John Jay Chapman quotes you should know even if you don’t know who John Jay Chapman was

Even though he had written 25 books, I had never heard of John Jay Chapman until I found him quoted by someone else the other day. But 25 books and not one known to me. All is most certainly vanity. Here’s the quote:

“Retain the power of speech no matter what other power you may lose … Do what you will, but speak out always. Be shunned, be hated, be ridiculed, be scared, be in doubt, but don’t be gagged. The time of trial is always. Now is the appointed time.”

And this is one I particularly like which is an important reminder to those who write for a living:

People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this,—that reform consists in taking a bone from a dog. Philosophy will not do it.

There is also this which has a pointed message for today, but if one reads it right, has a pointed message for every day ending with the letter “y”.

A political organization is a transferable commodity. You could not find a better way of killing virtue than by packing it into one of these contraptions which some gang of thieves is sure to find useful.

Here are others, each as relevant today as the moment they were first written down:

All progress is experimental.

When a man talks with absolute sincerity and freedom he goes on a voyage of discovery. The whole company has shares in the enterprise.

Every generation is a secret society and has incommunicable enthusiasms, tastes and interests which are a mystery both to its predecessors and to posterity.

It is just as impossible to help reform by conciliating prejudice as it is by buying votes. Prejudice is the enemy. Whoever is not for you is against you.

Everybody in America is soft, and hates conflict. The cure for this, both in politics and social life, is the same—hardihood. Give them raw truth.

The short lesson that comes out of long experience in political agitation is something like this: all the motive power in all of these movements is the instinct of religious feeling. All the obstruction comes from attempting to rely on anything else. Conciliation is the enemy.

Our goodness comes solely from thinking on goodness; our wickedness from thinking on wickedness. We too are the victims of our own contemplation.

Good government is the outcome of private virtue.

A political organization is a transferable commodity. You could not find a better way of killing virtue than by packing it into one of these contraptions which some gang of thieves is sure to find useful.

Too much agreement kills the chat.

And this is from The Two Philosophers: A Quaint, Sad Comedy (1892)

Act I

I’ve studied every science round,
And many a doctrine have I found;
Greek and German roots of thought
In years of labor have I sought;
And every gnarled and eyed potato
Out of Zoroaster and Plato
Do I plant in your young heads,
And watch ’em sprout as in hot-beds

Act II

And since we speak of culture,
What is culture, do you think?
Culture is spiritual food
And intellectual drink.
A petty saying, — I confess
Not quite what I expected.
Let some one make another guess,


Notice is hereby given that one
Of your professors in your college
Has made a scurvy attack upon
The American school of knowledge,
Which said attack is couched in words
Unmeasured and profane,
And seems to show, conclusively,
The writer is insane.
But sane or mad, the writer is
Grossly devoid of truth,
And wickedly incompetent
To have the charge of youth.

Maybe nothing really ever changes after all.

This entry was posted in Books and writing, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to John Jay Chapman quotes you should know even if you don’t know who John Jay Chapman was

  1. pbw

    These sentiments issue an irresistible call; irresistible but dangerous.

    From Britannica.

    At age 14 Chapman went to St. Paul’s School, Concord, New Hampshire, but he broke down physically and mentally and returned home to complete his preparatory education with tutors. After graduating from Harvard in 1885, he traveled in Europe and then returned to Harvard Law School. In 1887 he assaulted a man for his supposed insulting attentions to the woman who later became Chapman’s wife. In remorse Chapman plunged his left hand into a fire and injured it so severely that it had to be amputated.

    Chapman had a nervous breakdown in 1901 and for several years wrote little other than plays for children. A play for adults, The Treason and Death of Benedict Arnold (published 1910), marked his return to vigorous intellectual activity.

    There’s a heavy price to pay for voyages of discovery.

  2. I saw those and wondered also, interesting quotes from a clearly disturbed mind.

  3. RobK

    Some interesting sentiments from the outside looking in.

  4. Crossie

    Good government is the outcome of private virtue.

    This one was tailor-made for Barnaby Joyce.

  5. Tezza

    Both the sentiments and even the language remind me a bit of Jordan B Petersen. (From me, that is a compliment.)

  6. PoliticoNT

    Steve – brilliant. If you can send me your email contact I will forward you a copy of a letter I drafted for our local Senator re his refusal (along with most of his colleagues) to vote in support of the Fawcett/Paterson amendment to the Marriage Act Amendment. (There were about 9 votes in the Senate that day, from memory 6 to do with the Fawcett/Paterson amendment.)

    When it gets down to it the majority of Coalition members chose; political expediency, their own misplaced sense of being part of something important, ignorance, disorganisation and cowardice – over the right thing. As you might imagine our Senator (who while a decent bloke, is known to whine that ordinary members never follow what’s going on in the Senate properly) was shocked to have his actions put under a spotlight.

    A private meeting with the Senator was held in a member’s house. Many people not invited to the meeting turned up – primarily administrative/management wing who felt threatened. End point is my branch members weren’t prepared to buy the bullshit. Conciliation is (as Chapman recommends) out the window. All I can say is me and my baseball bat are looking forward to the next Central Council.

Comments are closed.