Last modified on 13 April 2014, at 17:31

Majority

A majority, also known as a simple majority in the U.S., is a subset of a group that is more than half of the entire group. This should not be confused with a plurality, which is a subset having the largest number of parts.

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  • If you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did it.
  • Supreme power rests in the will of all or of the majority.
  • A majority can do anything.
    • Joe Cannon, maxim quoted in a tribute to Cannon on his retirement, The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland (March 4, 1923); reported in The Congressional Record (March 4, 1923), vol. 64, p. 5714.
  • One with the law is a majority.
    • Calvin Coolidge, speech accepting nomination as Republican candidate for vice president, Northampton, Massachusetts (July 27, 1920), as reported by The New York Times, July 28, 1920, p. 6.
  • When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong.
    • Eugene V. Debs, Speech in Cleveland, Ohio.(Sept. 11, 1918) Eugene V. Debs Speaks, ed. Jean Y. Tussey (1970)
  • The man who is right is a majority. We, who have God and conscience on our side, have a majority against the universe.
    • Frederick Douglass; Frederic May Holland, Frederick Douglass: The Colored Orator, Haskell House Publishers, New York, 1969, p. 212
  • Shall we then judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely. ‘Tis pedantry to estimate nations by the census, or by square miles of land, or other than by their importance to the mind of the time.
  • Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. The power of this community is then set up as “right” in opposition to the power of the individual, which is condemned as “brute force.”
  • There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.
  • The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population—the intelligent ones or the fools? I think we can agree it’s the fools, no matter where you go in this world, it’s the fools that form the overwhelming majority.
  • I’m plotting revolution against this lie that the majority has a monopoly of the truth. What are these truths that always bring the majority rallying round? Truths so elderly they are practically senile. And when a truth is as old as that, gentlemen, you can hardly tell it from a lie.
  • The worst enemy of truth and freedom in our society is the compact majority. Yes, the damned, compact, liberal majority.
  • The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.
  • A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks, and limitations, and always changing easily, with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.
    • Abraham Lincoln, First inaugural address (March 4, 1861). Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 4, p. 268, Rutgers University Press (1953, 1990)
  • The principle of majority rule is the mildest form in which the force of numbers can be exercised. It is a pacific substitute for civil war in which the opposing armies are counted and the victory is awarded to the larger before any blood is shed. Except in the sacred tests of democracy and in the incantations of the orators, we hardly take the trouble to pretend that the rule of the majority is not at bottom a rule of force.
    • Walter Lippmann, “Why Should the Majority Rule?” Harper’s Magazine (New York, 1926)
  • It is quite plain that your government will never be able to restrain a distressed and discontented majority. For with you the majority is the government, and has the rich, who are always a minority, absolutely at its mercy.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Henry Stephens Randall (May 23, 1857); reported in Thomas Pinney, ed., The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1981), vol. 6, p. 95.
  • In our governments the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of government contrary to the sense of the constituents, but from the acts in which government is the mere instrument of the majority.
    • James Madison, letter to Thomas Jefferson (October 24, 1787). The Papers of James Madison, vol. 10, pp. 213-14, Chicago and Charlottesville, Virginia (1962-1991)
  • In republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.
    • James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention (1829). The Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison, p. 512, ed. Marvin Meyers, Indianapolis (1973)
  • Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism. And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.
    • Richard Nixon, address to the Nation on the Vietnam war (November 3, 1969). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, p. 909.
  • Majority rule is a precious, sacred thing worth dying for. But—like other precious, sacred things, such as the home and the family—it’s not only worth dying for; it can make you wish you were dead. Imagine if all of life were determined by majority rule. Every meal would be a pizza. Every pair of pants, even those in a Brooks Brothers suit, would be stonewashed denim. Celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only thing on the shelves at the library. And—since women are a majority of the population—we’d all be married to Mel Gibson.
    • P.J. O'Rourke, “The Mystery of Government,” Parliament of Whores (1991)
  • How a minority,
    Reaching majority,
    Siezing authority,
    Hates a minority!
    • Attributed to Leonard Harman Robbins, Minorities; reported in Bergen Evans, Dictionary of Quotations (1968), p. 423; reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

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