Mine was a trained Presbyterian conscience and knew but the one duty--to
hunt and harry its slave upon all pretexts and on all occasions, particularly
when there was no sense nor reason in it.
An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.
It takes up more room than all the rest of a person's insides, and yet
ain't no good nohow.
All the consciences I have ever heard of were nagging, badgering, fault-finding,
execrable savages! Yes; and always in a sweat about some poor little insigificant
trifle or other--destruction catch the lot of them, I say! I would trade
mine for the small-pox and seven kinds of consumption, and be glad of
It seems to me that a man should secure the well done, faithful servant,
of his own conscience first and foremost, and let all other loyalties
If you grant that one man's conscience doesn't know right from wrong,
it is an admission that there are others like it. This single admissions
pulls down the whole doctrine of infallibility of judgment in consciences.
Cover illustration of
"The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime
contained in GRAPHIC CLASSICS: MARK TWAIN
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In those old slave-holding days the whole community was agreed as to one thing--the
awful sacredness of slave property. To help steal a horse or a cow was a low
crime, but to help a hunted slave, or feed him or shelter him, or hide him,
or comfort him, in his troubles, his terrors, his despair, or hesitate to promptly
to betray him to the slave-catcher when opportunity offered was a much baser
crime, & carried with it a stain, a moral smirch which nothing could wipe
away. That this sentiment should exist among slave-owners is comprehensible--there
were good commercial reasons for it--but that it should exist & did exist
among the paupers, the loafers the tag-rag & bobtail of the community, &
in a passionate & uncompromising form, is not in our remote day realizable.
It seemed natural enough to me then; natural enough that Huck & his father
the worthless loafer should feel it & approve it, though it seems now absurd.
It shows that that strange thing, the conscience--the unerring monitor--can
be trained to approve any wild thing you want it to approve if you begin its
education early & stick to it.
- Notebook #35 (reprinted in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Univ. of California Press, 2003)
If I had the remaking of man, he wouldn't have any conscience. It is one of
the most disagreeable things connected with a person; and although it certainly
does a great deal of good, it cannot be said to pay, in the long run; it would
be much better to have less good and more comfort. Still, this is only my opinion,
and I am only one man; others, with less experience, may think differently.
They have a right to their view. I only stand to this: I have noticed my conscience
for many years, and I know it is more trouble and bother to me than anything
else I started with. I suppose that in the beginning I prized it, because we
prize anything that is ours; and yet how foolish it was to think so. If we look
at it in another way, we see how absurd it is: if I had an anvil in me would
I prize it? Of course not. And yet when you come to think, there is no real
difference between a conscience and an anvil--I mean for comfort. I have noticed
it a thousand times. And you could dissolve an anvil with acids, when you couldn't
stand it any longer; but there isn't any way that you can work off a conscience--at
least so it will stay worked off; not that I know of, anyway.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Our conscience takes no notice of pain inflicted on others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to us. In all cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to another person's pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable.
- What is Man?
Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
- Mark Twain's Notebook; also in More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927
Conscience, man's moral medicine chest.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography
How common it is to pass an old street corner beggar, then slacken your pace
for 2 blocks, stop, turn, go back & settle with your conscience.
- Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals, Volume 3, Notebook 30, August 1890-June 1891
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