I Can Hire Half the Working Class To Fight the Other Half

Jay Gould? John Livingston? Delmore Schwartz? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: In the 19th-century a class of powerful industrialists were accused of unethical business practices, and the critical epithet “robber baron” appeared in journals and newspapers. The following incendiary remark has been attributed to the wealthy railroad magnate Jay Gould:

I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest pertinent citation located by QI appeared in a letter from an agrarian organizer that was published in October 1891 in a Topeka, Kansas newspaper. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The truth of Jay Gould’s assertion that he “could buy the vote of a farmer member of the legislature for the price of a bull calf, about seven dollars and a half,” was clearly disproved at Topeka last January, where not a single People’s party member of the Kansas House could be bought at any price.

It is my prayer to God that all farmers and other toilers will now unite in one solid phalanx, so that the other characteristic remark of the same gentleman, that he “could hire one-half the farmers to shoot the other half to death,” shall also show him to have overestimated the power of his money, supplemented though it may be by Satanic cunning,

John Livingston,
President New York State Farmers’ Alliance.
Campville, Tioga Co., N.Y., Oct 21, 1891.

Gould died shortly afterward in 1892. This early instance of the quotation referred to “farmers” instead of the “working class”. The modern version evolved over time.

Livingston employed the phrase “characteristic remark” which signaled he had not heard the remark directly. Also, Livingston was clearly a forceful political adversary of Gould.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Can Hire Half the Working Class To Fight the Other Half


  1. 1891 October 28, The Advocate, Letter from John Livingston, Quote Page 1, Column 3, Topeka, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)

Even Paranoiacs Have Real Enemies

Henry Kissinger? Delmore Schwartz? Sigmund Freud? Virginia McManus? Mark Harris? Buck Henry? Joseph Heller? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A family of sayings with a humorous edge was popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Here were two versions:

1) Even a paranoid can have enemies.
2) Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.

This adage has been attributed to Delmore Schwartz who wrote short stories and poetry and who also suffered from mental illness. In addition, the saying has been ascribed to the political scientist and negotiator Henry Kissinger. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in an article published in July 1967 about the rebellious young generation. The words were printed as a slogan on a button, and no ascription was provided. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

When it comes to expressing their views on life, they say by button: “I Want to Be What I Was When I Wanted To Be What I Now Am,” or “Neuroses Are Red, Melancholy Is Blue, I’m Schizophrenic, What Are You?,” or “End Poverty, Give Me $10.” They further advise: “Reality Is Good Sometimes for Kicks But Don’t Let It Get You Down,” and “Even Paranoids Have Real Enemies.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Even Paranoiacs Have Real Enemies


  1. 1967 July 21, Christianity Today, Dear Slogan-Lovers by Etychus III, Page 20, Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, Illinois. (Verified on microfilm)