Ancient wisdom for modern politics


Uncabob pointed out that ancient wisdom sometimes truly is wisdom applicable to modern times:

Closely held beliefs are not easily released;
So ritual enthralls generation after generation.
“When government is lazy and informal
The people are kind and honest;
When government is efficient and severe
The people are discontented and deceitful.
“Who recognizes his limitations is healthy;
Who ignores his limitations is sick.
The sage recognizes this sickness as a limitation.
And so becomes immune.
“When people have nothing more to lose,
Then revolution will result.
“Do not take away their lands,
And do not destroy their livelihoods;
If your burden is not heavy then they will not shirk it.
“When rulers take grain so that they may feast,
Their people become hungry;
When rulers take action to serve their own interests,
Their people become rebellious;
When rulers take lives so that their own lives are maintained,
Their people no longer fear death.”

The is-ought distinction is very useful for Christian philosophers.

To the Christian, natural law is “ought.”

The Christian says, “I ought to fulfill ritual obligations, such as going to church on Sunday.”

The cracker-barrel critic says, “You ought to be a good Christian, but you ain’t!”

But Daoism is not preoccupied with “ought.”

Long-time readers will recall that a major purpose of this blog is to fact-check quotations attributed to famous figures and to debunk any that appear to be false.

I have not yet debunked the following, but they are notable, and their true authors will be fact-checked in due course.

211 Arms are the only true badge of liberty. The possession of
arms is the distinction of a free man from a slave.

Andrew Fletcher(1653-1716)

212 A free people ought to be armed.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Boston Independent Chronicle, Jan. 14th 1790

213 The right to buy weapons is the right to be free

A. E. van Vogt
The Weapon Shops of Isher, 1951

214 The people have a right to keep and bear arms.

Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
(Elliott, Debates at 185)

215 In a polity, each citizen is to possess his own arms, which
are not supplied or owned by the state.

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

216 The great object is that every man be armed.
Everyone who is able may have a gun.

Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Virginia Convention – Ratification of Constitution – 1788

217 That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage
or working class flat is the symbol of democracy.
It is our job to see that it stays there.

George Orwell (1903-1950)

219 Americans have the will to resist because you have weapons.
If you don’t have a gun, freedom of speech has no power.

Yoshimi Ishikawa

220 To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of
the people always possess arms and be taught alike,
especially when young, how to use them.

Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794)

221 When firearms go, all goes – we need them every hour.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Address to the Second Session of 1st U.S. Congress

246 Though defensive violence will always be ‘a sad necessity’
in the eyes of men of principle, it would be still more
unfortunate if wrongdoers should dominate just men.

St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430)

247 For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so,
a well organized and armed militia is their best security.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Eighth Annual Message, November 8, 1808

249 Every citizen should be a soldier.
This was the case with the Greeks and Romans,
and must be that of every free state.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

257 … in all countries where personal freedom is valued,
however much each individual may rely on legal redress, the
right of each to carry arms – and these the best and the
sharpest – for his own protection in case of extremity, is
a right of nature indelible and irrepressible, and the more
it is sought to be repressed the more it will recur.

James Paterson
quoted in Joyce Malcolm’s “To Keep and Bear Arms… ”

258 In America, freedom and justice have always come from the
ballot box, the jury box, and when that fails,
the cartridge box.

Steve Symms (b. 1938)

259 If the representatives of the people betray their
constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the
exertion of that original right of self-defense which is
paramount to all positive forms of government, and which
against the usurpations of the national rulers may be
exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than
against those of the rulers of an individual State. In a
single State, if the persons entrusted with supreme power
become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or
Districts of which it consists, having no distinct
government in each, and take no regular measures for
defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms,
without concert, without system, without resource; except in
their courage and despair.

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)
Federalist No. 29 [January 9. 1788]

261 Without doubt one is allowed to resist against the unjust
aggressor to one’s life, one’s goods or one’s physical
integrity; sometimes, even ’til the aggressor’s death… In
fact, this act is aimed at preserving one’s life or one’s
goods and to make the aggressor powerless. Thus, it is a
good act, which is the right of the victim.” [There are
three conditions under which legitimate self-defense must
lie:] “That he who is the target of the force is an
aggressor and an unjust aggressor… That the object of the
defense is an important good, such as the life, physical
integrity or worthy goods… [and] That defensive violence 3
is proportionate to aggression.” [Under these conditions,]
“One is also allowed [not required] to kill other people’s
unjust aggressor.

Thomas Aquinas
Dizionario ecclesiastico (“Ecclesiastic dictionary”) UTET

298 [The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed
which Americans possess over the people of almost every
other nation (where) the governments are afraid to trust the
people with arms.

James Madison (1751-1836)
Federalist, No. 46.

300 No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The
strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep
and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves
against tyranny in government.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Proposal Virginia Constitution, June 1776

303 While the people have property,
arms in their hands, and
only a spark of noble spirit,
the most corrupt Congress must be mad
to form any project of tyranny.

Nicholas Collin (1746-1831)
Fayetteville Gazette (N.C.), October 12, 1789

304 The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly
been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a
republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the
usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will
generally, even if these are successful in the first
instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over

Joseph Story (1779-1845)
Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States1833

305 That the people have a Right to mass and to bear arms; that
a well regulated militia composed of the Body of the people,
trained to arms, is the proper natural and safe defense of a
free state, that standing armies, in time of peace, are
dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided…

George Mason (1725-1792)
Draft proposal, 3 Elliot, Debates at 659.

306 “… but if circumstances should at any time oblige the
government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can
never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while
there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior
to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to
defend their rights…”

Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804)
Federalist, No. 29

309 Ammunition beats persuasion
when you are looking for freedom.

Will Rogers (1879-1935)

310 The supposed quietude of a good man allures the
ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage
and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve
order in the world as well as property. The same balance
would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for
all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not
lay them aside…Horrid mischief would ensue were one half
the world deprived of the use of them…

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Thoughts on Defensive War, 1775

317 The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head.
Put it in his hand and it’s good-bye to the Bill of Rights.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

318 Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing
degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own
defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in
our own possession and under our own direction, and having
them under the management of Congress? If our defense be
the_real_object of having those arms, in whose hands can
they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us,
as in our own hands?”

Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Virginia Convention – Ratification of Constitution – 1788

324 You are bound to meet misfortune if you are unarmed because,
among other reasons, people despise you….There is simply
no comparison between a man who is armed and one who is not.
It is unreasonable to expect that an armed man should obey
one who is unarmed, or that an unarmed man should remain
safe and secure when his servants are armed. In the latter
case, there will be suspicion on the one hand and contempt
on the other, making cooperation impossible.

Nicollo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
“The Prince”

340 The great body of our citizens shoot less as times goes on.
We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and
indeed among all classes, as well as in the military
services by every means in our power. Thus, and not
otherwise, may we be able to assist in preserving peace in
the world… The first step – in the direction of
preparation to avert war if possible, and to be fit for war
if it should come – is to teach men to shoot!

Theodore Roosevelt (1958-1919)
President Theodore Roosevelt’s last message to Congress.

341 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.

George Washington (1732-1799)

342 Arms in the hands of citizens [may] be used at individual
discretion… in private self-defense …”

John Adams (1735-1826)
A Defense of the Constitutions of the…USA, 471, 1788

372 Well, Bill [Bill Hickok] was a pretty good shot. But he
could not shoot as quick as half a dozen men we all knew in
those days, nor as straight either. But Bill was cool, and
the men who he went up against were rattled, I guess. Bill
beat them to it. He made up his mind to kill the other man
before the other man had finished thinking.

Buffalo Bill Cody (1946- 1917)
Outdoor Life interview with W.H. MacFarlane, 1917

373 Someone at the table asked a Japanese admiral why, with the
Pacific Fleet devastated at Pearl Harbor and the mainland US
forces in what Japan had to know was a pathetic state of
unreadiness, Japan had not simply invaded the West Coast.
“You are right,” he told the Americans. “We did indeed know
much about your preparedness. We knew that probably every
second home in your country contained firearms. We knew that
your country actually had state championships for private
citizens shooting military rifles. We were not fools to set
foot in such quicksand.

Japanese Admiral
Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries Volume Nine, No. 9 46/73

374 “Ain’t many troubles that a man can’t fix,
with seven-hundred dollars and a 30-06.”

Lindy Cooper
Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries – Volume Five

375 Bolt actions speak louder than words.

Matthew W. Gail


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1 Response to Ancient wisdom for modern politics

  1. Bob Wallace says:

    Van Vogt did write that in “The Weapon Shop of Isher.” I read it when I was 12 and still have a copy.

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