A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 05, 2009
“A statesman is a politician who is dead”

The term “statesman” often is regarded as more lofty than the term “politician.” A “statesman” thinks of a country’s interest while a “politician” thinks of his/her own interest.

Congressman Thomas Brackett Reed (1839-1902), a Speaker of the House from 1889-1891 and 1895-1899, wrote in 1892: “A statesman is a sucessful politician—who is dead.” U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) added in 1958: “A statesman is a politician who’s been dead 10 to 15 years.”

There have been variants of the saying, such as “a statesman is a politician who agrees with you.”


Wikipedia; Thomas Brackett Reed
Thomas Brackett Reed, (October 18, 1839 – December 7, 1902), occasionally ridiculed as Czar Reed, was a U.S. Representative from Maine, and Speaker of the House from 1889–1891 and from 1895–1899. He was a powerful leader of the Republican Party but was unable to stop the Spanish-American War.

Wikiquote: Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the thirty-third President of the United States (1945–1953); as vice president, he succeeded to the office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
(...)
A politician is a man who understands government, and it takes a politician to run a government. A statesman is a politician who’s been dead 10 or 15 years.
. As quoted in The New York World Telegram & Sun (12 April 1958)

27 February 1892, State (Columbia, SC), pg. 5:
Reed’s Definition of a Statesman.
Boston Herald:
“What is a statesman?” was the question propounded to ex-Speaker Reed in a letter asking his autograph.

“A statesman,” wrote the ex-speaker in reply, “is a successful politician—who is dead.”

10 March 1892, Decatur (IL) Daily Republican, pg. 4, col. 2:
EX-SPEAKER REED once defined a statesman as a successful politician who is dead. This week a Boston man telegraphed him, asking: “Why don’t you die?” This was the reply he received: “Not yet; fame is the first infirmity of noble minds.”

Google Books
October 1893, McClure’s Magazine, “Thomas B. Reed, of Maine” by Robert P. Porter, pg. 386, col. 2:
There are many people who believe that Mr. Reed himself disproves one of his epigrams, that “a statesman is a successful politician who is dead.” As for me, I venture to say that Mr. Reed is right, but he has there formulated a rule to which he is one of the rare exceptions.

18 November 1895, Titusville (PA) Herald, pg. 3, col. 1:
THOMAS B. REED defines a statesman as a politician who is dead. But Mr. Reed is a statesman who is alive.

Google Books
25 July 1896, Fibre and Fabric, pg. 6, col. 2:
“What is a statesman, pa?” “A statesman is a politician whose name has passed into history.”—Truth.

10 October 1896, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “All Along the Line,” pg. 7:
Epigrams are Reed’s horse.  Many of them are classic.  “A statesman is a politican who is dead,” is one of his sayings that will never be forgotten.

4 July 1897, New York (NY) Times, “Thomas Brackett Reed” by Elbridge O. Dunnell, pg. IWM2:
“A STATESMAN is a politician who is dead,” is an epigram so characteristic of Thomas Brackett Reed, the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the Fifty-Fifth Congress, that the sentiment is not likely to be attributed to any other living public man.

1 September 1908, San Jose (CA) Mercury News, pg. 5:
A statesman is a politician who can keep his face closed at the right time.

9 November 1938, Dallas (TX) Morning News, sec. 3, pg. 4:
A statesman is a politician who gets elected.

29 February 1952, Mattoon (IL) Daily Journal-Gazette, pg. 6, col. 6:
“After listening to a lot of people talking politics we have decided that a statesman is a politician who agrees with what you think.”—Seng Fellowship News, magazine Seng Company.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Saturday, December 05, 2009 • Permalink