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Heinlein On Johnson On Patriotism


Rick: I think Heinlein misunderstood Johnson’s line about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel. Here is the original from Boswell, date April 7, 1775:

“Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest.”

It is not a slight on patriotism but on scoundrels. Johnson was a very patriotic man — or, as Boswell says elsewhere (March 1783), Johnson was “a stern TRUE-BORN ENGLISHMAN, and fully prejudiced against all other nations.” (Boswell’s capitals.)


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