S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Annihilate not the mercies of God by the oblivion of ingratitude: for oblivion is a kind of annihilation; and for things to be as though they had not been, is like unto never being. Make not thy head a grave, but a repository of Gods mercies . Register not only strange, but merciful occurrences. Let ephemerides, not olympiads, give thee account of His mercies; thy diaries stand thick with dutiful mementos and asterisks of acknowledgment.
Do you know what is more hard to bear than the reverses of fortune? It is the baseness, the hideous ingratitude, of man. I turn my head in disgust from their cowardice and selfishness. I hold life in horror: death is repose,repose at last. What I have suffered for the last twenty days cannot be comprehended.
Napoleon I., in 1814: Recollections of Caulaincourt.
As there are no laws extant against ingratitude, so it is utterly impossible to contrive any that in all circumstances shall reach it. If it were actionable, there would not be courts enough in the whole world to try the causes in. There could be no setting a day for the requiting of benefits as for the payment of money; nor any estimate upon the benefits themselves; but the whole matter rests in the conscience of both parties: and then there are so many degrees of it, that the same rule will never serve all.
There is no benefit so large but malignity will still lessen it; none so narrow which a good interpretation will not enlarge. No man can ever be grateful that views a benefit on the wrong side, or takes a good office by the wrong handle. The avaricious man is naturally ungrateful, for he never thinks he has enough, but, without considering what he has, only minds what he covets. Some pretend want of power to make a competent return, and you shall find in others a kind of graceless modesty, that makes a man ashamed of requiting an obligation, because it is a confession that he has received one.
I may truly say of the mind of an ungrateful person, that it is kindness-proof. It is impenetrable, unconquerable; unconquerable by that which conquers all things else, even by love itself. Flints may be melted,we see it daily,but an ungrateful heart cannot; no, not by the strongest and the noblest flame.
By an exact parity of reason, we may argue, if a man has no sense of those kindnesses that pass upon him from one like himself, whom he sees and knows, how much less shall his heart be affected with the grateful sense of His favours whom he converses with only by imperfect speculations, by the discourses of reason, or the discoveries of faith?
The greatest evils in human society are such as no law can come at; as in the case of ingratitude, where the manner of obliging very often leaves the benefactor without means of demanding justice, though that very circumstance should be the more binding to the person who has received the benefit.
With some minds of a baser nature, there is a difficulty, proverbially, in forgiving those whom one is conscious of having injured; and, again, those (especially if equals or inferiors) who have done very great and important services, beyond what can ever receive an adequate return. Rochefoucault even says that to most men it is less dangerous to do hurt than to do them too much good. But then it was his system to look on the dark side only of mankind.
Tacitus also, who is not very unlike him in this respect, says that benefits are acceptable as far as it appears they may he repaid; but that when they far exceed this, hatred takes the place of gratitude. It is only, however, as has been said, the basest natures to whom any of these last-mentioned trials can occur as trials.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Revenge.