Courage Is Rightly Esteemed the First of Human Qualities Because . . . It Is the Quality Which Guarantees All Others

Winston Churchill? Samuel Johnson? James Boswell? Aristotle? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The rights and freedoms enshrined in political documents are sometimes nullified by oppressive governments. The health of a society depends on the principles and the bravery of the populace. Here is a pertinent adage:

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

These words have been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill, but I have not been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1931 Winston Churchill wrote an article published in “Collier’s” magazine about King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and the piece included Churchill’s cogent remark about courage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Men and kings must be judged in the testing moments of their lives. Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others. Courage, physical and moral, King Alfonso has proved on every occasion of personal danger or political stress. Many years ago in the face of a difficult situation Alfonso made the proud declaration, no easy boast in Spain, “I was born on the throne, I shall die on it.”

The common modern version of this quotation has been simplified and streamlined. The phrase “as has been said” is typically omitted. Churchill was probably referring to a remark by the famous 18th-century man of letters Samuel Johnson. The quintessential biographer James Boswell who authored “The Life of Samuel Johnson” described a conversation about public speaking that occurred in 1775: 2

“Why then, (I asked,) is it thought disgraceful for a man not to fight, and not disgraceful not to speak in publick?” Johnson. “Because there may be other reasons for a man’s not speaking in publick than want of resolution: he may have nothing to say, (laughing). Whereas, Sir, you know courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Courage Is Rightly Esteemed the First of Human Qualities Because . . . It Is the Quality Which Guarantees All Others

Notes:

  1. 1931 June 27, Collier’s, Unlucky Alfonso by Winston Churchill, Start Page 11, Quote Page 49, Column 2, P. F. Collier and Son, New York. (Unz Database)
  2. 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order by James Boswell, Volume 1 of 2, Time period specified: April 5, 1775, Quote Page 473, Printed by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

The Fool Tries to Convince Me with His Reasons; the Wise Man Persuades Me with My Own

Aristotle? Robert T. Oliver? John Patrick Ryan? Loren Reid? Gerald M. Phillips? Julia T. Wood? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The most effective way to persuade other people is to downplay your own motivations and appeal to their motivations. The following adage expresses this notion:

The fool tells me his reasons; the wise man persuades me with my own.

Aristotle sometimes receives credit for this saying, but I have been unable to find a proper citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Currently, there is no substantive evidence that Aristotle employed this expression. The earliest close match located by QI occurred in 1942 within a textbook about public speaking and argumentation titled “The Psychology of Persuasive Speech” by Robert T. Oliver. The first chapter referred to the target audience of the book. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The question he brings to the study of persuasion is not, “How can I reach a right conclusion?” but, “How can a given audience be influenced to accept my conclusion?” This point of view deserves the sharpest emphasis it can receive, for it is the catalytic which precipitates the principles set forth in this book.

An old proverb of uncertain origin states the essence of this point of view in one sentence: “The fool tries to convince me with his reasons; the wise man persuades me with my own.”

Oliver used the descriptor “old proverb”; hence, he disclaimed authorship and presented an anonymous ascription. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Fool Tries to Convince Me with His Reasons; the Wise Man Persuades Me with My Own

Notes:

  1. 1942, The Psychology of Persuasive Speech by Robert T. Oliver (Bucknell University), Chapter 1: The Problems of Persuasion, Quote Page 9, Longmans, Green and Company, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

The Place Where Your Talent Meets the World’s Needs Is the Job God Has in Mind for You

Aristotle? Marcus Bach? Albert Schweitzer? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Did the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle secretly work at a job placement agency? Probably not, but a popular family of sayings about career choice has been attributed to him. Here are three examples:

  • Where your talents and the world’s needs cross, there lies your calling.
  • When the needs of the world and your skills intersect, therein lies your vocation.
  • One’s purpose is merely knowing where one’s talents and the needs of the world intersect.

I have been unable to find a solid citation for Aristotle? Would you please examine the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI has not yet found any substantive evidence connecting these words to Aristotle.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a speech delivered at a high school graduation ceremony in 1954 by Dr. Marcus Bach of the State University of Iowa School of Religion. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

I’m just optimistic enough to believe that God has given you some sort of call. You’ll discover that the place where your talent meets the world’s needs is the job God has in mind for you.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Place Where Your Talent Meets the World’s Needs Is the Job God Has in Mind for You

Notes:

  1. 1954 May 25, Carrol Daily Times Herald, Athletic Award Is Presented to Ed Champion, Start Page 1, Quote Page 7, Column 1, Carroll, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)

Tell ‘Em What You’re Going To Tell ‘Em; Next, Tell ‘Em; Next, Tell ‘Em What You Told ‘Em

Aristotle? Dale Carnegie? J. H. Jowett? Fred E. Marble? Royal Meeker? Henry Koster? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: For many years I have been encouraged to split my speeches into three parts. Here are two versions of the guidance:

[A] Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said.
[B] Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; then tell ’em; then tell ’em what you told ’em.

This popular advice allows speakers to hammer their points with repetition, but I wonder how many members of the audience will remain awake. Do you know who originated this tripartite template? I have seen it credited to the ancient philosopher Aristotle and the self-help pioneer Dale Carnegie.

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in 1908 in a short piece titled “Three Parts of a Sermon” published in the “Northern Daily Mail” of Durham, England. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Mr. Jowett, of Birmingham, tells of a lay preachers’ conference, in which a veteran described his method of sermon preparation. “I take my text,” he said, “and divide my sermon into three parts. In the first part I tell ’em what I am going to tell ’em; in the second part—well, I tell ’em; in the third part I tell ’em what I’ve told ’em.”—The “Sunday Strand.”

A later citation expanded the name of the religious figure to “J. H. Jowett”. Interestingly, Jowett disclaimed credit and assigned the saying to an unnamed “veteran” preacher. Also, the “Northern Daily Mail” acknowledged the “Sunday Strand”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Tell ‘Em What You’re Going To Tell ‘Em; Next, Tell ‘Em; Next, Tell ‘Em What You Told ‘Em

Notes:

  1. 1908 August 13, Northern Daily Mail (Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail), Three Parts of a Sermon, Quote Page 3, Column 4, Durham, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

To Avoid Criticism, Say Nothing, Do Nothing, Be Nothing

Aristotle? Elbert Hubbard? William Pitt? Fred Shero? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Receiving criticism is an unpleasant experience, but it is also inevitable. If your actions in the world are significant then you will draw detractors. This notion is cleverly expressed in the following pointed remark:

To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.

This statement of anti-advice has been attributed to two very different figures: the ancient Greek sage Aristotle and the American aphorist publisher Elbert Hubbard. Who do you think deserves credit?

Quote Investigator: QI has not found any substantive evidence to support an ascription to Aristotle.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in an 1898 collection of short essays titled “Little Journeys to the Homes of American Statesmen” by Elbert Hubbard. A piece about the abolitionist politician William H. Seward noted that he was the target of an assassination attempt. But Hubbard suggested that one must brave censure and danger to live a full and meaningful life. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

If you would escape moral and physical assassination, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing—court obscurity, for only in oblivion does safety lie.

Hubbard crafted multiple versions of the expression, and the saying was often attributed to him in the early decades of the 1900s.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Avoid Criticism, Say Nothing, Do Nothing, Be Nothing

Notes:

  1. 1898, Little Journeys to the Homes of American Statesmen by Elbert Hubbard, Section: William H. Seward, Start Page 363, Quote Page 370, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York; The Knickerbocker Press, New York. (Edition copyright 1898; Reprint date November 1901) (HathiTrust Full View) link link