QUESTION: origin of quotation

question / pregunta: 

"Peace if possible, justice at any rate"

This quotation is written above the stage in the auditorium at DuSable High School where I work on the South Side of Chicago. There is some discussion about the origin of the quote but nobody seems to be sure. It might be from Wendell Phillips? I am a librarian but have not been able to find out what its origin is. The school was built in 1935 and opened in 1936 to replace the Wendell Phillips High School which burned down.


Per The New England magazine, it does seem to be Phillips. There can also be a "but" or a "/" in the middle.

There's even a picture of it in his handwriting on History for Sale:

I'm still poking around for where he first said it.

According to an 1890 biography, Wendell Phillips: The Agitator..., page 446, Phillips attributed the line to John Brown. Phillips used to include it as part of his autograph; you can find some examples for sale on collectors' sites (such as the one above).
Brown, if he did in fact say or write it, was apparently adapting Martin Luther's quote, often translated as "Peace if possible, truth at all costs." (see this search result list for a variety of attributions)
Perhaps someone else can come up with "chapter and verse" sources for Brown and Luther?

Now I'm looking for verification that it was John Brown.

I've tried a <"john brown" AND "peace if possible"> search in the following subscription databases, without retrieving any results:
America, History & Life

switching to answered

We don't seem to have gotten anywhere tracking down the Brown and/or Luther origins, but since the original query was related to Wendell Phillips (which we did confirm), and it's been a couple of months, I am switching this to "answered." Anyone coming upon this question in the future who may have some expertise in the work of John Brown or Martin Luther - we await your input!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.