Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions:



The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble, through the rivaly of schools and creeds that are anxious to obtain official recognition, and there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of much of our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or German who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him when naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die, and, in fine, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to paradise.
- "Official Physic"

AI image created by Barbara Schmidt

Christian governments are as frank today, as open and above-board, in discussing projects for raiding each other's clothes-lines as ever they were before the Golden Rule came smiling into this inhospitable world and couldn't get a night's lodging anywhere.
- Following the Equator

AI image created by Barbara Schmidt

I think it is not wise for an emperor, or a king, or a president, to come down into the boxing ring, so to speak, and lower the dignity of his office by meddling in the small affairs of private citizens.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3 (2015)

AI image created by R. Kent Rasmussen

color portrait of Twain
Special photo colorization by Dave Thomson

The government is not best which secures mere life and property -- there is a more valuable thing -- manhood.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

...nations have no command over their governments, & in fact no influence over them, except of a fleeting & rather ineffectual sort.
- Letter to Baroness von Suttner, 17 February 1898

That's the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don't care, individuals do.
- A Tramp Abroad

The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two.
- Roughing It

There is a phrase which has grown so common in the world's mouth that it has come to seem to have sense and meaning--the sense and meaning implied when it is used: that is the phrase which refers to this or that or the other nation as possibly being "capable of self-government;" and the implied sense of it is, that there has been a nation somewhere, some time or other, which wasn't capable of it--wasn't as able to govern itself as some self-appointed specialists were or would be to govern it. The master minds of all nations, in all ages, have sprung, in affluent multitude, from the mass of the nation, and from the mass of the nation only--not from its privileged classes; and so, no matter what the nation's intellectual grade was, whether high or low, the bulk of its ability was in the long ranks of its nameless and its poor, and so it never saw the day that it had not the material in abuncance whereby to govern itself. Which is to assert an always self-proven fact: that even the best governed and most free and most enlightened monarchy is still behind the best condition attainable by its people; and that the same is true of kindred governments of lower grades all the way down to the lowest.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court


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