city of Washington, and you examine the pages of the Congressional Directory, you will find that almost all of those corporation lawyers and cowardly politicians, members of Congress, and mis-representatives of the masses -- you will find that almost all of them claim, in glowing terms, that they have risen from the ranks to places of eminence and distinction. I am very glad I cannot make that claim for myself. I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks.
Eugene V. Debs
Presidential powers in time of war
We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens...[E]ven the war power [of the President] does not remove constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties.
Sandra Day O'Connor,  Hamdi v. Rumsfeld
Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don't they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the Prohibition one did, why, in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth.
Will Rogers
The objection to Puritans is not that they try to make us think as they do, but that they try to make us do as they think.
H.L. Mencken
Relative worth
I had a better year than he did (When informed that the $80,000 dollar salary he received in 1930 was $5,000 more that that of President Hoover)
Babe Ruth
I’m the ultimately responsible person in this organization. Other people can pass the buck to me, but I can’t pass the buck to anyone else.
Harry S. Truman
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
H. L Mencken
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Thomas Jeffferson
The vice presidency isn't worth a warm bucket of spit (reporters allegedly changed the last word)
John Nance Garner
My country has contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.
John Adams
Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.
John Adams
You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.
Jeannette Rankin