Great Power quote

Mullins, Bill Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Thu Oct 6 15:47:31 UTC 2005

>From Mark Evanier's blog:

"I have a silly question that I should know the answer to and don't.

An oft-quoted line from the Spider-Man comic book goes as follows: "With
great power comes great responsibility."

Was that line (reasonably) original to the comic? Or is it a quote from
somewhere else? I have a vague idea that it was famously uttered by Sir
Winston Churchill but the quotation books I have handy here either don't
mention it or attribute it to Spider-Man or Stan Lee.

Can someone give me an answer? And if you're saying it was a known quote
before that, could we have a source, please?"

In fandom circles, the quote in question is often attributed to Stan
Lee, writer/editor of Marvel comics during the formative years (early
1960's) of all the great Marvel characters.

I've pushed the quote back this far (and sent the cite to Evanier):

"TAMMANY IS SATISFIED" New York Times; Nov 15, 1892; pg. 1

"NEW ORLEANS , Nov. 14. -- Mayor-elect Gilroy of New-York City arrived
here this morning and took quarters for a few days at the St. Charles
Hotel. . . . "With great power comes great responsibility, and the
future of the party depends upon the wisdom and prudence of those who
will have charge of the administration of the Government." "

>From the context, I'd bet that Gilroy was using an aphorism that he
expected would be recognized.

The parallel construction of "great power"/"great responsibility" is an
appealing rhetorical device, thus there are many earlier versions:

Liberator (1831-1865); Jul 16, 1858; 28, 29; APS Online pg. 0_1
[reprinted from a series of notes of his travel through the Southwestern
States which was printed in the _Southern Citizen_]
"It is because the unquestioned possession of great power, involving
great responsibilities -- which responsibilities are fully recognized by
public opinion -- trains a man to habits of self restraint."

EDITORIAL by The National Board of Health
Philadelphia Medical Times (1871-1889); Aug 30, 1879; 9, 24; pg. 574
"It is popularly supposed that this act gives the National Board of
Health great powers (even emptying or burning an infected city, if
necessary), and, as great power brings great responsibility, the Boad
has been sharply criticised on account of the present outbreak of yellow
fever and its supposed failure to suppress it."

EUROPEAN NEWS.   The New York Times; Aug 2, 1866; pg. 1
"Mr. Horsman, after some remarks as to the different degrees of sympathy
felt in England for Prussia and Italy, expressed his concurrence with
Lord Stanley's non-intervention views, but maintained at the same time
that as wer were a great Power, with great responsibilities, we ought to
be ready to cooperate everywhere to advance the cause of liberty and

Littell's Living Age (1844-1896); Aug 11, 1877; pg. 345 (quote from p.
"It is our duty to do our best to make those benefits as large and as
secure as possible.  For this purpose, and for the attainment of this
end, our position is not what it was, and very much less good than it
might have been.  But it is a position which still involves great power
and great responsibilities."

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