Misattributed quotes

As pointed out in a comment by Greg “Blotto” Garrett on Larry Correia’s blog the famous quote supposedly by George Orwell:

People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

It isn’t quite true.

The closest people have been able to find in his writings is:

Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.


Orwell also wrote of Kipling: “He sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them.”

I am guilty of using the inaccurate quote.

Also pointed out by Garrett is that the most famous quote of Edmund Burke isn’t really true either:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

I am sort of guilty of using that one.

Don’t repeat my mistakes.


4 thoughts on “Misattributed quotes

  1. To be fair, the Quote of the Day two posts down isn’t attributable to Thewriterinblack. I remember seeing it back in the nineties, in one of those lists of quotes parents would email back and forth until the Re: Re: Re: in the subject line ran off the screen.

    • I suspect we are both technically correct on this.

      thewriterinblack did say that. He didn’t give credit to whoever originally said it and I didn’t go looking for the source.

  2. These days it’s easier to verify quotes. There are some famous ones attributed to Jefferson and Franklin that apparently are not real. This one, for example:
    “Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.” — attributed to, but not said by, Thomas Jefferson
    On the other hand, there are some that seem surprising that are. This is one:
    “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography, p. 446
    “I do believe that where there is a choice only between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi, Young India, August 11, 1920 from Fischer, Louis ed.,The Essential Gandhi, 1962. pp. 156-57.

  3. Though it is important to get proper attribution for quotes, in these cases it doesn’t make the ideas in the quotes false. Whoever said them was still very much correct.

    On the other hand, some falsely attributed quotes, or outright false quotes are nearly dangerous as they leave a false idea that hurts our side when the false attribution is noted.

    “This year will go down in history. For the first time a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!”

    — Adolf Hitler, 1935

    Is one example of such, since Hitler would not have said such in 1935 since (short version) the previous regimes had already done all that long before. Perpetuating such a quote as true could do serious damage when the falsehood is found out.

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