A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 28, 2013
“Every nation is about nine meals away from a revolution”

A popular saying is that “every nation is about three/six/seven/nine meals away from anarchy/revolution.” That is, hungry people are desperate people who will topple any government. “It is well for us to recollect that even in our own law-abiding, not to say virtuous cases, the only barrier between us and anarchy is the last nine meals we’ve had” was cited in print in 1896.

“There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy” was said by writer Alfred Henry Lewis (1855-1914) in a March 1906 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. “It’s only nine meals between men and revolution” was cited in print in 1943.


Wikipedia: Alfred Henry Lewis
Alfred Henry Lewis (January 20, 1855 – December 23, 1914) was an American investigative journalist, lawyer, novelist, editor, and short story writer.

17 October 1896, Denver (CO) Post, “Further Facts in the Case of Mark Hanna,” pg. 6, cols. 6-7:
Those of us who are well fed, well garmented and well ordered, ought not to forget that necessity makes frequently the root of crime. It is well for us to recollect that even in our own law-abiding, not to say virtuous cases, the only barrier between us and anarchy is the last nine meals we’ve had. It may be taken as axiomatic that a starving man is never a good citizen.

Google Books
March 1906, Cosmpolitan Magazine, pg. 603:
The Day of Discontent
First in a Series of Cosmopolitan Table-Talks in which Vital Problems are Discussed in a Vital Way

BY invitation the editor of COSMOPOLITAN, Alfred Henry Lewis, W. J. Ghent and David Graham Phillips met at a luncheon in a room in the Hotel Astor, New York, the other day to discuss the social unrest in America—an unrest admitted by the most optimistic of our latter-day philosophers.
Pg. 605, col. 1:
LEWIS: There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.

20 March 1906, New Orleans (LA) Item, “Sparks,” pg. 4, col. 6:
Alfred Henry Lewis says there are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy. Some people don’t get all of those.

Google Books
June 1943, The Rotarian, pg. 26, col. 3:
“It’s only nine meals between men and revolution,” Jeff H. Williams, of Chickasha, Oklahoma, reminded one forum group.

Google Books
The Atlantic
Volume 175
1945
Pg. 103:
There is an old saying that mankind is only nine meals from revolution. But let the nine meals go by, then feed people a bare subsistence diet, and inertia is the result.

Google Books
This Is the Story
By David Lewis Cohn
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company
1947
Pg. 236:
The old maxim still has its ancient validity: “No man is farther than nine meals away from revolution.”

23 May 1947, Waterloo (IA) Daily Courier, “150 Hear Dr. Sage Explain Communism,” pg. 10, col. 1:
‘Every man is only nine meals away from Communism,” asserted Dr. Leland L. Sage of the department of social sciences at Iowa State Teachers college, Cedar Falls, as he spoke at a public forum here Thursday evening.

13 October 1948, Mason City (IA) Globe-Gazette, pg. 2, col. 5:
“It has been said that any country is only 9 meals away from revolution...half the people of the world are on a starvation diet and their problems are our problems.”
(Al J. Loveland, under secretary of agriculture—ed.)

Google News Archive
26 October 1952, Lewiston (ID) Morning Tribune, “Dream Of UN Must Be Kept Alive—Lawson,” pg. 10, col. 1:
(Kenneth Lawson, Spokane Commissioner of Public Affairs—ed.)
“It has truthfully been said,” he told his audience, “that any nation is always nine meals away from a revolution. You can understand what this means when you realize what happens to people who go three days without food. They become panicky, they lose their wits and their intelligence, and they follow any leader blindly.” Hunger and war, he said, go hand in hand, and the struggle to prevent hunger is one part of the battle to preserve peace.

Google Books
Analytical Network and System Administration:
Managing Human-Computer Networks

By Mark Burgess
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons
2004
Pg. 333:
The Romans are reputed to have claimed that civilization is never more than three meals away from anarchy. In other words, for humans, systematic cooperation depends on the subtle bribery of the people: give them what they want and they will play by the rules of the system. Should the system fail to give them what they want, it will degenerate into a free-for-all.

Google Books
By Train to Shanghai:
A Journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

By William J. Gingles
Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse
2006
Pg. 137:
Trotsky said: “Any society is only three square meals away from a revolution”.

OCLC WorldCat record
Nine meals from anarchy : oil dependence, climate change and the transition to resilience
Author: Andrew Simms; New Economics Foundation.
Publisher: London : New Economics Foundation, 2008.
Edition/Format: Book : English

Forbes.com
The Food Crisis
Feed The World. Let It Trade.

Joshua Zumbrun, 05.06.08, 7:06 PM ET
WASHINGTON, D.C. -
There are “seven meals between civilization and anarchy,” says Josette Sheeran, executive director of United Nation’s World Food Program. What takes those meals away, driving citizens to base needs and destabilizing countries? Growing demand, changing diets, weather disruption and, sadly enough, restricted trade.

Wikiquote: Reference Desk
A society is only three meals away from anarchy
(...)
That conversation was in Red Dwarf, Series III (aka season 3), episode 2 - Marooned (premiered in 1989), around 15:40 (watch episode). However, the quote’s authorship was brought up in a later Wikiquote post suggesting that “Any society is only three square meals away from revolution” may have been said by Dumas (1802-1870) or Trotsky (1879-1940), with possible variations of the concept by Frederick Upham Adams (1896) or ancient Roman society (753 BC-1453 AD). See also this blog post for some roumers of authorship being credited to contemporary writers. --155.31.210.210 05:14, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

NPR
Growers Nervous As Washington Eyes Farm Subsidies
June 30, 2011 1:00 PM
(...)
(Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), farmer and member of House Agricultural Committee—ed.)
The second one is the old saying that you’re nine meals away from a revolution. Now, we don’t have food riots in America like they do in a lot of places in the world, but one of the reasons we don’t have food riots is because the family farm and our free marketplace is such a productive enterprise that we produce a surplus of food.

Google Books
Dictator’s Handbook:
A practical manual for the aspiring tyrant

By Randy Wood and Carmine DeLuca
Gull Pond Books
2012
Pg. 71:
The old adage, “no king is more than two missed meals away from a revolution” is absolutely true.

Doug Ross @ Journal
TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2013
Has the Inflation Genie Escaped? “Every nation is about nine meals away from a revolution”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Thursday, March 28, 2013 • Permalink