It is well indeed for our land that we of this generation have learned to think nationally. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Statesmanship is the practice of a Statesman, usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term. When politicians retire, they are often referred to as elder statesmen. Statesmanship also conveys a quality of leadership that organically brings people together and of eldership, a spirit of caring for others and for the whole.


  • When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties … they lead their country by a short route to chaos.
    • Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons (1968), act I, p. 12. Sir Thomas More is speaking. Ellipses in original.
  • Statesmanship […] must consider first the fortunes of the common people. No statesman has a right to risk these fortunes unless he be reasonably assured of success.
  • It is strange so great a statesman should
    Be so sublime a poet.
  • But a good patriot, and a true politician, always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition, to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.
    • Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France," 1790, The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (1899), vol. 3, p. 440.
  • La cordiale entente qui existe entre le gouvernement français et celui de la Grande-Bretagne.
    • The cordial agreement which exists between the governments of France and Great Britain.
    • Le Charivari (Jan. 6, 1844). Review of a Speech by Guizot.
  • Si l'on n'a pas de meilleurs moyen de sèduction a lui offrir, l'entente cordiale nous paraît fort compromise.
    • If one has no better method of enticement to offer, the cordial agreement seems to us to be the best compromise.
    • Le Charivari, Volume XV. No. 3, p. 4. (1846), referring to the ambassador of Morocco, then in Paris.
  • No statesman e'er will find it worth his pains
    To tax our labours and excise our brains.
  • The people of the two nations [French and English] must be brought into mutual dependence by the supply of each other's wants. There is no other way of counteracting the antagonism of language and race. It is God's own method of producing an entente cordiale, and no other plan is worth a farthing.
    • Richard Cobden, letter to M. Michel Chevalier (Sept., 1859). "Entente cordiale," used by Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell (Sept. 7, 1848). Littré (Dict.) dates its use to speech in The Chamber of Deputies, 1840–41. Phrase in a letter written by the Dutch Governor-General at Batavia to the Bewinikebbers (directors) at Amsterdam (Dec. 15, 1657). See Notes and Queries (Sept. 11, 1909), p. 216. Early examples given in Stanford Dictionary. Cobden probably first user to make the phrase popular. Quoted also by Lord Aberdeen. Phrase appeared in the Foreign Quarterly Review (Oct., 1844). Used by Louis Philippe in a speech from the throne (Jan., 1843), to express friendly relations between France and England.
  • The truth is, gentlemen, a statesman is the creature of his age, the child of circumstances, the creation of his times. A statesman is essentially a practical character ; and when he is called upon to take office, he is not to inquire what his opinions might or might not have been upon this or that subject he is only to ascertain the needful, and the beneficial, and the most feasible manner in which affairs are to be carried on. I laugh, therefore, at the objections against a man, that, at a former period of his career, he advocated a policy different to his present one.
  • I have the courage of my opinions, but I have not the temerity to give a political blank cheque to Lord Salisbury.
    • George Goschen, 1st Viscount Goschen, in Parliament (Feb. 19, 1884).
  • Gli ambasciadori sono l'occhio e l'orecchio degli stati.
  • Winston Churchill famously claimed that of all human qualities, courage was the most esteemed, because it guaranteed all others. He was right. Courage—moral courage—is the companion of great leadership. No politician could ever be viewed as exceptional unless he or she had it in spades. And historically there would have been no social progress if not for the presence of specific humans dissenting and breaking from herd-inspired suspicion and fear... At best, courage is self-sacrificing, non-violent, modest and based on universal principles — and immensely powerful.... Look at today’s politicians... keen to be viewed as the virile leaders of their respective countries; eager to inflate their image by harming migrants and refugees, the most vulnerable in society. If there is courage in that, I fail to see it. Authoritarian leaders, or elected leaders inclined toward it, are bullies, deceivers, selfish cowards. If they are growing in number it is because (with exceptions) many other politicians are mediocre... focused on their own image... too afraid to stand up...
    What if 100m or more people marched around the world in protest at what it is we now see: the ineptitude, selfishness, the cruelties and the threats to our collective well-being? might just deliver a sort of shock therapy to those dangerous or useless politicians who now threaten humanity.
  • Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none.
  • A great statesman is he who knows when to depart from traditions, as well as when to adhere to them.
    • John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government (1861), chapter 5, p. 93.
  • Who would not praise Patricio's high desert,
    His hand unstain'd, his uncorrupted heart,
    His comprehensive head? all interests weigh'd,
    All Europe sav'd, yet Britain not betray'd.
  • If you wish to preserve your secret wrap it up in frankness.
  • Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation?—Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?—Why by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humour or caprice?
  • 'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world—so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it.
  • Statesmen have to bend to the collective will of their peoples or be broken.
    • Attributed to Woodrow Wilson. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Legatus est vir bonus peregre missus ad mentiendem rei publicæ causæ.
    • An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth.
    • Henry Wotton, in the autograph album of Christopher Fleckamore (1604). Eight years later Jasper Scioppius published it with malicious intent. Wotton apologized, but insisted on the double meaning of lie as a jest. A leiger is an ambassador. So used by Samuel Butler, Hudibras (1678), Part II, III, 139. Also by Thomas Fuller, The Holy State and the Profane State (1642), p. 306.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 752-53.
  • Spheres of influence.
    • Version of Earl Granville's phrase. "Spheres of action," found in his letter to Count Münster, April 29, 1885. Hertslet's Map of Africa by Treaty, p. 596. Translation May 7, 1885. See also phrase used in Convention between Great Britain and France, Aug. 10, 1889, in same, p. 562.
  • Learn to think continentally.
    • Alexander Hamilton. Paraphrase of his words in a Speech to his American fellow countrymen.
  • Nursed by stern men with empires in their brains.
  • Statesman, yet friend to truth; of soul sincere,
    In action faithful, and in honour clear;
    Who broke no promise, serv'd no private end,
    Who gain'd no title, and who lost no friend;
    Ennobled by himself, by all approv'd,
    And prais'd, unenvy'd, by the Muse he lov'd.
  • It is well indeed for our land that we of this generation have learned to think nationally.
  • And statesmen at her council met
    Who knew the seasons when to take
    Occasion by the hand, and make
    The bounds of freedom wider yet.
  • Why don't you show us a statesman who can rise up to the emergency, and cave in the emergency's head.
  • Tell the truth, and so puzzle and confound your adversaries.
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