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Learned Hand

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No doubt one may quote history to support any cause, as the devil quotes scripture; but modern history is not a very satisfactory side-arm in political polemics; it grows less and less so.
--
"Sources of Tolerance" (1930); also in The Spirit of Liberty: Papers and Addresses (1952), p. 79.

 
Learned Hand

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There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as heroes.

 
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Do you know what I think of history? ... For a while I thought history was something that bitter old men wrote. But Jack loved history so... No one'll ever know everything about Jack. But ... history made Jack what he was ... this lonely, little sick boy ... scarlet fever ... this little boy sick so much of the time, reading in bed, reading history ... reading the Knights of the Round Table ... and he just liked that last song.
Then I thought, for Jack history was full of heroes. And if it made him this way, if it made him see the heroes, maybe other little boys will see. Men are such a combination of good and bad ... He was such a simple man. But he was so complex, too. Jack had this hero idea of history, the idealistic view, but then he had that other side, the pragmatic side... his friends were all his old friends; he loved his Irish Mafia.

 
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
 

Can one understand politics without understanding history, especially the history of political thought, and will this distinguish political philosophy from some other kinds of philosophy (such as, perhaps, logic) to which the study of history is not integral?

 
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History is a strange experience. The world is quite small now; but history is large and deep. Sometimes you can go much farther by sitting in your own home and reading a book of history, than by getting onto a ship or an airplane and traveling a thousand miles. When you go to Mexico City through space, you find it a sort of cross between modern Madrid and modern Chicago, with additions of its own; but if you go to Mexico City through history, back only 500 years, you will find it as distant as though it were on another planet: inhabited by cultivated barbarians, sensitive and cruel, highly organized and still in the Copper Age, a collection of startling, of unbelievable contrasts.

 
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Had Grover Cleveland been a politician, with the record of a spoilsman behind, his promises would mean little. They might have deceived a few of the simple, disgusted a few of the honest, caused mirth to a few other spoilsmen, and thus fulfilled their intended mission; for Americans had long since learned that, as the devil can quote Scripture, so the most dangerous type of demagogue can sing of ideals in false notes not easily distinguishable from true. But Mr. Cleveland had already put into practice the ideals which he announced, and Republicans bent on reform rallied to his support with an enthusiasm equal to that of his Democratic followers.

 
Grover Cleveland
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