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Catherine the Great

  • [On Peter III:] He did not have a bad heart; but a weak man usually has not.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Katharine Anthony, Catherine the Great ()
  • I do not love strife, because I have always found that in the end each remains of the same opinion.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Katharine Anthony, Catherine the Great ()
  • ... to tempt and be tempted are closely allied; and in spite of all the finest moral maxims buried in the mind, when emotion interferes, when feeling makes its appearance, one is already much further involved that one realizes, and I have still not learnt how to prevent its appearance.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1759, in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • You philosophers are lucky men. You write on paper and paper is patient. Unfortunate Empress that I am, I write on the susceptible skins of living beings.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • letter to Diderot (1775), in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • ... the title of Queen rang sweet to my ears, child though I was. ... This idea of a crown began running in my head then like a tune, and has been running a lot in it ever since.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1771, in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • [On her future husband:] ... I ... felt little more than indifference towards him, though I was not indifferent to the Russian Crown.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1744, in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • [On one of her lovers:] Unfortunately I could not help listening to him; he was handsome as the dawn.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • If I may venture to be frank I would say about myself that I was every inch a gentleman ...

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1759, in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • ... self-interest usually brings injustice with it.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1780, in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • ... it is better to inspire a reform than to enforce it.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1780, in Dominique Maroger, ed., The Memoirs of Catherine the Great ()
  • Your wit makes others witty.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • letter to Voltaire, in Samuel Arthur Bent, Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes ()
  • I praise loudly; I blame softly.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in A. Lentin, ed., Voltaire and Catherine the Great: Selected Correspondence ()
  • ... I sincerely want peace, not because I lack resources for war, but because I hate bloodshed.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1770, in A. Lentin, ed., Voltaire and Catherine the Great: Selected Correspondence ()
  • I shall be an autocrat: that's my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that's his.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • attributed (1762), in Who Said What When ()
  • The laws ought to be so framed as to secure the safety of every citizen as much as possible. ... Political liberty does not consist in the notion that a man may do whatever he pleases; liberty is the right to do whatsoever the laws allow. ... The equality of the citizens consists in that they should all be subject to the same laws.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • ... it is much better to prevent than to punish crimes.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • Experience shows that the frequent use of severe punishment has never rendered a people better. The death of a criminal is a less effective means of restraining crimes than the permanent example of a man deprived of his liberty during the whole of his life to make amends for the injury he has done to the public.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • The use of torture is contrary to sound judgment and common sense. Humanity itself cries out against it, and demands it to be utterly abolished.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • What right can give anyone authority to inflict torture upon a citizen when it is still unknown whether he is innocent or guilty?

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • All punishments by which the human body might be maimed are barbarbarism.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • ... bad news travels faster than good.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • I cannot live one day without love.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • The trouble is that my heart is loath to be without love even for a single hour. ... If you want to keep me forever, then show as much friendship as love, and more than anything else, love me and tell me the truth.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • You were in a mood to quarrel. Please inform me once the inclination passes.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • to Gregory Potemkin (1776), in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • You should know our mania for building is stronger than ever. It is a diabolical thing. It consumes money and the more you build, the more you want to build. It's a sickness like being addicted to alcohol.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1779, in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • Tell a thousand people to draft a letter, let them debate every phrase, and see how long it takes and what you get.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • 1779, in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • ... you must be gay; only thus can life be endured. I speak from experience for I have had to endure much, and have only been able to endure it because I have always laughed whenever I had the chance.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great ()
  • I will live to make myself not feared.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Henry Smith Williams, The Historians' History of the World ()
  • A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Gamaliel Bradford, Daughters of Eve ()
  • Power without a nation's confidence is nothing.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in Ashton Applewhite, Tripp Evans, Andrews Frothingham, eds., And I Quote ()
  • The Laws ought to be so framed, as to secure the Safety of every Citizen as much as possible.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in W.F. Reddaway, trans., Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768 ()
  • Liberty is the Right of doing whatsoever the Laws allow. And if any one Citizen could do what the Laws forbid, there would be no more Liberty; because others would have an equal Power of doing the same.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in W.F. Reddaway, trans., Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768 ()
  • The political Liberty of a Citizen is the Peace of Mind arising from the Consciousness, that every individual enjoys his peculiar Safety; and in order that the People might attain this Liberty, the Laws ought to be so framed, that no one Citizen should stand in Fear of another; but that all of them should stand in Fear of the same Laws ...

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in W.F. Reddaway, trans., Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768 ()

Catherine the Great, Russian empress

(1729 - 1796)

Sophia Augusta Frederica was officially Catherine II, but known as Catherine the Great.