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 October 04, 2010
“If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if not a conservative at 40 you have no brain”

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikiquote: List of misquotations
This page consists of things that many people think are correct quotations but are actually incorrect. This does not include quotations that were actually blunders by the people that said them.
(...)
“Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”
. Often attributed to Winston Churchill., The phrase originated with Francois Guisot (1787-1874): “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.” It was revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929): “Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”

Wikipedia: François Guizot
François Pierre Guillaume Guizot (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃swa pjɛʁ ɡijom ɡizo]; 4 October 1787 -12 September 1874) was a French historian, orator, and statesman. Guizot was a dominant figure in French politics prior to the Revolution of 1848, actively opposing as a liberal the reactionary King Charles X before his overthrow in the July Revolution of 1830, then in government service to the “citizen king” Louis Philippe, as the Minister of Education, 1832–1837, ambassador to London, Foreign Minister 1840–1847, and finally Prime Minister of France from 19 September 1847 to 23 February 1848. Guizot’s influence was critical in expanding public education, which under his ministry saw the creation of primary schools in every French commune. But as a leader of the “Doctrinaires”, committed to supporting the policies of Louis Phillipe and limitations on further expansion of the political franchise, he earned the hatred of more advanced liberals and republicans through his unswerving support for restricting suffrage to propertied men, advising those who wanted the vote to “enrich yourselves” (enrichissez-vous) through hard work and thrift. As Prime Minister, it was Guizot’s ban on the political meetings of an increasingly vigorous opposition in January 1848 that catalyzed the revolution that toppled Louis Philippe in February and saw the establishment of the French Second Republic.

Guizot is famous as the originator of the quote “Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head”. This quote has been reworked many times, especially in reference to socialism and liberalism. It has been borrowed by or attributed to many notable figures who lived after Guizot, including Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli, Georges Clemenceau, Otto von Bismarck, Aristide Briand, Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, Wendell Willkie, William J. Casey, and others.

Wikiquote: Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau (28 September 1841 – 24 November 1929) was a French journalist, physician and statesman. He served as Prime Minister from 1906 to 1909 and from 1917 to 1920.
(...)
My son is 22 years old. If he had not become a Communist at 22, I would have disowned him. If he is still a Communist at 30, I will do it then.
. On being told his son had joined the Communist Party, as quoted in Try and Stop Me (1944) by Bennet Cerf
. A statement similar in theme has also been attributed to Clemenceau:
.. A young man who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old man who is a socialist hasn’t got a head.
... As quoted in “Nice Guys Finish Seventh” : False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations (1992) by Ralph Keyes.
..W. Gurney Benham in A Book of Quotations (1948) cites a statement by François Guizot as the earliest known expression of this general idea, stating that Clemenceau merely adapted the saying substituting socialiste for republicain:
.. N’être pas républicain à vingt ans est preuve d’un manque de cœur ; l’être après trente ans est preuve d’un manque de tête.
., Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.
... Variations on this general idea have also been attributed or misattributed to many others, most commonly Winston Churchill, who is not known to have actually made any similar statement.

Google Books
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 5:
John Adams
U.S. president, 1755-1826
“A boy of fifteen who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at twenty.”
Quoted in Thomas Jefferson, Journal, Jan. 1799
Pg. 158:
Georges Clemenceau
French prime minister, 1841-1929
“[Upon being told that his son had joined the Communist Party:] My son is 22 years old. If he had not become a Communist at 22, I would have disowned him. If he is still a COmmunist at 30, I will do it then.”
Attributed in Bennett Cerf, Try and Stop Me (1944)
Pg. 327:
Francois Guizot
French premier and historian, 1787-1874
“N’etre pas republicain a vingt ans est preuve d’un manque de coeur; l’etre apres trente ans est preuve d’un manque de tete.”
“Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”

Attributed in W. Gurney Benham, A Book of Quotations, new and rev. ed. (1948). Benham asserts that “Clemenceau adapted this saying substituting ‘socialiste’ for ‘republicain.’
Pg. 705:
George Bernard Shaw
irish author and socialist, 1856-1950
“If you don’t begin to be a revolutionist at the age of twenty, then at fifty you will be a most impossible old fossil. If you are a red revolutionary at the age of twenty, you have some chance of being up-to-date when you are forty!”
“Universities and Education” (speech at University of Hong Kong), 12 Feb. 1933

The Churchill Centre and Museum
Quotes Falsely Attributed
These quotes make for good story-telling but popular myth has falsely attributed them to Churchill.

“Conservative by the time you’re 35”
“If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart.  If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: “Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!  And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?”

Google Books
1 November 1861, Saunders, Otley, & Co.’s Literary Budget for England, India, CHina, Australia & the Colonies, pg. 16, col. 3: 
Most men, said a French statesman, who are not Republican at twenty, are corrupt at forty.

Google Books
The whole truth about Mexico:
President Wilson’s responsibility

By Francisco Bulnes
New York, NY: M. Bulnes Book Company
1916
Pg. 32:
One of the revolutionists, an honest, intelligent and perfectly sincere man, a real reformer, took up the well-known phrase of Victor Hugo: “If a man is not a republican at twenty, it is because he has no heart, and if he is one at forty, it is because he has no brains."*
*Madero por uno de sus intimos, p. 144.

Google Books
The other woman I am
By Geneviève Gennari
New York, NY: D. McKay Co.
1961
Pg. 117:
‘If a young man is not a revolutionary at twenty he is insensitive; if he is not a reactionary at forty he is unintelligent.”

Google Books
Sub regionalism in India:
A study of elite reaction towards the six point formula for Andhra Pradesh

By M. Kistaiah
Hyderabad: Sole distributors, Book Links Corp.
1977
Pg. 59:
It is therefore, clear that the- tendencies of revolt is attributed to a particular age-group: “The man who is not a revolutionary at 20 has no heart. The man who is still a revolutionary at 40 has no brain.”

17 June 1978, Chicago (IL) Tribune, ‘Tempo” by Rogers Worthington, pg. B11:
... Clemenceau on this rightward shift: “He -who is not a radical when he is young has no heart; he who Is not a conservative when he Is old, has no brain.”

Google Books
Political Action:
Mass participation in five western democracies

By Samuel H. Barnes
Beverly Hills, CA: Sage
1979
Pg. 1101:
As an old proverb has it: “He who is not a revolutionary at twenty has no heart. He who is still a revolutionary at forty has no head.”

Washington (DC) Post
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Saturday, June 9, 2001; Page A17
Heartfelt Politics
Charles Krauthammer [op-ed, May 25] quotes Winston Churchill as saying, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re 40, you have no head.”

This quotation is frequently but mistakenly attributed to Churchill. It is anyway unlikely that Churchill would subscribe to this philosophy: He was a swashbuckling soldier at 20, and a Conservative member of Parliament at 25. A couple of years later he switched to the Liberal Party (which was not liberal in the modern sense), and later went back to the Conservatives.

The phrase originated with Francois Guisot (1787-1874): “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.” It was revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929): “Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”
-- Peter Rutland

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (1) Comments • Monday, October 04, 2010 • Permalink


Nice post.  I just happened to recall the statement and wanted to quote it correctly.  I, too, thought it was by Churchill, so I’m happy to find a recent post that is so detailed.  The question no becomes, what was the original meaning of the terms when used by Guisot?  A “republican” at that time in France would not be quite the same as one in the US these days, anymore than the term “liberal” means the same here as it did in the UK in the time of Churchill.

Posted by Dennis  on  10/28  at  09:26 PM

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