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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Presidents Discuss Revenge

George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual, and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.
Abraham Lincoln, letter, October 5, 1863:
Thought is forced from old channels into confusion. Deception breeds and thrives. Confidence dies, and universal suspicion reigns. Each man feels an impulse to kill his neighbor, lest he be killed by him. Revenge and retaliation follow. And all this, as before said, may be among honest men only. But this is not all. Every foul bird comes abroad, and every dirty reptile rises up. These add crime to confusion. Strong measures deemed indispensable, but harsh at best, such men make worse by maladministration. Murders for old grudges, and murders for self, proceed under any cloak that will best serve for the occasion. 
Abraham Lincoln, response to serenade, November 10, 1864:
Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we will have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at a Testimonial Dinner for James A. Farley. Washington, D.C.
February 15, 1937
In all my years of association with Jim Farley I have never once heard him utter one mean syllable about any human being. I have never heard him suggest revenge or reprisal-except once- and that was after a particularly vicious and mean attack that was made on him personally. Jim went to this extent and said to me; "Governor"—he has always called me Governor—he said, "Governor:, that fellow's mother ought to spank him."