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This saying is often attributed to the French statesman and historian François Guizot who died in 1874.
However, this ascription was based in an entry in “Benham’s Book of Quotations Proverbs and Household Words” which was published many years after the death of Guizot; hence the supporting data is not very strong.
If you aren’t a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a middle-aged conservative, you have no head.
S., and in 1970 a volume titled “Student Unrest: Threat or Promise? A version of the expression using the word “liberal” instead of “socialist” or “republican” was presented: Adolescent rebellion has been tolerated, and even sanctioned, as a “normal” stage of human development.
After all, “if you aren’t a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a middle-aged conservative, you have no head.”“A man who is not a liberal at 16 has no heart,” ventured British statesman Benjamin Disraeli, and “A man who is not a conservative at 60 has no head.” It is often true that younger citizens tend to be more liberal and that the older and more successful people become, the more conservative they become. Churchill supposedly once observed that anyone who was not a liberal at 20 years of age had no heart, while anyone who was still a liberal at 40 had no head.
A section about a prominent jurist and academic named Anselme Polycarpe Batbie included the following passage. Batbie, dans une lettre trop célèbre, citait un jour, pour expliquer ses variations personnelles et bizarres, ce paradoxe de Burke: « Celui qui n’est pas républicain à vingt ans fait douter de la générosité de son âme; mais celui qui, après trente ans, persévère, fait douter de la rectitude de son esprit. Batbie, in a much-celebrated letter, once quoted the Burke paradox in order to account for his bizarre political shifts: “He who is not a républicain at twenty compels one to doubt the generosity of his heart; but he who, after thirty, persists, compels one to doubt the soundness of his mind.” Batbie was probably referring to the statesman Edmund Burke who was noted for his support of the American Revolution and later condemnation of the French Revolution.
Within the context of these sayings the terms “républicain”, “socialist”, and “liberal” were all on the left of the political spectrum. Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in an 1875 French book of contemporary biographical portraits by Jules Claretie.