Alexander Hamilton? Gordon A. Eadie? Irene Dunne? Peter Marshall? Theodore DeVries? william Sloane Coffin Jr.? Alex Hamilton? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: over there is a renowned exhortative statement the employs the contrasting words “stand” and also “fall”. Here are 3 versions:

(1) If friend don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.(2) Those who stand for nothing autumn for anything.(3) as soon as you was standing for nothing, you fall for everything.

You are watching: If you dont stand for something

This adage is attributed to Alexander Hamilton, Peter Marshall, and also others. Can you explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: An exciting precursor because that the saying showed up in a Methodist church announcement in one Iowa newspaper indigenous 1926. The word order and definition were distinct, but the keywords to be the same. In 1927 the same precursor was published as a “Sermonogram” in one Ohio newspaper: 1 2

It is simpler to loss for anything than to stand for something.

Thanks come Andrew Steinberg because that locating and also sharing these nascent citations.

The earliest evidence of close match known come QI was released in the January 1945 worry of a journal dubbed “Mental Hygiene”. At the time of publication civilization War II was still gift fought. The adage showed up in an write-up by the medical doctor Gordon A. Eadie title “The Over-All Mental-Health demands of the industrial Plant, through Special referral to battle Veterans”. Boldface has been included to excerpts: 3

We room trying to present him not only what we are fighting against, but what we space fighting for. So plenty of of this boys have only a very hazy idea of the real problems of the war. About all they view is “going ago to the an excellent old days.” This is a dangerous state. If castle don’t stand for something, lock will autumn for anything. They need to realize the we are fighting two wars—the battle of arms and also the war of ideas—that various other war of i beg your pardon the war of arms is one phase.

The important reference job-related “The thesaurus of modern Proverbs” indigenous Yale university Press has actually an entry for this adage and points come the exact same journal and also year because that its earliest citation. 4

Although the saying to be employed by Gordon A. Eadie it is not clear even if it is he crafted it. A few months later on the adage was talked by the popular film actress Irene Dunne during a radio broadcast as suggested below. QI believes that it is reasonable to categorize this expression together an anonymous modern proverb.

The typical attribution come the eighteenth-century statesman Alexander Hamilton to be probably based on a mistaken understanding of a relatively contemporary citation. A different man called Alex Hamilton that was a brothers broadcaster offered the speak in 1978. Details are given more below.

Here are extr selected citations in chronological order.

In may 1945 the movie star Irene Dunne participated in a radio program dubbed “Town conference of the Air” according to “Radio Life Weekly” magazine, and she speak a variation of the saying: 5

Before three thousand interested spectators, Irene Dunne, Eddie Cantor, will Durant and Rev. J. Herbert Smith lugged the “Town meeting of the Air” to Los Angeles through a bang—or must we speak a clang….

Miss Dunne capably synthetic up the affirmative through stating the “If us don’t stand for something, we’ll loss for anything.”

In July 1945 the mass-circulation “Reader’s Digest” released the saying as a brief freestanding item and credited the words to Dunne. “Reader’s Digest” operated as an important locus for the popularization the quotations: 6

If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.— Irene Dunne ~ above America’s city Meeting the the Air

In November 1945 a newspaper in Canton, brand-new York published a short announcement around a church service. The expression was used as the title of a sermon by Theodore DeVries: 7

The Presbyterian Church. Rev. Theodore DeVries minister. Church business at 10:30. Sermon topic. “If us Don’t stand For Something, We loss For Anything”. Church college at 11:40.

Also in November an additional pastor named A.J. Whitney offered an circumstances of the saying together a sermon location as videotaped in a Cooperstown, brand-new York newspaper: 8

Pastor, Rev. A.J. Whitney “If girlfriend don’t stand for something, you’ll be sure to loss for anything.”Wednesday, November 28: Weekly prayer conference at the parsonage in ~ 8 p.m.

In 1946 an Albany, brand-new York newspaper report on a meeting of the national Woman’s Party with about 50 attendees. An instance of the adage was mentioned: 9

Miss elegant Reavy argued as a slogan for the group, “Unless you stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

At the begin of legislative branch sessions in the U.S. Senate a day-to-day prayer is typically offered by the Senate Chaplain. On April 18, 1947 Chaplain Peter Marshall speak the following words: 10

Our Father, us yearn for a better understanding of spirituality things, that us may know surely what Thy will certainly is for us and also for ours Nation. Give to united state clear vision that we may understand where to stand and what to was standing for—because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.

The above an useful citation was listed in the landmark referral “Respectfully Quoted: A dictionary of Quotations requested from the Congressional study Service”, and also today the saying is periodically ascribed to Peter Marshall; however, the 1945 citations reveal that the expression was currently in circulation prior to 1947. 11

In 1948 “The Rotarian” magazine printed an excerpt from a speech offered at a rotating club that referred to the declare by the Senate Chaplain despite the phrasing presented differed from the original prayer: 12

It is something like the existing chaplain of the Senate said freshly in among his moving prayers in ~ the current special session, “Lord, aid us to was standing for something, since a male who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”—From a rotating Club address.

In 1968 Evan Esar’s huge compendium “20,000 Quips and also Quotes” presented two variants that the statement: 13

(1) Some human being stand for nothing because they fall for everything. (2) The people who fall for everything probably stand for nothing.

In 1973 “Time” magazine printed the remarks of peace activist and also clergyman william Sloane Coffin Jr. That recounted the advice the he offered to one undergraduate: 14

My heat to him as to so many students in the 1950s was: ‘You’re a nice guy however not however a great man. If girlfriend don’t stand for something, you’re apt to autumn for nothing!’

A variation of the saying was had in the “Oxford crucial Quotations” database of the “Oxford referral Online” system. The words were attributed to a british writer and also broadcaster named Alex Hamilton whose birth date was specified as 1936: 15

Those that stand for nothing loss for anything.‘Born Old’ (radio broadcast), in Listener 9 November 1978

The 1978 citation date highlighted the difference between Alex Hamilton and also the U.S. Starting father Alexander Hamilton, but confusion has persisted and incorrect attributions have actually been frequent.

In 1990 a letter was printed in “SPIN” newspaper from bill Finley who worked for another magazine called “In these Times”: 16

To pictured Gil Scot-Heron’s grandmother’s words: If friend don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

In conclusion, QI trust this speak is a modern-day proverb with unknown authorship. A precursor remained in circulation by 1926, and also the earliest known close match developed in an article by Gordon A. Eadie in 1945. Hence, some may wish to credit Eadie. Yet, antedatings are feasible in the future. Actress Irene Dunne assisted to popularize the expression v her radio appearance and also the reprinted quotation in “Reader’s Digest”.

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Image Notes: Irene Dunne indigenous the movie Love Affairs. Public domain image From Wikimedia Commons. Blue numbers from Nemo on Pixabay.

(Great many thanks to Sharif Faizullah and also Bubbanotbad Drevik whose inquires urged QI to construct this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to Andrew Steinberg for the 1926 cite.)