Posted by Ward on December 05, 2004
In Reply to: An (the) iron hand (fist) in a (the) velvet glove posted by Lee on December 01, 2004
: : : : Where does this expression originally come from ?
: : : : [Dead link removed - ed]
: : : Not sure about the original origin (if you will forgive the phrase) but I have always believed it came from the Latin 'Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re', which means (with a certain freedom of translation) something similar.
: : : DFG
: : IRON HAND IN A VELVET GLOVE -- "Disguised firmness: a gentle demeanor concealing a resolute personality. Thomas Carlyle wrote in 'Latter-Day Pamphlets' : 'Soft of speech and manner, yet with an inflexible vigour of command...'iron hand in a velvet glove,' as Napoleon defined it.' Napoleon seems to have originated this phrase." "The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).
: Thanks to you both. In sum, it seems the Latin expression David quoted is the word origin as Napoleon must have used that expression in French or Italian and obviously Latin is the origin for those languages (In fact, Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, was also quoted to be the originator but again he must have said that in Spanish, which is also a derivative of Latin).
Seems to me there is an ethic in western civilizations that values the individual who "speaks softly but carries a big stick". The responsible use of power suggested by these phrases goes back to Marcus Areulius, and perhaps even before him.