32 Samuel Eliot Morison Quotes From Famous American Historian

Samuel Eliot Morison was an American historian and biographer known for his engaging maritime history writings.

He combined storytelling and detailed research bringing to life figures like Magellan Columbus and Drake.

Educated at St. Paul’s School Harvard and abroad he taught at Harvard for 40 years.

Morison who believed in reviving the art of history writing sailed historical routes and served as a Naval Reserve officer during World War II retiring as a rear admiral.

Samuel Eliot Morison Quotes

His popular works include Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of Columbus and John Paul Jones a comprehensive history of Massachusetts’ maritime and an extensive 15-volume series on U.S. Naval operations in World War II.

Samuel Eliot Morison was one of the pre-eminent historians of his generation.

Here are the best quotes by Samuel Eliot Morison.

Best Samuel Eliot Morison Quotes


One learns more from defeat than from victory. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.


The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.


Historical methodology, as I see it, is a product of common sense applied to circumstances. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.


If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worthwhile. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.


Never, in these United States, has the brain of man conceived, or the hand of man fashioned, so perfect a thing as a clipper ship. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

No big modern war has been won without preponderant sea power; and, conversely, very few rebellions of maritime provinces have succeeded without acquiring sea power. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Make no mistake; the American Revolution was not fought to obtain freedom, but to preserve the liberties that Americans already had as colonials. Independence was no conscious goal, secretly nurtured in cellar or jungle by bearded conspirators, but a reluctant last resort, to preserve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worth while. . . . The beauty and cogency of the preamble, reaching back to remotest antiquity and forward so an indefinite future, have lifted the hearts of millions of men and will continue to do. . These words are more revolutionary than anything written by Robespierre, Marx, or Lenin, more explosive than the atom, a continual challenge to ourselves as well as an inspiration to the oppressed of all the world. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Famous Samuel Eliot Morison Quotes

The same contingencies of time and space that force a statesman or soldier to make decisions, impel the historian, though with less urgency, to make up his mind. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Such is the substance of my faith; and if I were to sum up my credo in a single word, it would be that proud motto of Fustel de Coulanges, Quaero, I seek to learn. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.


An historian should yield himself to his subject, become immersed in the place and period of his choice, standing apart from it now and then for a fresh view. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

A tough but nervous, tenacious but restless race [the Yankees]; materially ambitious, yet prone to introspection, and subject to waves of religious emotion. . . . A race whose typical member is eternally torn between a passion for righteousness and a desire to get on in the world. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Skepticism is an important historical tool. It is the starting point of all revision of hitherto accepted history. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Every historian with professional standards speaks or writes what he believes to be true. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Courses on historical methodology are not worth the time that they take up. I shall never give one myself, and I have observed that many of my colleagues who do give such courses refrain from exemplifying their methods by writing anything. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.


I have nothing revolutionary or even novel to offer. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Throughout this evolution from left to right, Beard always detested war. Hence his writings were slanted to show that the military side of history was insignificant or a mere reflection of economic forces. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Too rigid specialization is almost as bad for a historian’s mind, and for his ultimate reputation, as too early an indulgence in broad generalization and synthesis. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Intellectual honesty is the quality that the public in free countries always has expected of historians; much more than that it does not expect, nor often get. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Top Samuel Eliot Morison Quotes

Dream dreams and write them aye, but live them first. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

But sea power has never led to despotism. The nations that have enjoyed sea power even for a brief period-Athens, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, England, the United States-are those that have preserved freedom for themselves and have given it to others. Of the despotism to which unrestrained military power leads we have plenty of examples from Alexander to Mao. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.


If a lecturer, he wishes to be heard; if a writer, to be read. He always hopes for a public beyond that of the long-suffering wife. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

With honesty of purpose, balance, a respect for tradition, courage, and, above all, a philosophy of life, any young person who embraces the historical profession will find it rich in rewards and durable in satisfaction. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

The freedmen were not really free in 1865, nor are most of their descendants really free in 1965. Slavery was but one aspect of a race and color problem that is still far from solution here, or anywhere. In America particularly, the grapes of wrath have not yet yielded all their bitter vintage. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Military and absolutist regimes are undoubtedly well fitted to get the jump on an unsuspecting or unprepared enemy; but the history of modern warfare proves that they cannot win over representative governments in the long run, provided that people behind those governments have the heart to sustain initial punishment, and both the will and the resources to fight back. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

Franklin may . . . be considered one of the founding fathers of American democracy, since no democratic government can last long without conciliation and compromise. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

So I have cultivated the vast garden of human experience which is history, without troubling myself overmuch about laws, essential first causes, or how it is all coming out. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

If the European discovery had been delayed for a century or two, it is possible that the Aztec in Mexico or the Iroquois in North America would have established strong native states capable of adopting European war tactics and maintaining their independence to this day, as Japan kept her independence from China. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

A few hints as to the craft may be useful to budding historians. First and foremost, get writing! ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

He [Columbus] enjoyed long stretches of pure delight such as only a seaman may know, and moments of high, proud exultation that only a discoverer can experience. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

America was discovered accidentally by a great seaman who was looking for something else; when discovered it was not wanted; and most of the exploration for the next fifty years was done in the hope of getting through or around it. America was named after a man who discovered no part of the New World. History is like that, very chancy. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

In human affairs there is no snug harbor, no rest short of the grave. We are forever setting forth afresh across new and stormy seas, or into outer space. ~ Samuel Eliot Morison.

So these were the 32 top Samuel Eliot Morison quotes and sayings.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Pierre Alechinsky quotes and Yahtzee Croshaw quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar