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quotations about debt

Home life ceases to be free and beautiful as soon as it is founded on borrowing and debt.

HENRIK IBSEN, A Doll's House

A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, letter to Robert Morris, Apr. 30, 1781

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to Samuel Kerchevel, Jul. 12, 1816

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend.


By no means run in debt: take thine own measure,
Who cannot live on twenty pound a year,
Cannot on forty.

GEORGE HERBERT, The Church Porch

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.

HERBERT HOOVER, as quoted in Francis X. Cavanaugh's The Truth About the National Debt

Debt rolls a man over and over, binding him hand and foot, and letting him hang upon the fatal mesh until the long-legged interest devours him.

HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Debt is beautiful only after it is repaid.


A debt is still unpaid, even if forgotten.


A debt may get mouldy, but it never decays.

CHINUA ACHEBE, No Longer at Ease

Debt is the slavery of the free.

CROFT M. PENTZ, The Complete Book of Zingers

There are but few things that crush the life out of one like a burden of debt. They break our spirit, crush our ambitions, destroy our homes, and drive us to despair as nothing else can do.


Debt, however courteously it be offered, is the cup of a siren, and the wine, spiced and delicious though it be, an eating poison. The man out of debt, though with a flaw in his jerkin, a crack in his shoe-leather, and a hole in his hat, is still the son of liberty, free as the singing lark above him; but the debtor, though clothed in the utmost bravery, what is he but a serf out upon a holiday--a slave to be reclaimed at any instant by his owner, the creditor?

DOUGLAS JERROLD, Western Temperance Journal, Mar. 15, 1841

What you can't pay back you pay forward.

JO WALTON, Farthing

Debt is to man what the serpent is to the bird; its eye fascinates, its breath poisons, its coil crushes sinew and bone, its jaw is the pitiless grave.


Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON, fragment, May-Day and Other Pieces

If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has.

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, The Washingtonian, vol. 23

A slight debt produces a debtor; a heavy one an enemy.

A. S. DOANE, attributed, Day's Collacon

Money is sacred as everyone knows... So then must be the hunger for it and the means we use to obtain it. Once a man is in debt he becomes a flesh and blood form of money, a walking investment. You can do what you like with him, you can work him to death or you can sell him. This cannot be called cruelty or greed because we are seeking only to recover our investment and that is a sacred duty.


Debt is the worst poverty.

LICHTWER, attributed, Day's Collacon

A debt ... is just an exchange that has not been brought to completion.

DAVID GRAEBER, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Man hazards the condition and loses the virtues of a freeman, in proportion as he accustoms his thoughts to view without anguish or shame, his lapse into the bondage of debtor.


Debt is the prolific mother of folly and of crime.


Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.


Some people worry because they are in debt; others, because they can't even get in.

EVAN ESAR, 20,000 Quips & Quotes

Debt, grinding debt, whose iron face the widow, the orphan, and the sons of genius fear and hate; debt, which consumes so much time, which so cripples and disheartens a great spirit with cares that seem so base, is a preceptor whose lessons cannot be foregone, and is needed most by those who suffer from it most.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON, Nature and Other Essays

DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver. As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet, Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him, Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him; So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him, Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him, Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it, And finds at last he might as well have paid it.

AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil's Dictionary

Whatever we owe, it is our part to find where to pay it, and to do it without asking, too; for whether the creditor be good or bad, the debt is still the same.

SENECA, attributed, Day's Collacon

There are two things that bestow consequence; great possession, or great debts.


There's nothing as short as short-term debt.

EVAN ESAR, 20,000 Quips & Quotes

Don't tell me debt is not a big deal. Debt will cut off your legs and laugh at you as you grovel in the dirt begging for mercy. If you don't need it, don't get it. If you can't afford it, don't get it. If you're already in debt, get out quickly. If you think you'll never get out, you're right, you won't.

OSAYI OSAR-EMOKPAE, Impossible Is Stupid

I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.

SAKI, The Unbearable Bassington


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