A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal. John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776.
Whatever may be the judgment pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction ... that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them. James Madison, circa 1835.
THE Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all. George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.
The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union. Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 1823
[The people] are in truth the only legitimate proprietors of the soil and government. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1813
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822
Public opinion sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one. James Madison, Public Opinion, December 19, 1791
It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn. George Washington, letter to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, September 5, 1789
Your love of liberty — your respect for the laws — your habits of industry — and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness. George Washington, letter to the Residents of Boston, October 27, 1789
[T]he propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained. George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
Such will be the relation between the House of Representatives and their constituents. Duty gratitude, interest, ambition itself, are the cords by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people. James Madison, Federalist No. 57, February 19, 1788
The house of representatives...can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as the great mass of society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interest, and sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny. James Madison, Federalist No. 57, February 19, 1788.
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. James Madison, Federalist No. 45, January 26, 1788.
THE basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all. George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.
THE eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it. James Madison, letter to James Monroe, December 16, 1824
My confidence is that there will for a long time be virtue and good sense enough in our countrymen to correct abuses. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Rutledge, 1788
THE Constitution... is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, September 6, 1819
THE boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Rush, October 20, 1820
THE spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787
WHAT signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith, 1787
THE example of changing a constitution by assembling the wise men of the state, instead of assembling armies, will be worth as much to the world as the former examples we had give them. The constitution, too, which was the result of our deliberation, is unquestionably the wisest ever yet presented to men. Thomas Jefferson, letter to David Humphreys, March 18, 1789
ENLIGHTENED statesmen will not always be at the helm. James Madison, Federalist No. 10, November 23, 1787
IF we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior. James Madison, Federalist No. 39, January 1788
IF men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. James Madison, Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788
STABILITY in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society. James Madison, Federalist No. 37, January 11, 1788
CITIZENS by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
WE are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all maters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it. George Washington, letter to James Madison, November 30, 1785
James 3:13: [Two Kinds of Wisdom] Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country. George Washington, upon fumbling for his glasses before delivering the Newburgh Address, March 15, 1783
Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be... Our American Chivalry is the worst in the world. It has no Laws, no bounds, no definitions; it seems to be all a Caprice. John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 17, 1826
Franklin would rather reason things out than dispute and contend.
Speak seldom, but to important subjects, except such as particularly relate to your constituents, and, in the former case, make yourself perfectly master of the subject. George Washington, Public Speaking, November 10, 1787
The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people. Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Dickinson, July 23, 1801
But the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain. James Madison, Federalist No. 42, January 22, 1788
It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, Circa June 20, 1785
It is on great occasions only, and after time has been given for cool and deliberate reflection, that the real voice of the people can be known. George Washington, letter to Edward Carrington, May 1, 1796
The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail. George Washington, letter to George Chapman, December 15, 1784.
Laws for the liberal education of the youth, especially of the lower class of the people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant. John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776.
The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country. Benjamin Franklin, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania, 1749.
Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dupont de Nemours, April 24, 1816.
I had always hoped that the younger generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty had been kindled in every breast...would have sympathized with oppression wherever found, and proved their love of liberty beyond their own share of it. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820.
People generally have more feeling for canals and roads than education. However, I hope we can advance them with equal pace. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joel Barlow, December 10, 1807.
Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it. James Madison, Federalist No. 41, January 1788.
In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened. George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment. George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.
To form a new Government, requires infinite care, and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid the superstructure must be bad. George Washington, letter to John Augustine Washington, May 31, 1776.
The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people. George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789.
Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.
No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass. George Washington, letter to Benjamin Lincoln, June 29, 1788.
Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness. George Washington, Circular to the States, May 9, 1753.
But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775.
Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. John Adams, letter to John Taylor, April 15, 1814
As Benjamin Franklin left the Pennsylvania State House after the final meeting of the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, he was approached by the wife of the mayor of Philadelphia. She was curious as to what new government would be. Franklin replied, “A republic, madam. If you can keep it.”
In a democracy, the individual enjoys not only the ultimate power but carries the ultimate responsibility. Norman Cousins.
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Benjamin Franklin, letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, November 13, 1789.
They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.
We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. Benjamin Franklin (attributed), at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
[I]t is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own. Benjamin Franklin, letter to Samuel Cooper, May 1, 1777.
If a nation expects to be ignorant — and free — in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, January 6, 1816.
It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia Query 19, 1781.
Love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than yourself. Thomas Jefferson.
On every unauthoritative exercise of power by the legislature must the people rise in rebellion or their silence be construed into a surrender of that power to them? If so, how many rebellions should we have had already? Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 12, 1782.
No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. James Madison, Federalist No. 48, February 1, 1788.
Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. James Madison, letter to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788.
[I]t is the reason alone, of the public that ought to control and regulate the government. James Madison, Federalist No. 49, February 5, 1788.
Proverbs 19: The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!
Proverbs 12: 24: Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.
Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is. Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richards Almanack, 1749.
I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. Benjamin Franklin, On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766.
Strangers are welcome because there is room enough for them all, and therefore the old Inhabitants are not jealous of them; the Laws protect them sufficiently so that they have no need of the Patronage of great Men; and every one will enjoy securely the Profits of his Industry. But if he does not bring a Fortune with him, he must work and be industrious to live. Benjamin Franklin, Those Who Would Remove to America, February, 1784.
All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801
I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong. George Washington, letter to Francis Van der Kamp, May 28, 1788
The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment. George Washington, Address to the Members of the Volunteer Association of Ireland, December 2, 1783
The right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon ... has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right. James Madison, Virginia Resolutions, December 21, 1798.
[A] good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous. George Washington, letter to Steptoe Washington, December 5, 1790.
There exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained. George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789.
The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now. They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. John Adams, letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776.
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. John Adams, Address to the Military, October 11, 1798.
I pronounce it as certain that there was never yet a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous. Benjamin Franklin, The Busy-body, No. 3, February 18, 1728.
Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts...in which all religions agree. Thomas Jefferson, Westmoreland County Petition, November 2, 1785
At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, Oct 31, 1823.
It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression... that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary;... working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821
It is not honorable to take mere legal advantage, when it happens to be contrary to justice. Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on Debts Due to Soldiers, 1790.
One single object... [will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Livingston, March 25, 1825.
One single object... [will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Livingston, March 25, 1825.
The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 25, 1820.
[T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their, own sphere of action, but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804.
I acknowledge, in the ordinary course of government, that the exposition of the laws and Constitution devolves upon the judicial. But I beg to know upon what principle it can be contended that any one department draws from the Constitution greater powers than another in marking out the limits of the powers of the several departments. James Madison, speech in the Congress of the United States, June 17, 1789.
The Constitution... is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, September 6, 1819.
No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. James Madison, Federalist No. 10, November 23, 1787.
[R]efusing or not refusing to execute a law to stamp it with its final character...makes the Judiciary department paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was never intended and can never be proper. James Madison, letter to John Brown, October, 1788.
Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest numbers of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best. John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776.
[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few. John Adams, An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, August 29, 1763.
The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. Thomas Jefferson, letter to The Republican Citizens of Washington County, Maryland, March 31, 1809.
The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all citizens. Thomas Jefferson, Note in Destutt de Tracy, 1816.
An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others. James Madison, Federalist No. 58, 1788.
In the first place, it is to be remembered, that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws: its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any. James Madison, Federalist No. 14, November 30, 1787.
What is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part [the necessary and proper clause] of the Constitution and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning, I answer the same as if they should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them...the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in a last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can by the elections of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers. James Madison, Federalist No. 44, January 25, 1788.
Congressmen (man) who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.” Abraham Lincoln, 1863.
· You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
· You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
· You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
· You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
· You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
· You cannot build character and courage by taking away men’s initiative and independence.
· You cannot help men permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.
It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want; but to see also that they are faithfully distributed, and duly apportioned to the respective wants of those receivers. And why give through agents whom we know not, to persons whom we know not, and in countries from which we get no account, where we can do it at short hand, to objects under our eye, through agents we know, and to supply wants we see? Thomas Jefferson, letter to Michael Megear, May 29, 1823.
To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816.