Debt Quotes


  • It shows nobility to be willing to increase your debt to a man to whom you already owe much.
    o Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, II, 6, 2 (43 BC)

  • A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.
    o Alexander Hamilton, Letter (April 30, 1781)

  • Be assured that it gives much more pain to the mind to be in debt, than to do without any article whatever which we may seem to want.
    o Thomas Jefferson, Letter to his daughter, Martha Jefferson (June 14, 1787)

  • Live within your means, never be in debt, and by husbanding your money you can always lay it out well. But when you get in debt you become a slave. Therefore I say to you never involve yourself in debt, and become no man’s surety. If your friend is in distress, aid him if you have the means to spare. If he fails to be able to return it, it is only so much lost.
    o Andrew Jackson, Letter to his ward Andrew Jackson Hutchings (April 18, 1833)

  • You must, to get through life well, practice industry with economy, never create a debt for anything that is not absolutely necessary, and if you make a promise to pay money at a day certain, be sure to comply with it. If you do not, you lay yourself liable to have your feelings injured and your reputation destroyed with the just imputation of violating your word.
    o Andrew Jackson, Letter to Andrew Jackson, Jr. (April 14, 1835)

  • 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 forgone, and is needed most by those who suffer from it most.
    o Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, ch. 5 (1836)

  • Debt is the prolific mother of folly and of crime.
    o Benjamin Disraeli, Henrietta Temple, Book II, Ch. 1 (1837)

  • Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer.
    o Ralph Waldo Emerson, Compensation (1841)

  • You must pay at last your own debt. If you are wise, you will dread a prosperity which only loads you with more.
    o Ralph Waldo Emerson, Compensation

  • Solvency is maintained by means of a national debt, on the principle, “If you will not lend me the money, how can I pay you?”
    o Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ability (1856)

  • Poverty demoralizes. A man in debt is so far a slave; and Wall-street thinks it easy for a millionaire to be a man of his word, a man of honor, but, that, in failing circumstances, no man can be relied on to keep his integrity.
    o Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wealth (1860)

  • Let every man, every corporation, and especially let every village, town, and city, every county and State, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.
    o Rutherford B. Hayes, Diary (July 13, 1879)

  • The debt was the most sacred obligation incurred during the war. It was by no means the largest in amount. We do not haggle with those who lent us money. We should not with those who gave health and blood and life. If doors are opened to fraud, contrive to close them. But don’t deny the obligation, or scold at its performance.
    o Rutherford B. Hayes, Letter to William Henry Smith (December 19, 1881)

  • Such was the origin of that debt which has since become the greatest prodigy that ever perplexed the sagacity and confounded the pride of statesmen and philosophers. At every stage in the growth of that debt the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair. At every stage in the growth of that debt it has been seriously asserted by wise men that bankruptcy and ruin were at hand. Yet still the debt went on growing; and still bankruptcy and ruin were as remote as ever.
    o Thomas Babington Macaulay, History of England, vol. 8 (The Complete Writings of Lord Macaulay, vol. 8), chapter 19 (1899)

  • Slight was the thing I bought,
    Small was the debt I thought,
    Poor was the loan at best—
    God! but the interest!
    o Paul Laurnce Dunbar, The Debt (1903)

  • Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
    o Robert W. Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee, l. 33 (1907)

  • Our national debt after all is an internal debt owed not only by the Nation but to the Nation. If our children have to pay interest on it they will pay that interest to themselves. A reasonable internal debt will not impoverish our children or put the Nation into bankruptcy.
    o Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the American Retail Federation, Washington, D.C. (May 22, 1939)

  • It’s dynamite to spend future earnings. I have had a taste of it myself, and it’s mighty bitter. A debt is a debt, whether it’s margins or mortgages; and debts are all the same, no matter how you try to camouflage ‘em. You never get much out of ‘em except trouble. On the farm or in Wall Street, if you use the other fellow’s money, it costs you a lot more than it’s worth.
    o Sue Sanders, Our Common Herd, ch. 25 (1940)

  • There is, of course, a gold mine or a buried treasure on every mortgaged homestead. Whether the farmer ever digs for it or not, it is there, haunting his daydreams when the burden of debt is most unbearable.
    o Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, ch. 2 (1945)

  • Wars are made to make debt.
    o Ezra Pound, Interview in Writers at Work, Second Series (1963)

  • I’m in debt. I am a true American.
    o Larry Appleton, in Perfect Strangers

  • Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan doth oft lose both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
    o Polonius in Hamlet


  • A good debt is not as good as no debt.
    o Chinese proverb

  • A true lover always feels in debt to the one he loves.
    o Ralph Washington Sockman

  • Borrowing is easy but the day of payment is hard.
    o Anonymous

  • Free from debt is free from care.
    o Chinese proverb

  • One who restrains his appetites avoids debt.
    o Chinese proverb

  • Who goes a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing.
    o Tusser

  • Creditors have better memories than debtors; and creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times.
    o Franklin

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

  • Paying of debts is, next to the grace of God, the best means in the world to deliver you from a thousand temptations to sin and vanity.
    o Delany

  • Run not into debt, either for wares sold, or money borrowed; be content to want things that are not of absolute necessity, rather than to run up the score.
    o Sir M. Hale

  • Debt is the worst poverty.
    o M.G. Lichtwer

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