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  • 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.

  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

    Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

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

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

  • Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1792

    A nation under a well regulated government, should permit none to remain uninstructed. It is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support.

  • 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, 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, 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.

  • 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.

  • 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, 1776

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

  • 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.

  • 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, 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.

  • 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, 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.