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  • John Adams, letter to H. Niles, February 13, 1818

    But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations...This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.

  • James Madison, Records of the Convention, August 25, 1787

    [The Convention] thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.

  • Benjamin Franklin, letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, November 13, 1789

    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.

  • John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775

    But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

  • John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions, 1787

    Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.

  • James Madison, Federalist No. 51, February 8, 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.

  • John Adams, Rights of the Colonists, 1772

    If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.

  • James Madison, Federalist No. 45, January 26, 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, speech at the Constitutional Convention, July 11, 1787

    All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.

  • Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, December 19, 1776

    What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

  • John Adams, draft of a Newspaper Communication, Circa August 1770

    Human government is more or less perfect as it approaches nearer or diverges farther from the imitation of this perfect plan of divine and moral government.

  • James Madison, speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 16, 1788

    There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

  • John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

    Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.

  • Benjamin Franklin, writing as Silence Dogood, No. 8, July 9, 1722

    Without Freedom of Thought there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as Public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.

  • John Adams, Address to the Military, October 11, 1798

    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.