All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.
-James Madison, speech at the Constitutional Convention, July 11, 1787
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.
-James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822
A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species.
-James Madison, Essay on Property, March 29, 1792
Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787
An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens....There has never been a moment of my life in which I should have relinquished for it the enjoyments of my family, my farm, my friends & books.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Melish, January 13, 1813
All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
-Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801
A rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Lafayette, 1823
How many observe Christ's birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.
-Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1743
History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy... These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole state is weakened.
-Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations, Circa 1774
Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason.
-Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1735
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.
-John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
-John Adams, in Defense of the British Soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre, December 4, 1770
-But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775
Nelly Custis-Lewis (Washington’s adopted daughter):
Is it necessary that any one should [ask], “Did General Washington avow himself to be a believer in Christianity?" As well may we question his patriotism, his heroic devotion to his country. His mottos were, "Deeds, not Words"; and, "For God and my Country."
"To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them."
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Benjamin Franklin: | Portrait of Ben Franklin
“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that . I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel”
–Constitutional Convention of 1787 | original manuscript of this speech