Rufus Choate

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Rufus Choate

Rufus Choate (October 1, 1799July 13, 1859) was an American lawyer, politician, and orator.


  • We have built no national temples but the Capitol; we consult no common oracle but the Constitution.
    • The Importance of Illustrating New-England History by a Series of Romances like the Waverley Novels, lecture delivered at Salem, MA (1833).
  • The courage of New England was the "courage of conscience." It did not rise to that insane and awful passion, the love of war for itself.
    • Address at Ipswich Centennial (1834).
  • The final end of government is not to exert restraint but to do good.
    • Speech in the Senate (July 2, 1841).
  • There was a state without king or nobles; there was a church without a bishop; there was a people governed by grave magistrates which it had selected, and by equal laws which it had framed.
    • Speech before the New England Society (December 22, 1843). Compare: "The Americans equally detest the pageantry of a king and the supercilious hypocrisy of a bishop" Junius, Letter xxxv, December 19, 1769; "Oh, we are weary pilgrims; to this wilderness we bring / A Church without a bishop, a State without a King", anonymous poem "The Puritans' Mistake", published by Oliver Ditson in 1844; "It established a religion without a prelate, a government without a king", George Bancroft on Calvinism, History of the United States, vol. iii, chap. vi.
  • We join ourselves to no party that does not carry the flag, and keep step to the music of the Union.
    • Letter to the Whig Convention, Worcester (October 1, 1855).
  • Its constitution the glittering and sounding generalities of natural right which make up the Declaration of Independence.
    • Letter to the Maine Whig Committee (1856). Six years earlier, Choate gave a lecture in Providence which was reviewed by Franklin J. Dickman in the Journal of December 14, 1849. Unless Choate used the words "glittering generalities", and Dickman made reference to them, it would seem as if Dickman must have the credit of originating the catchword. Dickman wrote: "We fear that the glittering generalities of the speaker have left an impression more delightful than permanent". Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • A book is the only immortality.
    • Quoted in "Part of a Man's Life" - Page 177 - by Thomas Wentworth Higginson - 1905.


  • Happy is he who has laid up in his youth, and held fast in all fortune, a genuine and passionate love of reading.
  • Neither irony or sarcasm is argument.

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