"Honesty Is The Best Policy"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Nobody from Aesop to the present has had a monopoly on the aphorism that honesty is the best policy. This idea was the theme of many Horatio Alger novels of the nineteenth century, in which the honest boot-black returned the banker's lost purse and eventually achieved riches. George Washington, in his Farewell Address (1796), acknowledged its universal application: "I hold that maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy." Cervantes, too, employed the expression. Don Quixote has promised to make his squire Sancho ruler of the first island that he conquers. Now the Duke and Duchess, having read the first volume of the knight's adventures, offer the squire part of their land. The Duchess, however, wonders whether the illiterate peasant has the wit and the experience to govern well. Sancho tells her:

As for the governing part . . . let me alone; I was ever charitable and good to the poor, and scorn to take the bread out of another man's mouth. On the other side, by our Lady, they shall play me no foul play. . . . Honesty is the best policy; I will stick to that. The good shall have my hand and heart; but the bad neither foot nor friendship.