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  • 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.

  • James Madison, Federalist No. 37, January 11, 1788

    It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it [the Constitution] a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.

  • 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.

  • James Madison, Virginia Resolutions, December 21, 1798

    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.

  • 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 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.

  • Benjamin Franklin, On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766

    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.

  • James Madison, speech at the Constitutional Convention, July 11, 1787

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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, 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.

  • John Adams, A Defense of the American Constitutions, 1787

    The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet' and `Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.

  • Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

    They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

  • 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.