Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Quotes from the Founders on the Constitution


“The power under the Constitution will always be in the people. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can and undoubtedly will be recalled.” – George Washington, Letter to Bushrod Washington, 1787.

“The Constitution is the guide, which I will never abandon.” – George Washington, Letter to The Boston Selectmen, July 28, 1795.

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 45 (1788)

“The "Federalist" may fairly enough be regarded as the most authentic exposition of the text of the federal Constitution as understood by the Body [Constitutional Convention] which prepared & and the Authorities [state ratifying conventions] which accepted it.” James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, February 8, 1825. 

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That "all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people." To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.” – Thomas Jefferson, Opinion against the constitutionality of a National Bank (1791).

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820.

"Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people. They fix, too, for the people the principles of their political creed." Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, 1802. Writings, Memorial Edition (“ME”), 1905, 10:325.

"I am persuaded no Constitution was ever before so well calculated as ours for extensive empire and self-government." Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1809. ME 12:277.

"If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws -- the first growing out of the last. ... A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government." Alexander Hamilton, Essay in the American Daily Advertiser, 1794.

“I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars: ‑‑ The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity ‑‑ The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union ‑‑ The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the attainment of this object ‑‑ The conformity of the  proposed Constitution to the true principles of republican government ‑‑ Its analogy to your own State constitution ‑‑ and lastly, The additional security which its adoption will afford the preservation of that species of government, to liberty, and to property.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1 (1788).

“I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies.” – Benjamin Franklin, Speech for Adoption of the Constitution, September 17, 1787.

“Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution … wherever our Influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavours to the means of having it well administered.” – Benjamin Franklin, Id.

“We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition Revenge or Galantry, 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.” John Adams to the Massachusetts Militia, October 11, 1798.

“Cities may be rebuilt, and a People reduced to Poverty, may acquire fresh Property: But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the People once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.” – John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, July 7, 1775

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue…” – Samuel Adams, Essay published in the American Daily Advertiser, 1848.

“The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.” – Samuel Adams, Id.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Celebrate Constitution Day September 17th!

The Buena Vista and Lexington, Virginia Celebration of Constitution Day will be held Tuesday evening, September 17th from 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the historic Wesley Chapel in Lexington. The event is co-sponsored by the local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Virginia Frontier-Lexington and Natural Bridge) (https://www.dar.org/and by the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies (GWCCS) (http://georgewashingtoncenter.org/). GWCCS is a nonpartisan academic institute that promotes Civic Education, and the instruction, study, and ideological defense of the principles of the American Founding, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, based on natural law principles using primary sources.

The Daughters of the American Revolution ask local government leaders to issue annual proclamations honoring Constitution Day and have also established the tradition of the “Ringing of the Bells” at 4:00 p.m. EDT on that day.  The mayors of both Lexington and Buena Vista and the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors will be issuing proclamations. Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University and several local churches have agreed to toll their bells. 

Music for the event will be provided by students from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and Southern Virginia University.  Additionally, there will be two speakers:

Tony Williams will speak on the statesmanship of James Madison and the art of compromise. He is currently employed as a Senior Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute in Washington D.C. and  is the Program Director of the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute. Tony attended Syracuse University where he earned a B.A. in history and Ohio State University where he earned an M.A. in American history.  He has written six books on colonial and Revolutionary America: Hamilton: An American Biography (2018), Washington & Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America (2015)(co-authored with Stephen P. Knott), The Jamestown Experiment (2011), America’s Beginnings (2010), The Pox and the Covenant (2010) and Hurricane of Independence(2008). He has taught history at the secondary school level for fifteen years. 

J. David Gowdy will speak on the relationship between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He is the President and Executive Director of the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies.  He received his B.A. from Kansas State University and his J. D. degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. He is also the founder of the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute which has been providing continuing education courses to Virginia U.S. government and history teachers since 2007. He currently serves on the Board of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society (Charlottesville). 

The public is invited to attend.





Sunday, June 16, 2019

Civil and Religious Liberty

“In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.” – James Madison (Federalist No. 51, 1788).

The history of the connection between civil and religious liberty extends back to England in the 1600’s. “The parliamentarians of the English civil war fought against grievances on two fronts: political and religious. In politics they fought for ‘liberty’, in religion for ‘reformation’…Over the course of the revolution, the two causes became linked, so that by 1659–60 the phrase ‘civil and religious liberty’ had become ubiquitous. It would be a defining feature of English political vocabulary for a quarter of a millennium,”[1]  and it extended into the heart of the American Revolution in the 1700’s. “American colonists widely agreed with this sentiment. “Civil and religious liberty” went together, but religious liberty was more fundamental, as it dealt with eternal matters, not just temporal ones. Moreover, many believed that the loss of civil liberty generally preceded the loss of religious freedom. As one pastor put it in 1766, “We could not long expect to enjoy our religious liberties, when once our civil liberties were gone.”[2]

To the Founders and most American colonists, both civil liberty and religious liberty were viewed as companion “natural rights,” inherent in the divine nature of man. They firmly believed, fought, and bled for the self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence that, “...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” In this regard, the revolutionary war was as much a battle against “the corruption of 18th century British high society,”[3]  as it was against financial oppression. While the Founders and American colonists were very concerned with their civil liberty and economic freedom, demanding “no taxation without representation,” they were as much or more concerned with their religious liberty, particularly in preserving their rights of individual conscience and public morality.[4]  In fact, as General, George Washington confirmed that, “the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive that induced me to the field of battle.”[5]

Our first two Presidents, George Washington and John Adams, were patrons of religion (Washington was an Episcopal vestryman, and Adams was a devoted Congregationalist and Unitarian) and both offered strong rhetorical support for religion and morality as the basis for civil liberty and freedom. In his Farewell Address of September 1796, Washington stated, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens,” and concluded that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Adams wrote that statesmen “may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”[6]  With respect to freedom of conscience, Washington stated, “While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the conscience of others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only in this case are they answerable.”[7]  Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, agreed with Washington and his language became part of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia: “[T]hat the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty.”[8]

While the Founders and colonists were concerned that the loss of their civil liberties would precede the loss of their religious liberties, the opposite may now be true. In our day, there is a concerted effort by some to elevate civil liberties or secular rights above religious liberties, including the right of conscience. For example, according to Chairman Martin R. Castro of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, phrases such as ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ should now be considered “code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, …or any other form of intolerance.” In this document (issued in September 2016), the United States Commission on Civil Rights—purportedly a bipartisan, independent federal commission—makes the unambiguous determination that status-based civil liberties should supersede religious liberties.[9]  More recently, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act (H.R. 5, 116th Congress). The Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom. It would instead repeal long-standing religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Such efforts tend to undermine the crucial, stabilizing influence of religion in public life and may jeopardize the equal rights of each individual under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

All citizens should study and lend their voices and opinions to these critical issues. As we do so, we would be wise and prudent to consider the historical and long-held conviction that in our nation civil rights and religious rights are inextricably connected, rely on one another, and must be maintained in balance. While sometimes difficult, fairness for all may be achieved. We, as Americans who have inherited both civil and religious liberty, and whose principles and traditions set our nation apart from all others, should reflect on the timeless precept that, “The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.”[10]
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Photo: Sculpture of Religious Liberty by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, Philadelphia, 1876 (Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Smallbones)
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Footnotes:
 [1] Blair Worden, “Civil and Religious Liberty”, Chapter 8 in God's Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell (Oxford Scholarship Online, May 2012). https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570492.001.0001/acprof-9780199570492-chapter-9 
 [2] Thomas Kidd, The American Founding: Understanding the Connection between Religious and Civil Liberties-Religious Freedom Institute (June 4, 2016).
 [3] Marvin Olasky, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue (Regnery Publishing, Washington D.C., 1996) p. 142.
 [4] See, e.g., Id., Olasky, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue; Richard Vetterli and Gary Bryner, In Search of the Republic: Public Virtue and the Roots of American Government (Rowman & Littlefield, New Jersey, 1987).
 [5] Letter to the Ministers, Elders, Deacons, and Members of the Reformed German Congregation of New York, November 27, 1783, in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, 37 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1931-1940), 27:249.
 [6] Adams to Zabdiel Adams, Philadelphia June 21. 1776; see also Library of Congress, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, Religion and the Federal Government, Part 1, https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06.html 

 [7] Letter to Benedict Arnold, September 14, 1775.
 [8] Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779); Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (Virginia, 1777).
 [9] Deseret News, U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairman says religious freedoms 'stand for nothing except hypocrisy':
 https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865662326/US-Civil-Rights-Commission-chairman-says-religious-freedoms-stand-for-nothing-except-hypocrisy.html; https://www.usccr.gov/press/2016/PR-09-07-16.pdf

[10] Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819, Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, Washington, D.C., 1905), 19:416.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Preamble to the Constitution

"...the Constitution is the guide, that I will never abandon." 
--George Washington to The Boston Selectmen, July 28, 1795

The Preamble to the Constitution has no force in law, nor is it a grant of power -- instead, it establishes the "Why" of the Constitution. Why did the Constitution come to be? It reflects the desires of the Framers to improve upon their previous government (to be "more perfect" than the Articles of Confederation), to ensure that that government would be just, and would protect its citizens from internal strife and from any foreign attacks. It is based on principles of natural law. It is intended to secure the blessings of liberty to the people and all future generations of Americans. We should become familiar both with the Preamble and the Constitution itself.

WE the People of the United States… “The Framers of our Constitution were trained and experienced in the Common Law. They remembered [the Magna Carta forged by] the barons and King John at Runnymede. They were thoroughly indoctrinated in the principle that true sovereignty rests in the people.” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr.). It confirms this truth in the Declaration of Independence that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;” and, it was “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal …a government, of the people, by the people, for the people.” (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address).

…in Order to form a more perfect Union The Framers were dissatisfied with the United States under the Articles of Confederation, and they were striving for something better. The framers desired that the new Constitution would form a more perfect union of both the states and the people. They knew that unity would prove essential to their future political success. George Washington stated, “you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness …accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the Palladium [safeguard] of your political safety and prosperity” (Farewell Address).

…establish Justice Injustice, unfairness of criminal and civil laws, especially in trade and taxation, was of great concern to the citizens of 1787. They wanted a nation of equal justice -- where courts would be established with uniformity, the laws administered with fairness and equity, and where trade within and outside the borders of the country would be open and unmolested. They longed for judges who would do their duty as faithful guardians of the Constitution.

…insure domestic Tranquility One of the events that caused the Constitutional Convention to be held was the revolt of Massachusetts farmers known as Shays' Rebellion. The taking up of arms by war veterans revolting against the state government was a shock to the system. Keeping the peace was on everyone's mind, and tranquility at home was a prime concern. The framers hoped that the new powers granted to the federal government in the Constitution would thwart seditions and such rebellions in the future.

…provide for the common defense The new nation was fearful of attack from all sides —and no one state was really capable of fending off an attack from land or sea by itself. With a wary eye on Britain and Spain, and ever-watchful for Indian attack, no state in the new United States could survive such attacks alone. The people and the states needed to bond together in order to survive in the harsh world of international intrigue and aggression.

…promote the general Welfare The whole point of having tranquility, justice, and a common defense was to promote the general welfare — to allow every state and every citizen of those states the benefits that the new republic could provide. The framers looked forward to the expansion of agriculture, manufacturing, trade and investment, and they knew that a strong national government would be the precursor. However, it is not a granting clause – i.e., it does not grant Congress (or any other branch) the power to legislate for the general welfare of the country, but is merely intended as a guidepost for the federal government to carry out its enumerated powers in promoting the common good.

…and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity The framers sought for the blessings of both civil and religious liberty — something they had all fought hard for in the Revolutionary War just a decade before. They desired to create a virtuous nation that would secure the unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to all citizens, and remain free from tyranny. And more than for themselves, they wanted to be sure that their children and future generations of Americans would enjoy the same.

…do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. In the final clause of the Preamble, "We the People" delegate and invest their authority in the new government, pronounce the official name for this great charter of liberty, and restate the name of the new nation for whom they are adopting the Constitution.

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Thomas Jefferson as Father

During the Constitutional Convention (May 25 – September 17, 1787), Thomas Jefferson was serving as United States Minister to France. On February 28, 1787, the forty-four-year-old Thomas Jefferson left Paris on a three-month, twelve-hundred-mile journey to southern France and northern Italy. Traveling anonymously as a private citizen from Virginia, not as a diplomat, Jefferson paid his own way, and none of his Paris servants went with him. While on this journey, on May 21st he wrote to his 14-year old daughter “Patsy” (Martha Jefferson Randolph, 1772-1836) from the famous Canal of Languedoc in southern France [Jefferson also mentions his youngest daughter “Polly” (Mary Jefferson Eppes, 1778-1804), who was 8 years old at that time]. He first describes the chorus of birds along the waterway -- nightingales. He then significantly refers to the “object most interesting to me for the residue of my life” -- and what he believes is “the true secret, the grand recipe for felicity [or happiness].”

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson
May 21, 1787

I write to you, my dear Patsy, from the Canal of Languedoc, on which I am at present sailing, as I have been for a week past, cloudless skies above, limpid waters below, and find on each hand a row of nightingales in full chorus. This delightful bird had given me a rich treat before at the fountain of Vaucluse. After visiting the tomb of Laura at Avignon, I went to see this fountain, a noble one of itself, and rendered for ever famous by the songs of Petrarch who lived near it. I arrived there somewhat fatigued, and sat down by the fountain to repose myself. It gushes, of the size of a river, from a secluded valley of the mountain, the ruins of Petrarch's chateau being perched on a rock 200 feet perpendicular above. To add to the enchantment of the scene, every tree and bush was filled with nightingales in full song. I think you told me you had not yet noticed this bird. As you have trees in the garden of the convent, there must be nightingales in them, and this is the season of their song. Endeavor my dear, to make yourself acquainted with the music of this bird, that when you return to your own country you may be able to estimate it's merit in comparison with that of the mocking bird. The latter has the advantage of singing thro' a great part of the year, whereas the nightingale sings but about 5 or 6 weeks in the spring, and a still shorter term and with a more feeble voice in the fall.

I expect to be at Paris about the middle of next month. By that time we may begin to expect our dear Polly. It will be a circumstance of inexpressible comfort to me to have you both with me once more. The object most interesting to me for the residue of my life, will be to see you both developing daily those principles of virtue and goodness which will make you valuable to others and happy in yourselves, and acquiring those talents and that degree of science which will guard you at all times against ennui [boredom or restlessness], the most dangerous poison of life. A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe for felicity. The idle are the only wretched. In a world which furnishes so many employments which are useful, and so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resource of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind. We are now entering the port of Toulouse, where I quit my bark; and of course must conclude my letter.

Be good and be industrious, and you will be what I shall most love in the world.

Adieu my dear child.
Yours affectionately,
Th. Jefferson

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Favorite Quotes from Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, born April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, Virginia, author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia -- voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era. His personal maxims were based on human equality and individual liberty (see https://wjmi.blogspot.com/2018/10/all-men-are-created-equal.html). As public official, historian, philosopher, plantation owner, and family man, he served his country for over 50 years. In addition, he was known as an avid inventor, architect and gardener.  Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, just hours before his close friend John Adams passed away, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.   Following are a few of my favorite quotes:

“The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which may greatly afflict us; and, to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes, should be one of the principal studies and endeavours of our lives. The only method of doing this is to assume a perfect resignation to the Divine will, to consider that whatever does happen, must happen; and that by our uneasiness, we cannot prevent the blow before it does fall, but we may add to its force after it has fallen.” --Letter to John Page (15 July 1763)

“A lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity, that ever were written.” --Letter to Robert Skipwith (3 August 1771)

“The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” --Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

“Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate ; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.” --A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, Chapter 82 (1779)

“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.” --Letter to Peter Carr (19 August 1785)

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” --Letter to Dr. James Currie (28 January 1786)

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.” --Letter to Abigail Smith Adams from Paris while a Minister to France (22 February 1787)

“I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.” --Letter to Alexander Donald (7 February 1788)

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That "all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people." To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.” -- Opinion against the constitutionality of a National Bank (1791)

“Delay is preferable to error.” --Letter to George Washington (16 May 1792)

“I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” --Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush (23 September 1800)

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” --"To the Republican Citizens of Washington County, Maryland" (March 31, 1809)

“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” --First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

“What more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? …A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” --First Inaugural Address (4 March 1801)

“I cannot live without books.” – Letter to John Adams (10 June 1815)

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” --Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey (6 January 1816)

“It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me.” --Letter to Mrs. Harrison Smith (6 August 1816)

“Lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly.” --Letter to Samuel Kercheval (1816)

“…the important truths, that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and that knowledge is happiness.” –Letter to George Ticknor (25 November 1817)

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." – Letter to Nathaniel Macon (January 12, 1819)

“Happiness is the aim of life.  Virtue is the foundation of happiness.” --Letter to William Short (October 31, 1819)

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” --Letter to William Charles Jarvis (28 September 1820)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Favorite Quotes from James Madison


James Madison, Jr. was born on March 16, 1751 and died June 28, 1836. He was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Known as the "Father of the Constitution" he helped to shape the new American Republic. In retirement at Montpelier, his estate in Orange County, Virginia, Madison spoke out against the disruptive states' rights influences that by the 1830's threatened to shatter the Federal Union. In a note opened after his death in 1836, he stated, "The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated."

Republic vs. Democracy 

“The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.” Federalist No. 10 

“[W]e may define a republic to be…a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior…” Federalist No. 39 

Separation and Division of Power 

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Federalist No. 47 

“The compound Government of the United States is without a model, and to be explained by itself, not by similitudes or analogies.” Outline, September, 1829 (Madison, 1865, IV, page 18) 

“The two vital characteristics of the political system of the United States are, first, that the Government holds its powers by a charter granted to it by the people; second, that the powers of government are formed in two grand divisions — one vested in a Government over the whole community, the other in a number of independent Governments over its component parts. Hitherto charters have been written grants of privileges by Governments to the people. Here they are written grants of power by the people to their Governments.” Supplement to the letter of November 27, 1830, to A. Stevenson (Madison, 1865, IV, pages 138-139) 

“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? 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.” Federalist No. 51 

Interpreting the Constitution 

“I have always supposed that the meaning of a law, and, for a like reason, of a constitution, so far as it depends on judicial interpretation, was to result from a course of particular decisions, and not those from a previous and abstract comment on the subject.” Letter to Judge Roan, September 2, 1819 (Madison, 1865, III, page 143) 

“The ‘Federalist’ may fairly enough be regarded as the most authentic exposition of the text of the federal Constitution as understood by the Body [Constitutional Convention] which prepared & and the Authorities [state ratifying conventions] which accepted it.” Letter to Thomas Jefferson, February 8, 1825 (Peterson, 1974, 2. page 383) 

Legislation and Law 

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.” Letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792 (Madison, 1865, I, page 546) 

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” Statement before Congress, 4 Annals of Congress 179 (1794) 

“The 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.” Speech, House of Representatives (January 10, 1794) 

“As far as laws are necessary to mark with precision the duties of those who are to obey them, and to take from those who are to administer them a discretion which might be abused, their number is the price of liberty. As far as laws exceed this limit they are a nuisance; a nuisance of the most pestilent kind.” Notes on the Confederacy—April, 1787 Representation 

“The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.” Federalist No. 57 

Factions and Power 

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Federalist No. 10 

“A Government like ours has so many safety-valves, giving vent to overheated passions, that it carries within itself a relief against the infirmities from which the best of human Institutions cannot be exempt.” Letter to General La Fayette, November 25, 1820 (Madison, 1865, III, pages 189-191) 

“I believe 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 …” Speech at the Virginia Convention to ratify the Federal Constitution (June 6, 1788) 

Right to Bear Arms 

“[T]he 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. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” Federalist No. 46 Resistance “Extreme cases of oppression justify… a resort to the original right of resistance, a right belonging to every community, under every form of Government…” Letter to N. P. Trist, December, 1831 (Madison, 1865, IV, page 206) 

Freedom of Speech and Press 

“[T]he 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.” Virginia Resolutions, 1798 

“[T]o the press alone; checkered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.” Madison's Report on the Virginia Resolutions (in the American Memory Collection of the Library of Congress) 

Freedom of Religion 

“[W]e hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, "that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence." Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785 

“Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious sect…Equal laws, protecting equal rights, are found, as they ought to be presumed, the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country; as well as best calculated to cherish that mutual respect and good will among citizens of every religious denomination which are necessary to social harmony, and most favorable to the advancement of truth.” Letter to Dr. De La Motta, August 1820 (Madison, 1865, III, pages 178-179) 

“Conscience is the most sacred of all property …” "Property," March 27, 1792 (Madison, 1865, IV, page 478) 

“The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities to be impressed with it.” Letter to Rev. Frederick Beasley (November 20, 1825) 

Education 

“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.” Letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822 (Madison, 1865, III, page 276 

“Liberty and Learning; both best supported when leaning each on the other.” Letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822 (Madison, 1865, III, page 279) 

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"Madison" refers to Madison, James, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, Published by order of Congress, 4 volumes, Edited by Philip R. Fendall (Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1865)