Authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A collection of quotes by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. on law, taxes, common, civilization, equality, liberty, purpose, intellectuals, reality, war and education.

34 Thought-Provoking Quotes By Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Great Dissenter

Quick Facts

Born On: March 8, 1841

Died On: March 6, 1935

Born In: Boston, Massachusetts

Died At Age: 93

Oliver Wendell was an American Supreme Court jurist who was known for his expertise in the common law. After passing law and completing his degree he started practicing privately. While practicing he also wrote various articles and essays on law which landed him as an editor of the American Law Review. Due to his high law intellect he was appointed at the Massachusetts Supreme Court where he further went on to become the Chief Justice. Within three years of his term as Chief Justice he was appointed at the US Supreme Court. In a short span of time he gained the nickname ‘the Great Dissenter’ due to his habit of frequently opposing the opinions of his fellow justices. His first remarkable opinion was on the regulation of the national economy where he opposed the court’s decision of removing the 60-hour workweek limitation on bakers. Then he set the standards of speech by his logical argument of the significance to limit the freedom of speech and gave many other logical opinions on various significant topics. He also wrote books contributing to the philosophy of law and his most remarkable work was ‘The Common Law’. His writings covered several subjects and viewpoints. Here is a collection of thoughts, quotation and sayings by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
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I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The young man knows the rules but the old man knows the exceptions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A child's education should begin at least 100 years before he was born.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are going.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Don’t flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Every calling is great when greatly pursued.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

We must think things not words, or at least we must constantly translate our words into the facts for which they stand, if we are to keep to the real and the true.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The man of action has the present, but the thinker controls the future.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

We have shared the incommunicable experience of war, we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top. In our youth our hearts were touched with fire.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The first requirement of a sound body of law is, that it should correspond with the actual feelings and demands of the community, whether right or wrong.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

We have to choose, and for my part I think it a less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A goose flies by a chart the Royal Geographic Society could not improve.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I believe that there are no innate, intrinsic differences among a human being , a baboon or a grain of sand.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A man who called everyone a damn fool is like a man who damns the weather. He only shows that he is not adapted to his environment, not that the environment is wrong.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The very minute a thought is threatened with publicity it seems to shrink towards mediocrity.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

We are very quiet there, but it is the quiet of a storm centre. .

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The petitioner may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I detest a man who knows that he knows.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Academic life is but half life it is a withdrawal from the fight to utter smart things that cost you nothing except the thinking them from a cloister.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Every man has a right to do what he wills, provided he interferes not with a like right on the part of his neighbors.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.