— Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston British politician 1784 - 1865
Letter to H. L. Bulwer (1 Sept. 1839), quoted in Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer's Life of Palmerston (Philadelphia: J. B. Lipppincott, 1871), vol. 2, pp. 261-62. (Palmerston was criticizing descriptions of the Ottoman Empire as "decaying," etc.)
Context: Half the wrong conclusions at which mankind arrive are reached by the abuse of metaphors, or by mistaking general resemblance or imaginary similarity for real identity. Thus, people compare an ancient monarchy with an old building, an old tree, or an old man, and because the building, tree, or man must, from the nature of things, crumble, or decay, or die, they imagine that the same thing holds good with a community, and that the same laws which govern inanimate matter, or vegetable or animal life, govern also nations and states.