He, Who Will Not Reason, Is a Bigot; He, Who Cannot, Is a Fool; and He, Who Dares Not, Is a Slave

Lord Byron? William Drummond? Marguerite Gardiner? Andrew Carnegie? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: My favorite quotation is a brilliant tripartite observation about rationality. Here are two versions:

(1) Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.

(2) He, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.

This saying has confusingly been ascribed to two very different individuals: romantic poet Lord Byron and Scottish philosopher William Drummond. Would you please untangle this attribution?

Quote Investigator: In 1805 William Drummond published “Academical Questions”, and the target quotation appeared in the final lines of the preface. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Prejudice may be trusted to guard the outworks for a short space of time, while Reason slumbers in the citadel; but if the latter sink into a lethargy, the former will quickly erect a standard for herself. Philosophy, wisdom, and liberty, support each other; he, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.

Lord Byron should not receive credit for this saying. There are two potential sources of confusion. Byron’s major poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” has usually been published together with notes. One of the notes for the fourth canto contains the quotation above. The words are credited to William Drummond, but careless readers may have reassigned the statement directly to Byron.

The other possible wellspring of confusion is a book by Lord Byron’s friend Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington. She described at length her conversations with the poet, and she stated that Byron recommended Drummond’s works while employing the quotation under analysis. Byron credited Drummond when he used the line, but careless individuals may have incorrectly credited Byron.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading He, Who Will Not Reason, Is a Bigot; He, Who Cannot, Is a Fool; and He, Who Dares Not, Is a Slave

Notes:

  1. 1805, Academical Questions by the Right Honourable William Drummond Volume 1, Section: Preface, Start Page iii, Quote Page xv, Printed by W. Bulmer, and Company, London; Sold by Messrs. Cadell and Davies, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link