Questionable Sir Alex Fraser Tytler Quote

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.... The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from great courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependency back again to bondage.”

~ Sir Alex Fraser Tytler

supposedly from The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic, c.1799 but no book has been found.
Questionable. See

Ratings and Comments

Brandon Hanna, Farmington Hills, Michigan

I love this quote. I definitely agree with the writer and I, unfortunately, see it happening even today in the U.S. I really hope it's not true though. I really do.

Rob, Puyallup, WA

Excellent quote. Thankfully the US is a REPRESENTATIONAL REPUBLIC and not a Democracy.. even though most people have been miseducated by socialists. As for snopes calling the quote questionable, Lord Woodhouselee's manuscripts, collections, notes, etc. make up many volumes.. and no one said the quote came from a book, only that it came from his discourse on the Fall of the Athenian Republic. Why would you presume to find them at the University of Michigan or The Library of Congress? Try the University of Edinburgh Library or the National Library of Scotland.. lazy people..

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Anonymous    5/19/06

The process has started, and it has gone to the fifth stage: "from abundance to selfishness." Can someone please wake up to the truth! May He help us reverse the process!

Eric, Chicago

I'm Scared for the future of this great Country. I think we are in the complacency to apathy stage.

Dave, Washington DC

It doesn't matter who said it, it's wonderful food for thought. What is evident in many news writings these days is the scramble by politicians to raid the treasury to buy votes by promising all kinds of benefits to all sectors of society.

Joseph A Cerreta, PhD, Tampa, FL

It matters not who said it, the fact is, we need only look back from the mid 1700's up to the present to see the truth it expresses and the general direction this once great neation is heading... unless we wake up. Dr. JAC

Russ Schroeder, San Antonio, Texas

I have thought about this quote for a considerable length of time. I have also listened to Obama and Hillary promising the government will provide literally everything to the people of this country, from a government subsidized (or a least mandated) mortgage taylored to allow them to stay in their homes, to universal healthcare they believe it is our moral obligation (and in some instances a constitutional right) to provide, to an affordable college education for everyone, and tax benefits provided only to companies and individuals who play by their version of fairness. And the people flock to them like moths to a flame. Can there be any doubt we are in the next to the last stage of this cycle.

Jeff Dowlen, Exeter, California

Yep, ninth-tenth stage. I hate to say it but the United States is in the beginning stage of collapse. We equate "Freedom" with government entitlements. Our esteemed leaders (like internal parasites) have progressively stripped this nation of its soul. They have instituted a nation without borders, have trampled upon the Bill or Rights, they embrace decadence, greed, envy, corruption and we all look the other way. We have allowed individuals who have no concept of our Constitution or our history to vote and they typically vote for whoever gives them the most. Yep, ninth-tenth stage!

Cody, Salem

So true. This is one of the reasons that people like Hillary Clinton and her crusade to abolish the Electoral College scare me so much.

Jeff, Westerville

Love the quote. I did check on Edinburgh web site and found the following. From the of Edinburgh web site inquiries. Tytler, Alexander Fraser (Lord Woodhouselee) Do you have in print or electronic form something called The decline and fall of the Athenian Republic (1776) by a supposed Edinburgh University History Professor Alexander Fraser Tytler (Lord Woodhouselee)? I've heard of a quotation by Alexander Fraser Tytler about the lifespan of democracy. Was it in The decline and fall of the Athenian Republic? Edinburgh University Library occasionally receives enquiries, particularly from North America, about this particular work. However, this title is not in our Library holdings, nor does it appear in the stocks of the other major research libraries in the UK (according to the 'union' catalogue COPAC)... Locally, the chapters of Tytler's General history ... (which we DO have) has been checked on the off-chance that The decline and fall might have been a chapter title... but it is not... Clarifying a bit more, the earliest published works of Tytler that we have are: Plan and outlines of a course of lectures on universal history, ancient and modern, delivered in the University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh, 1782. Note: Presentation copy from the author. Elements of general history, ancient and modern. To which are added a table of chronology and a comparative view of ancient and modern geography. 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1801. Note: Presentation copy from the author. The two volume work is a published version of the lecture course outlined in the plan. The publication situation is a bit complicated by later editions of the lectures, sometimes with an additional volume by different other authors bringing the coverage up to 1820 and later the 1840s and 1850s. Additionally we hold bundles of unsorted, or comparatively unsorted manuscripts of Tytler. Often in the enquiries we receive we are provided with a 'quote' (see below) from Tytler referring to the steps that a democracy can go thro' prior to its fall but this is not in the General history... either. We have scanned our holdings pretty thoroughly on different occasions, going back a few years now, but we have not found the quotation or anything similar to it, but we cannot absolutely rule out the possibility that we have missed it. With regard to the 'quote', the Library of Congess which has a substantial collection of Alexander Fraser Tytler, and has experience of working with his output, also confirms that it is not in the General history. In Soldiers of fortune. The story of the Mamlukes by John Bagot Glubb 'Pasha' (1897-1986), published in New York by Stein and Day, 1973, Glubb gives an unattributed reference to stages in the 'life of democracy', stating p.230 that the words were written by Alexander Fraser Tytler but providing no source. By his own admission however, on p.9, Glubb was not a scholar. [Quote]...: A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government ... The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, and from dependency back into bondage.

Paul, Seattle

Um... I think that the quote is made up, and the challenge isn't on those (like me) who say so to prove that they're right. The challenge is on those who are claiming the quote to be true to provide a verifiable place where it can be checked. Since nobody has, the quote is apparently made up, and therefore deserves a zero.

Robert Franklin, Denver CO

We are in the final, dependence back into bondage, stage. This is so sad but there is no way to reverse it at this late date. The working people are so tired of pulling the wagon full of those who won't work or are government parasites. It can't continue.

Ed Southworth, Pensacola Beach, FL

Arguing over the source of this quote while the FED creates debt that our children and grandchildren cannot pay is like Nero fiddling while Rome was in flames. If we are not already well into socialistic bondage, we should be able to distinguish significant Republican (form rather than the party) differences in status from the ten (10) planks of Marx/Engels' Communist Manifesto. Look them up, and then look in the mirror to see one of the voters who is still enabling the unconstitutional operations of our three branches of government which got us here.

Joe V., Cordova, TN

Let's not forget that "we, the people" have elected the representatives who have made the changes that have brought us to this sorry point. So, just like the voters in the quote, ultimately, we are to blame.

Rhonda, Dallas, TX

It doesn't matter who said it first or made it up. It's accurate and true and we are there. And yes, we are to blame, too, but as long as majority rules, we would be hard pressed to make a difference because everyone wants what benefits them. We just have to go through the natural cycle and face the consequences.

Larry, Montana

I think the statement makes sense. I agree with Paul in Seattle though. It should not be given credence without proof. I am a conservative, and believe we should not stoop to the level of the majority of liberals. They will do or say anything apparently to achieve their socialist goals, which is bondage of the common people with an elite ruling class which they hope to be a part of.

Barbara Baillet Moran, Greensboro, NC

Since there is considerable dispute about the Tytler quotation, let's set aside its origins for the moment and examine the comment on its own merits. For that one would have to make an exhaustive investigation of nations throughout history. Since I'm not volunteering for that task, I'll just say that the reason it interests so many people is that they see that it describes the hapless drift of our nation towards a welfare state, and its acceleration under the current administration. Like them I'm deeply concerned: what quicker way to take down a great nation.

James, Hugo, CO

Of course, the quote is made up! ALL quotes are made up by someone. Even if Sir Alex did not say it, the meaning of the quote seems to be true. Did the majority of voters vote themselves a portion of the public treasury? They HOPE that they did. It seems that they will not be disappointed. DRAT!!

Bob, Raleigh, NC

Too true and it seems we are at the dependency stage.

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    anonymous    10/25/09

    The logical progression from the start to the fall of that government can not be denied if you realize the the weaknesses of the human being. one of the capital sins of man is greed. greed for power and wealth, which leads to complete control of every thing, including life or death of every one under that government. Look at the "great" empires of recent time. Nepolean, Hitler, Stalin and Moa. Can it be stopped. Sure it can, by following the representative republic ideals and procedures as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Any one who tries to circumvent that document should be watched closely and voted out of office at the earliest opportunity. Who should the watch dog know the answer....a free press that shows no preference and reports the facts. It must question those that seem to leaning toward the cycle of governments as stated above. We should be weiry of anyone who would block a voter id program to protect the one vote per citizen. We can not allow anyone to stuff the box with false votes....they are the true enemies of the government.

    Jim, Hawthorne

    If we fail to learn from history then we are doomed to repeat it.

    Jerry Krueger, aberdeen sd

    This is all a bunch of scare-mongering. Our Nation is in need of repair but to talk about it's demise is just not true. We have survived so much over the past 250 years and we will survive any thing thrown at us. People>>>have some faith in our process---it is NOT doomed.

    J Allen, Arlington, Va

    The timing and the words are so descriptive of our current situation as to send a chill up your spine.

    Marie, St Joseph

    I agree that it doesn't matter who said it. What matters most is that it's true. We may vote a politician into office, but they don't abide by the same rules/restrictions we do. Look at Social Security. Because they borrowed from OUR retirement they had to push back the age we can collect on it. Who knows how long it will be around, even though it continues to be deducted from our paycheck. I would rather be responsible to set the money aside myself, because I can't trust the politicians to look out for us.

    just the facts, Mam

    the quote is made up. the 200 years bit was first added by Strom Thurmond in 1965.

    Grampster, Nacogdoches

    I don't think they made it up - the reference may have been to a paper rather than a book.

    Tyrone Greene, Washington, DC

    Whoever said the quote is 100% on target and the future of the Untied States of America is at risk. Beleive it or not, and you could not tell by watching the election results, but nobody's team won a superbowl, nobody's team a World Series, or any event for that matter. It was an election. AN election for the President of the Untied States, Our Commander and Chief. It is an embarassment to see these type of reactions. Let's start thinking about the America for our kids and their kids and less about the here and now.

    Jamal Washington, Richmond, VA

    You right Tyrone, it's an embarrasment.............all that fool actin'........... we ALL need to think about our country first and our own selfishness second.

    Quantashia Dominique Jefferson-Banks, Philly, PA

    I like what Tyrone and Jamal be sayin and if you disagree with us, let me ax you a question. Once all the welfare and the free stuff runs out, how you be supportin yo families? We needs to be proud African Americans start helpin ourselves. Now dare ain't nothin wrong wit a little hard work, so get your butts out dare and get to startin to contribute in stead of always be the one takin. Smartin up Black America its yo kids you needs to be worryin about.

    Joe Brown, Atlanta, GA

    Hold on now brothers Tyrone and Jamal and sister Quantashia, you know that the man has been keeping us down for years, and there is nothing wrong with celebrating that we finally get our turn. We had been told that we had to sit at the back at the bus, couldn't drink out of the drinking fountain and had couldn't ask anyone out for a date that we wanted. So now we get to celebrate that we have a brother in the white house who is going to move us FORWARD! Let's all be proud that the dream has come true!

    Jamal Washington, Richmond, VA

    I'm down with you brother Joe......I'm just sayin' that the national debt is $16,255,000,000,000.00 and increasing by 1,000,000.00 every 37 seconds...... If we don't get our spending under control, we are going to loose our country... now that we finally get our turn..............

    Demetrious "D" Williams, South Beach - MIAMI, FL

    Yo - Y'all are all cracked up. I'm gonna sit back and collect my monthly and watch them Miami Heat win Championship #2.
    GO HEAT!!

    Tyrone Greene, Washington, DC

    Nice "D". That's what you should do. Let every else work while you sit back and worry about the Miami Heat. That's going to bring the country back from financial collapse. Maybe LeBron will write you a check, becuase I sure as hell will not.

    J Carlton, Calgary

    Unbelievable...people that I assume are black feel they have a "brother" in the White House?
    First of all Obama is a Mulatto...secondly, he doesn't care about you (blacks) or me (whites) one little bit. He sees himeself as one of the elite and you and I are just human garbage to him. So you go ahead and keep voting on "race", after all it's what you've been trained to do...Go ahead and watch the Miami Heat....until the TV shuts off...the banks close, and the grocery stores are empty. Then we'll see what your "brother" has to say.

    MC, Cedar Rapids

    All the blacks who voted for Buttock Obama are merely "useful idiots" to him. He does what anyone does to stay in power....promise crap to people.
    Joe Brown. Your BS comments about how "the man" kept you down is an insult to blacks everywhere only you're to stupid to know it. How is it that the Irish, Italians, Germans, Chinese, Jews, Cubans, and Mexicans all come over here and managed to put up with the bigotry and prejudice yet prosper with out blaming whitey for their every shortfall? The Irish were treated like shit, many of them put into service for the civil war the moment they got off the ship! Signs in shop windows said "Irish need not apply!" They didn't bitch and moan. They bred like rats and voted themselves into power instead of aborting their babies like the blacks do.
    Incidently, all the people who commit's ted those attrocities upon the blacks from the 1860's to the 1960's are pretty much dead and there definitely aren't any slave owners alive anymore so get over it!
    For the record I don't view Barack as black. He only acts/sounds black when he needs to. He is an intellectual elitist (you know the type, the kid who gets bullied in high school for sounding "white" AKA an oreo) and the black vote is something he just takes for granted.

    Demetrious "D" Williams, South Beach - MIAMI, FL

    Yo J Carlton-We do got a Brotha in the White House and he got my back!! He got re-elected cause once you go black you never go back!! He aint gonna let no banks close and food and shit. You just mad cause we are on the rise!! And Calgary - thats in canada - Shut up before I slapshot yo hockey ass.
    GO HEAT!!

    Alison, DC

    D youre really stupid. Banks have been failing since Obama entered office.

    J Carlton, Calgary

    That's right D, I live in Calgary Canada. Along with 59,000 other Americans who live here. I really enjoy it too, almost everyone can actually speak English and it's probably the last major city in North America where everyone is productive and responsible for themselves. And you're living a fool's dream...Obama can prevent nothing. He is a (Globalist) tool and will do as he's told...just like your forefathers...kind of sad really. But you go ahead and sit there watching TV while the nation collapses around you...

    The Iceman, Topeka, Ks

    Interesting comments. Does it matter who said it? Unless it was God, I think not. And, forget changing the liberal mind. There's no commonality to establish a platform for debate. As a conservative, the belief is that truth is absolute and not subject to personal interpretation, therefore, by utilizing facts to support or deny a proposition, a logical conclusion can be drawn. On the other hand, the liberal mind, believing that truth is relative, is free to "adjust" the facts to fit a foregone conclusion so that anything which doesn't support that conclusion can be discarded. Is there common ground? I think not, ergo the polarization of America as we see it today. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Abraham Lincoln (Paraphrase of a quotation from the book of Matthew 12:25) When will it change? Simply, when the money runs out and the economic and social turmoil makes the Great Depression look like a Sunday School picnic!!!

    Sam Abrams, Rochester NY

    This quote is a FAKE -The famous "why democracies fail" quotation is

    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."

    Its earliest confirmed use is on page 12A of the Daily Oklahoman on December 9, 1951, which attributed it to Tytler. Later references to the quote specify that it's from the book "The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic" by Alexander Fraser Tytler. No record of that book can be found, and nobody can find any other work by Tytler with the quotation.[12] Although most of Tytler's work has been completely lost.[13]

    Rhonda, Eugene

    I think Snopes is the questionable source.. They are not reliable on most things.

    Milt, Grants Pass, OR

    Snopes is run by liberals who won't disclose their funding (sound familiar), it's said Soros may be a huge source of funding

    Big Kim, Belfair, Wa

    I'm 68 years old and have seen the changes for the worse,
    regardless who said it or modified it, it speaks the truth.
    anyone who doesn't see that is a blind fool.
    We as a Country are in deep doo doo today..
    My stay on Earth is almost over and its in you young ones hands,
    don't let the bastards grind us down..

    fgdrury, Auburn , NY

    let the blind followers keep following the blind leaders of this country. In the end the predictions by the apostle John and the prophet Daniel will come true. this world will once again be in a one world dictatorship that is run by the "antichrist" or Satan in the flesh. Brother Fred

    Broderick, San Jose, CA

    I guess my question would be, what does it matter where the quote originated? It the quote was from me today in my bedroom would it have any less value than if it were from a scottish lord from his bedroom desk? What matters is if you feel the quote holds weight in todays society. Authenticy of the information does not matter in this case. Think for yourselves and ask if you feel this quote is an accurate representation of what happens. then maybe for the future we can just write it as an uncredited quote.

    BThis, Dallas, TX

    The quote, however historically accurate, applies to Democracies. This is exactly why James Madison and his co-Founders created a representative republic and not a Democracy. It is why our Constitution provides limits not just between the branches of the Federal government but between the Federal, State, and Local governments--and why it is critically important that, in our system, citizens' rights and freedoms are inherent, not granted by the government. We decide which to yield to the Federal government.

    Unfortunately, "we" are deciding continually to give up our rights and freedoms in exchange for false "security." This statement seems more and more applicable today (2019) with the rise of the false promise of Democratic Socialism, a system which has never worked in any nation.


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