Speak Softly and carry a big stick

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Speak Softly and carry a big stick : Phrases


A proverb advising the tactic of caution and non-aggression, backed up by the ability to do violence if required.



The widespread use of this proverb began with American president Theodore Roosevelt. In a speech in Chicago in April 1903, he said:

There is a homely old adage which runs: 'Speak softly and carry and big stick; you will go far.' If the American nation will speak softly, and yet build and keep at a pitch of the highest training a thoughly efficient navy, the Munroe Doctrine will go far.

The proverb is sometimes cited as being of African origin, although I can find no evidence for that. If it truly was an 'old adage' in 1903 it ought to be easy to find earlier citations of it, but I can find none. It is certainly possible that Roosevelt coined the phrase himself.

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