Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
Mankind will in time discover that unbridled majorities are as tyrannical and cruel as unlimited despots.
There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
On every question of construction, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.
I believe the states can best govern our home concerns and the federal government our foreign ones.
The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.
The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but the newspapers.
The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but a swindling futurity on a large scale.
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
Experience [has] shown that, even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?
The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.
If we were directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we would soon want for bread.
When all government, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the Center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.
Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.
A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty.
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.
[Political] offices are as acceptable here as elsewhere, and whenever a man cast a longing eye on them, a rottenness begins in his conduct.
I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war.
In a republican nation whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance.
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.
To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. . .I place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.
If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.
An elective despotism was not the government we fought for.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add "within the law," because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry.
Whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.
Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Excessive taxation will carry reason & reflection to every man's door, and particularly in the hour of election.
Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory. The federal government is our servant, not our master!
When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.
There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by the gradual and silent encroachment of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpation.
Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government that 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.
We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.
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.
America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.
But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm... But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity.
I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic — it is also a truth, that if industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out.
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood, if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be like tomorrow.
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.
Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few … No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.
I cannot undertake to lay my finger upon an article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.
If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.
With respect to the words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.
Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & fallacious!
It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.
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.
If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute.
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.
Those who expect to reap the benefits of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
Not a place upon earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade with them.
When the government fears the people, it is liberty. When the people fear the government, it is tyranny.
A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.
It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery! Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
The Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.
The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks … It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
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.
The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part.