Mark Twain On Politics

Start with a foundation of hard-earned cynicism. Add abundant humor, as well as whimsy. Finish with a fine, dry talent for understated rhetorical flourish–sometimes well disguised in apparently homespun wording. The final product? Words of political wisdom from Mark Twain. There is an excellent chance you will enjoy them. We borrow the quotations with sincere (as opposed to insincere) thanks from . . .

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.
Mark Twain in Eruption

The new political gospel: public office is private graft.
– More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

Yes, you are right — I am a moralist in disguise; it gets me into heaps of trouble when I go thrashing around in political questions.
– Letter to Helene Picard,
22 Feb 1902

In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
Autobiography of Mark Twain

…one of the first achievements of the legislature was to institute a ten-thousand-dollar agricultural fair to show off forty dollars’ worth of pumpkins in — however, the Territorial legislature was usually spoken of as the “asylum”.
Roughing It

When politics enter into municipal government, nothing resulting therefrom in the way of crimes and infamies is then incredible. It actually enables one to accept and believe the impossible…
– Letter to Jules Hart, 17 December 1901

[In the Galaxy Magazine]: I shall not often meddle with politics, because we have a political Editor who is already excellent and only needs to serve a term or two in the penitentiary to be perfect.
– Mark Twain, a Biography

All large political doctrines are rich in difficult problems — problems that are quite above the average citizen’s reach. And that is not strange, since they are also above the reach of the ablest minds in the country; after all the fuss and all the talk, not one of those doctrines has been conclusively proven to be the right one and the best.
– “The Privilege of the Grave,” Who Is Mark Twain?


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