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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, speech at the Constitutional Convention, July 11, 1787

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

  • 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.

  • James Madison, speech in the Virginia constitutional convention, Dec 2, 1829

    The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.

  • John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 16, 1814

    As long as Property exists, it will accumulate in Individuals and Families. As long as Marriage exists, Knowledge, Property and Influence will accumulate in Families.

  • 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.

  • John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776 #2

    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.

  • 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.

  • Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, December 23, 1791

    He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

  • John Adams, letter to John Taylor, April 15, 1814

    Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.

  • 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.

  • James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention, December 2, 1829

    It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated.

  • 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.

  • Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, December 19, 177

    These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

  • James Madison, speech in the House of Representatives, January 10, 1794

    [T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.