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October 15, 2013

From “Absolutism tempered by assassination” to today’s “Ideology untempered by pragmatism”…


THE FAMOUS, VARIABLY-QUOTED PHRASE:

“Absolutism tempered by assassination.”
       German diplomat Georg Herbert zu Münster (1820-1902)

       Quoting an unnamed Russian
in Chapter II of his book Political Sketches of the States of Europe 1814-1857 (published in 1868)   
       “
Absolutism tempered by assassination” is the usual translation of the phrase Münster used that’s cited by many books of quotations and websites, though original translations gave it as “Absolutism moderated by assassination.” In the book, Münster wrote: “An intelligent Russian once remarked to us, ‘Every country has its own constitution; ours is absolutism moderated by assassination.’” Other sources, all of which seem to have been published after 1868, say that a similar quote was said to Münster’s father Ernst Friedrich Herbert zu Münster (1766-1839), who was also a German diplomat. According to those sources, when Czar Paul I was assassinated in 1801, a Russian nobleman told Ernst, in French: “Le despotisme tempéré par l’assassinat, c’est notre Magna Charta” — which translates as “Despotism tempered by assassination, that is our Magna Carta.”


THE IDIOCY OF IDEOLOGY UNTEMPERED BY PRAGMATISM:

“The people we elected to represent us on the national stage, people who are supposed to be leaders, are too immature and fixed in ideology untempered by pragmatism to sit down and compromise with each other. The atrocious partisan nature of the Senate and the House would be humorous if our livelihoods didn't hang in the balance.”  
       Editorial about the budget stalemate in Congress,
in the Times Beacon Record, October 6, 2013. (Cartoon by Tom Stiglich)


THE FAMOUS (BUT APPARENTLY PHONY) VOLTAIRE QUOTE:

“The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.”
       Attributed to
Voltaire (1694-1778)  
       French novelist, philosopher, poet and historian
       Although this quote is
widely attributed to Voltaire, it does not seem to appear in any of his writings.


THE OPTIMIST’S VIEW OF DEMOCRACY:

“If we substitute elective dictatorship tempered by assassination at the ballot box, we have a system with more virtues than flaws.”
      
Bruce Anderson
       Columnist for the UK Independent
       In
an opinion piece posted on the Independent’s website, February 27, 2006


THE CULTURED VIEW OF DEMOCRACY:

“Tyranny is usually tempered with assassination, and Democracy must be tempered with culture. In the absence of this, it turns into a representation of collective folly.”
      
John Stuart Mackenzie (1860–1935)
       British philosopher
       In his book
An Introduction to Social Philosophy (1895)


THE CYNIC’S V
IEW OF DEMOCRACY:

“RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections.”
      
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913)
       American writer and curmudgeon
       One of the satiric definitions in his book
The Devil’s Dictionary (1925)


EMERSON’S STILL-RELEVANT COMMENT ABOUT CERTAIN WARS:

“The President proclaims war, and those Senators who dissent are not those who know better, but those who can afford to...Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.”
      
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
       American Philosopher, essayist and poet   
       In an
entry in his journal written in 1847, after American President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico


DEAN ACHESON’S RANT ABOUT DEMOCRACY:

“I think Churchill is right, the only thing to be said for democracy is that there is nothing else that’s any better, and therefore he used to say, Tyranny tempered by assassination, but lots of assassination. People say, If the Congress were more representative of the people it would be better. I say the Congress is too damn representative. It’s just as stupid as the people are; just as uneducated, just as dumb, just as selfish.”
      
Dean Acheson (1893-1971)
       U.S. Secretary of State under President Harry S. Truman
       In
an interview with Theodore A. Wilson and Richard D. McKinzie on June 30, 1971 


THE PUBLIC EXPLODER OPTION:

“After many unhappy experiments in the direction of an ideal Republic, it was found that what may be described as a Despotism tempered by Dynamite provides, on the whole, the most satisfactory description of ruler — an autocrat who dares not abuse his autocratic power.”
      
Gilbert and Sullivan (W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan)
      
Said by the character Calynx (originally played by Bowden Haswell) in Gilbert and Sullivan’s penultimate comic opera Utopia, Limited, or The Flowers of Progress (1893), which is set in a mythical South Seas island where kings who “lapse from political or social propriety” are blown up by “The Public Exploder.” 


LIBERALISM VS. CONSERVATISM:

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence; conservatism, distrust of the people tempered by fear.”
      
William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898)
       British Liberal politician who served as Prime Minister four times between 1868 and 1894
       This
oft-quoted definition of “Liberalism” and “Conservatism” comes from a speech Gladstone gave in Plumstead, England, in 1878


A CLERGYMAN’S CALL FOR UNITY:

“Of course, the great drawback to democracy is that it’s messy. And the real danger of democracy is disunity…The key is democracy tempered by love and acceptance; where you accept the fact that you don’t always get your own way and not everyone sees things the way you do.”
      
Reverend Robert Cleveland
       American Universalist minister
       From a sermon he gave at the First Universalist Church of Central Square in New York, July 24, 2005

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