The Aphorisms of Henry Adams

Great-grandson and grandson of US presidents, son of Lincoln’s minister to England during the Civil War, Henry Adams spent his life in the pursuit of understanding life’s contradictory human phenomena. His autobiography, a remarkably humorous, self-effacing, stoic, and satirical work, partly inspired by Voltaire, offers particularly American insights on abiding practical and moral concerns.


The historian must not try to know what is truth, if he values his honesty; for, if he cares for his truths, he is certain to falsify his facts.

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean.

“Even a fool,” said the wisest of men, “when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise,” and still more often, the wisest of men, when he spoke the highest wisdom, has been counted a fool.

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