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  • 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, 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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, Defense of the Constitutions, 1787

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

  • 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 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, 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 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, 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, 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.