Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington Quotes

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington, 1769 – 1852

Born: 1 May 1769, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 14 September 1852, Walmer, Kent, England, UK

Arthur Wellesley, fourth son of the Earl of Mornington, was a poor scholar and an idle young man well into his twenties. His brother Richard Wesley purchased him an Army commission in March 1787, but even after joining the military, he was more interested in gambling and playing his violins than his career. This continued until 1793, when he asked for the hand of Kitty Pakenham and was turned down by her brother, the third Baron Longford, due to his poor prospects and empty wallet. He immediately burned his instruments, dedicating himself to his military career.

He was soon dispatched to the Netherlands as part of the Flanders Campaign, under the Duke of York. While the campaign was unsuccessful, he said he “learned what not to do, and that is always a valuable lesson”. Later, he was sent India on behalf of the British East India Company. He distinguished himself in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore and Second Anglo-Maratha Wars. He left India in 1804; for his service he was promoted to major-general, made a Knight of the Bath, and won permission to marry Kitty Pakenham.

He took leave from the Army and in 1806 was elected as a Tory to represent Rye in Parliament. A year later he was elected for Newport on the Isle of Wight, was appointed chief secretary of Ireland, and a seat on the Privy Council. He returned to the army to for the war on Denmark, earning promotion to lieutenant general, and then, while preparing to sail to attack Spanish colonies in South America was dispatched to Portugal for the Peninsular War against Napoleon’s forces. He proved himself a genius at defensive warfare, and he earned the title Duke of Wellington.

After the Peninsular War Napoleon was exiled to Elba, his escape and return to France kicked off the Hundred Days War, which ended with Napoleons defeat at Waterloo. As a national hero, Wellesley was well-placed to take political office, and he took his chance, working his way up to Prime Minister. Riots toppled his government in 1830, although he continued to be involved in politics until retiring in 1846. He was Commander-In-Chief from 1827 until his death from a stroke which ended in a series of epileptic seizures.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington quotes:

A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class — no matter whether your son or my son — all must march; but our friends — I may say it in this room — are the very scum of the earth. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling — all stuff — no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children — some for minor offences — many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

Notes (11 November 1831)
All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called “guessing what was at the other side of the hill”.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

conversation with John Crocker and Crocker’s wife (4 September 1852)
Be discreet in all things, and so render it unnecessary to be mysterious about any.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
Depend upon it, Sir, nothing will come of them!

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

on railroads
Educate men without religion and you make them but clever devils.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
Habit is ten times nature.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
Hard pounding this, gentlemen; let’s see who will pound longest.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

at Waterloo (18 June 1815)
I am not only not prepared to bring forward any measure of this nature, but I will at once declare that, as far as I am concerned, as long as I hold any station in the Government of the country, I shall always feel it my duty to resist such measures when proposed by others.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

opposing demands for Parliamentary reform (November 1830)
I believe I forgot to tell you I was made a Duke.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

postscript of letter to his brother Henry Wellesley (22 May 1814)
I don’t know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

disputed
I hate the whole race. There is no believing a word they say, your professional poets, I mean there never existed a more worthless set than Byron and his friends for example.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

quoted in Lady Salisbury’s diary (26 October 1833)
I mistrust the judgment of every man in a case in which his own wishes are concerned.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

letter to Major Shawe, secretary to the Governor General of India (3 February 1805)
I never saw so many shocking bad hats in my life.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

on the first Reformed Parliament
I should have given more praise.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
I used to say of him that his presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

on Napoleon, Notes (2 November 1831)

It is very true that I have said that I considered Napoleon’s presence in the field equal to forty thousand men in the balance. This is a very loose way of talking; but the idea is a very different one from that of his presence at a battle being equal to a reinforcement of forty thousand men.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

Notes (18 September 1836)
Just to show you how little reliance can be placed even on what are supposed the best accounts of a battle, I mention that there are some circumstances mentioned in General ____’s account which did not occur as he relates them. It is impossible to say when each important occurrence took place, or in what order.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

Wellington’s papers (17 August 1815)
My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

letter from Waterloo (June 1815)
My rule always was to do the business of the day in the day.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

Notes (2 November 1835)
Napoleon has humbugged me, by God; he has gained twenty-four hours’ march on me.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball (15 June 1815)
Publish and be damned.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth — the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

on British soldiers (4 November 1813)
The hardest thing of all for a soldier is to retreat.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
The history of a battle is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

letter to John Croker (8 August 1815)
The only thing I am afraid of is fear.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

Notes (3 November 1831)
There are no manifestos like cannon and musketry.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
There is no mistake; there has been no mistake; and there shall be no mistake.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

refusing William Huskisson’s assertion that Huskisson’s resignation was in error
To define it rudely but not ineptly, engineering is the art of doing for 10 shillings what any fool can do for a pound.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
Up Guards and at them again.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

at Waterloo (18 June 1815)
We always have been, we are, and I hope that we always shall be, detested in France.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

We have in the service the scum of the earth as common soldiers.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

dispatch from Vitoria, Spain to Lord Bathurst (2 July 1813)
When my journal appears, many statues must come down.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
When one turns over in bed, it is time to turn out.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
Wise people learn when they can; fools learn when they must.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington
You must build your House of Parliament on the river: so … that the populace cannot exact their demands by sitting down round you.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

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