An aphorism is a concise statement of a general truth.




Identify the principles that are expressed as aphorisms.


A.  “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.”

B.  “After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but  because they are physically the strongest.”

Answer:  A

Explanation:  The principle described in A is expressed concisely, that is briefly.  The first principle (A) is stated without any exceptions.  On the other hand, B is very long and the ideas are diluted by such words and phrases as; “most like” “seems fairest” “long period”, etc.


Practice exercises:  Choose which of the two principles is stated as an aphorism.


  1.  A.  “The government is best which governs least."

B.  “The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.”


  1. A. “If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the state will not hesitate which to choose.”

B.  “For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be:  what is once well done is done forever.”


  1. A.  “The proper place today, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles.”

B.  “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”


4.  A.  “Is there not a sort of bloodshed when the conscience is wounded?”

     B.  “If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the state to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”


  1. A.  “As they could not punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog.”

 B. “If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.”