A Student of History

December 13, 2007

The ugliest thing

Filed under: Quotes,Wars — John Maass @ 6:57 pm

Here is an interesting quote I came across for the first time today:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things.  The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.  The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” 

This is a quote from John Stuart Mill, 19th century English philosopher, writer, and advocate for women’s rights among other learned achievements.  I wonder if Americans would, if polled, agree or disagree with Mill’s sentiments about war as stated here.  Can most Americans name something they would in fact really die for?  Somehow I doubt it.



  1. Really die for? Let’s see – how about country, family and (some) friends. But, if done well, no dying (on my part) would be required!

    Or , in the words of George C. Scott in the film, Patton – apparently Patton never really said them, “I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.”

    Comment by Murray — December 13, 2007 @ 7:23 pm | Reply

  2. What a great quote! I used to tell my ex-boyfriend (who was also a history Ph.D. student), that the John Lennon song “Imagine” got on my nerves. As much as I would like peace on earth, the whole idea of having a world where no one believed in anything was depressing. I was referring to this stanza:

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    I can’t “imagine” that life without religion, countries, possessions, etc… would be as idyllic as Lennon believed it would be. Obviously he was entitled to his opinion, but that song just frustrates me. Anyway, I appreciated the quote and am glad that you shared it!

    Comment by History Enthusiast — December 13, 2007 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  3. “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
    —Martin Luther King, Jr.

    On the other hand, and as we are talking of things military, the question is also what are you willing to kill for? My own take is that none of us who have actually had to make such a decision has any idea how she or he would react.

    Comment by Larry Cebula — December 13, 2007 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

  4. Isn’t it interesting that such grandeloquent ideals as Lennon’s are always put forth by millionairs. The average folks like us don’t have the luxury to truly believe such things. DWJ

    Comment by Donald W. Johnston — December 17, 2007 @ 4:06 am | Reply

  5. Yes I have been fond of the quote myself as it is a part of my blog: http://www.blog4history.com

    Comment by publius1 — December 19, 2007 @ 2:53 am | Reply

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