George Bancroft


American Historian and Statesman, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Prominent in promoting Secondary Education

Author Quotes

If hours did not hang heavy what would become of scandal?

Westward the star of empire takes its way.

In nine times out of ten, the slanderous tongue belongs to a disappointed person.

Institutions may crumble and governments fall, but it is only that they may renew a better youth, and mount upwards like the eagle.

It is when the hour of conflict is over, that history comes to a right understanding of the strife, and is ready to exclaim, "Lo, God is here, and we knew it not!"

Madison, agreeing with the journal of the convention, records that the grant of power to emit bills of credit was refused by a majority of more than four to one. The evidence is perfect; no power to emit paper money was granted to the legislature of the United States.

No science has been reached, no thought generated, no truth discovered, which has not from all time existed potentially in every human mind. The belief in the progress of the race does not, therefore, spring from the supposed possibility of his acquiring new faculties, or coming intothe possession of a new nature. Still less does truth vary. They speak falsely who say that truth is the daughter of time; it is the child of eternity, and as old as the Divine mind. The perception of it takes place in the order of time; truth itself knows nothing of the succession of ages. Neither does morality need to perfect itself; it is what it always has been, and always will be. Its distinctions are older than the sea or the dry land, than the earth or the sun. The relation of good to evil is from the beginning, and is unalterable.

Ambition itself is not so reckless of human life as ennui. - Clemency is a favorite attribute of the former, but ennui has the taste of a cannibal.

Our land is not more the recipient of the men of all countries than of their ideas.

At the foot of every page in the annals of nations may be written, "God reigns." Events as they pass away proclaim their original; and if you will but listen reverently, you may hear the receding centuries, as they roll into the dim distances of departed time, perpetually chanting "Te Deum Laudamus," with all the choral voices of the countless congregations of the age.

Style is the gossamer on which the seeds of truth float through the world.

Atheism is the folly of the metaphysician, not the folly of human nature.

The best government rests on the people and not on the few, on persons and not on property, on the free development of public opinion and not on authority.

By common consent gray hairs are a crown of glory; the only object of respect that can never excite envy.

The charities of life are scattered everywhere, enameling the vales of human beings as the flowers paint the meadows. They are not the fruit of study, nor the privilege of refinement, but a natural instinct.

Commerce defies every wind, outrides every tempest and invades every zone.

The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another.

Dishonesty is so grasping it would deceive God himself, were it possible.

The glory of God is not contingent on man's good will, but all existence subserves his purposes. The system of the universe is as a celestial poem, whose beauty is from all eternity, and must not be marred by human interpolations. Things proceed as they were ordered, in their nice, and well-adjusted, and perfect harmony; so that as the hand of the skillful artist gathers music from the harp-strings, history calls it forth from the well-tuned chords of time. Not that this harmony can be heard during the tumult of action. Philosophy comes after events, and gives the reason of them, and describes the nature of their results. The great mind of collective man may, one day, so improve in self-consciousness as to interpret the present and foretell the future; but as yet, the end of what is now happening, though we ourselves partake in it, seems to fall out by chance. All is nevertheless one whole; individuals, families, peoples, the race, march in accord with the Divine will; and when any part of the destiny of humanity is fulfilled, we see the ways of Providence vindicated. The antagonisms of imperfect matter and the perfect idea, of liberty and necessary law, become reconciled. What seemed irrational confusion, appears as the web woven by light, liberty and love.But this is not perceived till a great act in the drama of life is finished. The prayer of the patriarch, when he desired to behold the Divinity face to face, was denied; but he was able to catch a glimpse of Jehovah, after He had passed by; and so it fares with our search for Him in the wrestlings of the world. It is when the hour of conflict is over, that history comes to a right understanding of the strife, and is ready to exclaim: "Lo! God is here, and we knew it not."

Each generation gathers together the imperishable children of the past, and increases them by new sons of light, alike radiant with immortality.

The progress of man consists in this, that he himself arrives at the perception of truth. The Divine mind, which is its source, left it to be discovered, appropriated and developed by finite creatures. The life of an individual is but a breath; it comes forth like a flower, and flees like a shadow. Were no other progress, therefore, possible than that of the individual, one period would have little advantage over another. But as every man partakes of the same faculties and is consubstantial with all, it follows that the race also has an existence of its own; and this existence becomes richer, more varied, free and complete, as time advances. Common Sense implies by its very name, that each individual is to contribute some share toward the general intelligence. The many are wiser than the few; the multitude than the philosopher; the race than the individual; and each successive generation than its predecessor.

Ennui is a word which the French invented, though of all nations in Europe they know the least of it.

The public is wiser than the wisest critic.

Harmony is the characteristic of the intellectual system of the universe; and immutable laws of moral existence must pervade all time and all space, all ages and all worlds.

The unchanging character of law is the only basis on which continuous action can rest. Without it man would be but as the traveler over endless morasses; the builder on quicksands; the mariner without compass or rudder, driven successively whithersoever changing winds may blow. The universe is the reflex and image of its Creator. "The true work of art," says Michael Angelo, "is but a shadow of the Divine perfections." We may say in a more general manner, that Beauty Itself Is But The Sensible Image Of The Infinite; that all creation is a manifestation of the Almighty; not the result of caprice, but the glorious display of his perfection; and as the universe thus produced, is always in the course of change, so its regulating mind is a living Providence, perpetually exerting itself anew. If his designs could be thwarted, we should lose the great evidence of his unity, as well as the anchor of our own hope.

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American Historian and Statesman, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Prominent in promoting Secondary Education