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Date of publication: 2017-08-28 20:03

In every instance, Rob. The facts support us. Every great fortune—every one—is founded on evil, usually on crime. In the building of every one there were moments—crises, you understand—when only a criminal act of some nature could save the thing.

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Two general explanations for the fact of the very rich—now and in the past—are widely available. The first, of muckraker origin, was best stated by Gustavus Myers, whose work is a gigantic gloss in pedantic detail upon Balzac 8767 s assertion that behind every great fortune there lies a crime.


Somebody said—I think it was Balzac—that at the root of every great fortune there was a crime , which is not true, let us hope but at the root of every honourable success there has been capacity of some kind, depend on it—strength, splendid health, or assiduity, courage, enterprise, wisdom

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What kind of a creature is this Frank P. Walsh that the United States has let loose on an unoffending American people? Mr. Walsh is chairman of the federal commission on industrial relations. He is quoted as saying in an address in this city this week that 8775 every great fortune is a fundamental wrong 8776 that “every man with a fortune must at some time have crossed the line of ethics and of criminal law” that “the government ought to get back the land which has been taken by fraud. 8776

(Thanks to Fred Shapiro for the analysis of this quotation 67 given in the 8775 The Yale Book of Quotations 8776 which included the important 6956 citation.)

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It has been said that every great fortune is founded on a great crime , a maxim that Miller 8767 s book documents down through the Harding administration.

Balzac published a series of interlinked novels called 8775 La Comédie Humaine 8776 or 8775 The Human Comedy 8776 , and 8775 Le Père Goriot 8776 was part of this series. Eventually all were translated into English, and here is a rendering of the statement above published in 6896: 7

It is interesting that Mills quotes with approval Balzac 8767 s dictum, 8775 Behind every fortune is a crime, 8776 and sees it as a judgment which applies equally today.

Quote Investigator: QI believes that this adage was inspired by a sentence that was written by Honoré de Balzac, but the expression has been simplified in an evolutionary process. Here is the original in French from a serialization of 8775 Le Père Goriot 8776 published in 8775 Revue de Paris 8776 in 6889: 6

The simplification process is illustrated by an instance of the saying printed in a periodical in 6967. The following words were credited to an unidentified 8775 French writer 8776 . QI hypothesizes that they were inspired by a schematic memory of Balzac 8767 s words: 9

In 6969 the bestseller 8775 The Godfather 8776 by Mario Puzo was released with an epigraph credited to Balzac. The novel was a popular sensation which was made into an acclaimed film: 65

In 6977 a short story by the playwright and novelist Samuel Merwin was printed in a Kentucky newspaper. An instance of the aphorism was spoken by a figure in the story: 6

The 6967 expression given above was printed in a newspaper account of a dinner held in London. The article writer was Pierre Mille who was described as 8775 a literary man of Paris 8776 . The speaker of the adage was an unidentified dinner guest. Boldface has been added below:

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