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Founders' Quote Database

George Washington

letter to the Reformed German Congregation of New York City — 1783
Category: Liberty
The establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive which induced me to the Field -- the object is attained -- and it now remains to be my earnest wish & prayer, that the Citizens of the United States could make a wise and virtuous use of the blessings placed before them.

George Washington

letter to the people of South Carolina — 1790
Category: Liberty
The value of liberty was thus enhanced in our estimation by the difficulty of its attainment, and the worth of characters appreciated by the trial of adversity.

George Washington

address to the New York Legislature — 1775
Category: Citizenship
When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in the happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peacefully and happy Country.

George Washington

letter to Alexander Hamilton — 1783
Category: National Defense
The Army (considering the irritable state it is in, its suffering and composition) is a dangerous instrument to play with.

George Washington

letter to Alexander Hamilton — 1796
Category: International Relations
But if we are to be told by a foreign Power ... what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.

George Washington

letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795
Category: Truth
There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: International Relations
There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favours from Nation to Nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: International Relations
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: International Relations
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, (I conjure you to believe me fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: International Relations
Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign world.

George Washington

First Annual Message — 1790
Category: National Defense
To be prepared for war, is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

George Washington

Fifth Annual Message — 1793
Category: National Defense
There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.

George Washington

letter to the Legislature of Pennsylvania — 1789
Category: Patriotism
It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.

George Washington

upon fumbling for his glasses before delivering the Newburgh Address — 1783
Category: Patriotism
Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.

George Washington

First Inaugural Address — 1789
Category: Religion and Morality
The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world.

George Washington

letter to Thomas Jefferson — 1796
Category: Politics and Parties
[N]or did I believe until lately, that it was within the bonds of probability; hardly within those of possibility, that, while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a national character of our own, independent, as far as our obligations, and justice would permit, of every nation of the earth; and wished, by steering a steady course, to preserve this Country from the horrors of a desolating war, that I should be accused of being the enemy of one Nation, and subject to the influence of another; and to prove it, that every act of my administration would be tortured, and the grossest, and most insidious mis-representations of them be made (by giving one side only of a subject, and that too in such exaggerated and indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a Nero; a notorious defaulter; or even to a common pick-pocket).

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: Power
The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.

George Washington

letter to Marquis de Lafayette — 1788
Category: Agriculture
I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world.

George Washington

letter to Edmund Pendleton — 1793
Category: The Presidency
I give my signature to many Bills with which my Judgment is at variance.... From the Nature of the Constitution, I must approve all parts of a Bill, or reject it in total. To do the latter can only be Justified upon the clear and obvious grounds of propriety; and I never had such confidence in my own faculty of judging as to be over tenacious of the opinions I may have imbibed in doubtful cases.

George Washington

comment to General Henry Knox — 1789
Category: The Presidency
For myself the delay [in assuming the office of the President] may be compared with a reprieve; for in confidence I assure you, with the world it would obtain little credit that my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution: so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities and inclination which is necessary to manage the helm.

George Washington

letter to Catherine MacAulay — 1790
Category: The Presidency
In our progress toward political happiness my station is new; and if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct wch. may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.

George Washington

letter to Thomas Nelson — 1778
Category: Religion and Morality
The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: Religion and Morality
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.

George Washington

letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island — 1790
Category: Religious Liberty
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

George Washington

First Inaugural Address — 1789
Category: Republican Government
The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

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