Lincoln Steffens Quotes

  1. Nothing fails like success.
  2. Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization.
  3. One improvement I have learned from my childhood experience with my father: I do not threaten punishment in the morning. That was awful. Late into the night I would lie awake tossing and wondering what he was going to do to me. Usually he did nothing. A quiet, impressive ‘talking to’ was all I got.
  4. The doctrine of Jesus is the most revolutionary propaganda that I have ever encountered.
  5. I let my boy go and do and say pretty much as he likes, as, and perhaps because, my father kept no string on me.
  6. The longer I live, the more I feel that the individual is not so much to blame – not even the worst individuals, not even the ‘best’ citizens – as the system of corruption which has grown up about us, and which rewards an honest man with a mere living and a crook with all the magnificence of our magnificent modern life.
  7. We need some great failures. Especially we ever-successful Americans – conscious, intelligent, illuminating failures.
  8. I have been contending all my life, and always with God.
  9. Boston has carried the practice of hypocrisy to the n-th degree of refinement, grace, and failure.
  10. I am really puzzled to understand myself.
  11. If we would leave parties to the politicians, and would vote not for the party, not even for men, but for the city, and the State, and the nation, we should rule parties, and cities, and States, and nation.
  12. If we would vote in mass on the more promising ticket, or, if the two are equally bad, would throw out the party that is in, and wait till the next election and then throw out the other party that is in – then, I say, the commercial politician would feel a demand for good government and he would supply it.
  13. The Soviet government sprouted and grew out of the habits, the psychology, and the condition of the Russian people. It fitted them. They understand it.
  14. The typical American citizen is the business man. The typical business man is a bad citizen; he is busy. If he is a ‘big business man’ and very busy, he does not neglect; he is busy with politics, oh, very busy and very businesslike.
  15. In all cities, the better classes – the business men – are the sources of corruption, but they are so rarely pursued and caught that we do not fully realize whence the trouble comes.
  16. My father seemed always to know not only what I was doing, but what I was being.
  17. If our political leaders are to be always a lot of political merchants, they will supply any demand we may create. All we have to do is to establish a steady demand for good government.
  18. If my father could watch my son for a while, he might realize his own immortality.
  19. I never heard a Christian sermon preached in a church.
  20. The commercial spirit is the spirit of profit, not patriotism; of credit, not honor; of individual gain, not national prosperity; of trade and dickering, not principle.
  21. You ask men in office to be honest; I ask them to serve the public.
  22. Power is what men seek and any group that gets it will abuse it.
  23. Most men think graft a sporadic evil, breaking out here and there, with no connection between outbreaks. I shared the same opinion, but very soon I discovered that the graft in the cities always leads to the graft in the State.
  24. The misgovernment of the American people is misgovernment by the American people.
  25. Whenever anything extraordinary is done in American municipal politics, whether for good or for evil, you can trace it almost invariably to one man. The people do not do it. Neither do the ‘gangs,’ ‘combines,’ or political parties.
  26. The spirit of graft and of lawlessness is the American spirit.
  27. Chicago will give you a chance. The sporting spirit is the spirit of Chicago.
  28. I have been over into the future, and it works.
  29. My mother would thump me sharply on the head with a thimble or a spoon if I became too noisy with the whistle when I was playing I was a steamboat captain. She had no sense of the dignity of command.
  30. My father required me to honor my father and my mother too much to put up games on them. I did on occasion.
  31. My father made with me one serious mistake which I see parents about me making. He got himself somehow into the awkward position of an authority; I thought he knew and was right on everything – for a while.
  32. My father, the practical joker, did not care for practical jokes on himself; he did not encourage the practice in me.
  33. The Russian people, sober, are said to be a gentle people.
  34. My father would invite me sweetly to come and sit on a stool at his feet, and, as I let myself trustingly down, he would gently kick the seat from under me – and laugh.
  35. Morality is only moral when it is voluntary.
  36. Revolt is not reform, and one revolutionary administration is not good government.
  37. My father was slower, but he was severer than my mother, who was quick but light and irregular in discipline.
  38. It is possible to get an education at a university. It has been done; not often.

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