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I always consider the settlement of America
with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence,
for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part
of mankind all over the earth.
I believe there are more instances of the
abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments
of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?
To Colleagues at the Constitutional Convention
As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.
National Gazette Essay, March 27, 1792
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 is designed only for a moral
and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.
A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788
We in America do not have government by the
majority. We have government by the majority who participate.
Citizens by birth or choice of a common country,
that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American,
which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just
pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.
Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
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.
On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766
But a Constitution of Government once changed
from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils.
An Address to the Public, November 1789
Conscience is the most sacred of all property.
Essay on Property, March 29, 1792
I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.
letter to Francis Van der Kamp, May 28, 1788
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
to Archibald Stuart, 1791
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.
Federalist No. 48, February 1, 1788
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations,
are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial
policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting
exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things;
diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing
nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable
Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.
Federalist No. 14, November 30, 1787
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.
letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, November 13, 1789
There is danger from all men. The only maxim
of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger
the public liberty.
It has been observed that a pure democracy
if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has
proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in
which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of
government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.
Speech on 21 June 1788
But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm... But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity.
Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may
be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot
alter the state of facts and evidence.
Repeal that [welfare] law, and you will soon
see a change in their manners. St. Monday and St. Tuesday, will soon cease
to be holidays. Six days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments
long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept;
industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances
will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide
for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.
letter to Collinson, May 9, 1753
A universal peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts.
essay in the National Gazette, February 2, 1792
I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species...and to disperse the families I have an aversion.
letter to Robert Lewis, August 18, 1799
Why has government been instituted at all?
Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and
justice, without constraint.
An elective despotism was not the government
we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided
and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend
their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the
Federalist No. 58, 1788
Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this stupendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Independency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.
General Orders, April 18, 1783
In my many years I have come to a conclusion
that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a
Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human Nature.
Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
How many observe Christ's birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.
Poor Richard's Almanack, 1743
I rejoice in a belief that intellectual light will spring up in the dark corners of the earth; that freedom of enquiry will produce liberality of conduct; that mankind will reverse the absurd position that the many were, made for the few; and that they will not continue slaves in one part of the globe, when they can become freemen in another.
draft of First Inaugural Address, April 1789