Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"Enthusiasm is a virtue rarely to be met with in seasons of calm and unruffled prosperity.—It flourishes in adversity, kindles in the hour of danger, and awakens to deeds of renown.—The terrors of persecution only serve to quicken the energy of its purposes.—It swells in proud integrity, and, great in the purity of its cause, it can scatter defiance amidst hosts of enemies." - Thomas Chalmers

"Intellectual and spiritual leaders hailed the cause of civil rights and gave little thought to where the civil disobedience road might end. But defiance of the law, even for the best reasons, opens a tiny hole in the dike and soon a trickle becomes a flood... And while no thinking person denies that social injustice exits, no thinking person can condone any group, for any reason, taking justice into his own hands. Once this is permitted, democracy dies; for democracy is sustained through one great premise: the premise that civil rights are balanced by civil responsibilities." - Spiro T. Agnew, fully Spiro Theodore Agnew

"The happy gift of being agreeable seems to consist not in one, but in an assemblage of talents tending to communicate delight; and how many are there, who, by easy manners, sweetness of temper, and a variety of other undefinable qualities, possess the power of pleasing without any visible effort, without the aids of wit, wisdom, or learning, nay, as it should seem in their defiance; and this without appearing even to know that they possess it." - Richard Cumberland, Bishop of Peterborough

"Motorists have exhibited the one worse attitude than defiance of law - indifference to it." -

"Mighty is the force of motherhood! It transforms all things by its vital heat; it turns timidity into fierce courage, and dreadless defiance into tremulous submission; it turns thoughtlessness into foresight, and yet stills all anxiety into calm content; it makes selfishness become self-denial, and gives even to hard vanity the glance of admiring love." - George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann or Marian Evans

"A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"To build Utopias in defiance of scientific principles is only a fool's errand. If false hopes are momentarily good for morale, we must ultimately pay for such folly in episodes of disillusionment, cynicism and despair." - Merryle Stanley Rukeyser

"Sin is a defiance to the authority of God, a contradiction to the law of righteousness, a disturbance to the society of men, and a distraction to the soul of the sinner." - Benjamin Whichcote

"The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass-movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the single-handed defiance of the world." - Eric Hoffer

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history of not only cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness…The future is an infinite succession of "presents," and to live now as we think that human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory." - Howard Zinn

"The only real secularism in a bad sense is isolation from the full stream of natural interests. When business tries to go its own way in defiance of the common good, it tends to become secular. But the same is also true of religion. When the church withdraws into its sanctuary and denies its organic relation to scientific knowledge or to the institutions of society around it, there results a deadly secularization of religion. Too often this has happened, and far too widely it is happening today. It happens not only with those sects which cultivate an intense emotionalism, like the Holy Rollers, or the sects that stress other-worldliness, but to many old and settled churches whose theologians speak in dialectical tongues and declare that the God in whom they believe is beyond the reach of man’s best efforts." -

"Logic, reason, disease, and the menace of death, these things meant nothing at all to us. We were committed to other values by which the poet has always lived in defiance of all that society demanded of him." - Kay Boyle

"The majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organization and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy." - Nelson Mandela, fully Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

"The wicked can for the moment use God's creation in defiance of God's commandments. But this is a sort of miracle or mystery; as St. Paul said, God has made the creature subject to vanity against its will. It is reasonable to expect, if the world's whole raison d'être is to effect God's good pleasure, that the very natural agents and operations of the world should be such as to frustrate and enrage and torment those who set their wills against God's. If things are not at present like this, that is only a gratuitous mercy, on whose continuance the sinner has no reason to count. 'The world shall fight with him against the unwise.... Yea, a mighty wind shall stand up against them, and like a storm shall blow them away.'" - Peter Geach, fully Peter Thomas Geach

"Wars are waged in defiance of all international laws, with bestial ferocity... In practice, then, it will never be lawful to declare war." - Philip Berrigan

"The modern man is . . . certain about his essential virtue . . . [and since] he does not see that he has a freedom of spirit which transcends both nature and reason . . . [he] is unable to understand the real pathos of his defiance of nature's and reason's laws. He always imagines himself betrayed into this defiance either by some accidental corruption in his past history or by some sloth of reason. Hence he hopes for redemption, either through a program of social reorganization or by some scheme of education." - Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." - Thomas Jefferson

"I hope we shall take warning from the example of England and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our Government to trial, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

"I know it will give great offence to the New England clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them." - Thomas Jefferson

"Our children will be as wise as we are and will establish in the fullness of time those things not yet ripe for establishment." - Thomas Jefferson

"The art and mystery of banks... is established on the principle that 'private debts are a public blessing.' That the evidences of those private debts, called bank notes, become active capital, and aliment the whole commerce, manufactures, and agriculture of the United States. Here are a set of people, for instance, who have bestowed on us the great blessing of running in our debt about two hundred millions of dollars, without our knowing who they are, where they are, or what property they have to pay this debt when called on; nay, who have made us so sensible of the blessings of letting them run in our debt, that we have exempted them by law from the repayment of these debts beyond a give proportion (generally estimated at one-third). And to fill up the measure of blessing, instead of paying, they receive an interest on what they owe from those to whom they owe; for all the notes, or evidences of what they owe, which we see in circulation, have been lent to somebody on an interest which is levied again on us through the medium of commerce. And they are so ready still to deal out their liberalities to us, that they are now willing to let themselves run in our debt ninety millions more, on our paying them the same premium of six or eight per cent interest, and on the same legal exemption from the repayment of more than thirty millions of the debt, when it shall be called for." - Thomas Jefferson

"Anxiety is fear of one's self." -

"Fervid atheism is usually a screen for repressed religion." -

"The Hiss Case has turned my wife and me into old people - not a disagreeable condition. But we who used to plan in terms of decades, now find a year, two years, the utmost span of time we can take in." - Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers, aka Jay David Whittaker Chambers

"I have often noticed that after I had bestowed on the characters of my novels some treasured item of my past, it would pine away in the artificial world where I had so abruptly placed it." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"We have overdeveloped the individualism that arose in a pioneer country. We are destined to become more co-operative, more collectivistic, and to find in this direction still greater opportunity for the individual, not so much restricted and defeated by competition but enlarged and enhanced by the support of a common will. It may be that the problem of material goods--of the necessary but yet external goods of food, clothing, shelter, and money-is about to be solved through new discoveries and developments, with the energies of men left freer than they have ever been to cultivate on higher levels the sharable goods of life, such as love and wisdom. These values grow with use and multiply by being freely shared." - Edward Scribner Ames

"Genuine heroism for man is still the power to support contradictions, no matter how glaring or hopeless they may seem." - Ernest Becker

"There is the type of man who has great contempt for "im­mediacy," who tries to cultivate his interiority, base his pride on something deeper and inner, create a distance between himself and the average man. Kierkegaard calls this type of man the "introvert." He is a little more concerned with what it means to be a person, with individuality and uniqueness. He enjoys solitude and with­draws periodically to reflect, perhaps to nurse ideas about his secret self, what it might be. This, after all is said and done, is the only real problem of life, the only worthwhile preoccupation of man: What is one's true talent, his secret gift, his authentic vocation? In what way is one truly unique, and how can he express this unique­ness, give it form, dedicate it to something beyond himself? How can the person take his private inner being, the great mystery that he feels at the heart of himself, his emotions, his yearnings and use them to live more distinctively, to enrich both himself and man­kind with the peculiar quality of his talent? In adolescence, most of us throb with this dilemma, expressing it either with words and thoughts or with simple numb pain and longing. But usually life suck us up into standardized activities. The social hero-system into which we are born marks out paths for our heroism, paths to which we conform, to which we shape ourselves so that we can please others, become what they expect us to be. And instead of working our inner secret we gradually cover it over and forget it, while we become purely external men, playing successfully the standardized hero-game into which we happen to fall by accident, by family connection, by reflex patriotism, or by the simple need to eat and the urge to procreate." - Ernest Becker