Founders' Quote Database

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Benjamin Rush — 1800
Category: Tyranny
I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Thomas Jefferson

Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17 — 1781
Category: Virtue
Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen, people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to James Madison — 1797
Category: Separation of Powers
The principle of the Constitution is that of a separation of legislative, Executive and Judiciary functions, except in cases specified. If this principle be not expressed in direct terms, it is clearly the spirit of the Constitution, and it ought to be so commented and acted on by every friend of free government.

Joseph Story

Commentaries on the Constitution — 1833
Category: Religious Liberty
It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether any free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape. The future experience of Christendom, and chiefly of the American states, must settle this problem, as yet new in the history of the world, abundant, as it has been, in experiments in the theory of government.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith — 1825
Category: Advice
Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss.

Benjamin Franklin

Motion for Prayers in the Constitutional Convention — 1787
Category: God
And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need its assistance? 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?

George Washington

letter to the General Committee of the United Baptist Churches in Virginia — 1789
Category: Religious Liberty
I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.

George Washington

letter to the Members of the New Church in Baltimore — 1793
Category: Religious Liberty
We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.

Thomas Paine

Common Sense — 1776
Category: Religious Liberty
The reformation was preceded by the discovery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.

John Adams

Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law — 1765
Category: Religious Liberty
Let the pulpit resound with the doctrine and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear of the dignity of man's nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God... Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments.

John Adams

Thoughts on Government — 1776
Category: God
It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship.

Benjamin Franklin

To Colleagues at the Constitutional Convention
Category: Constitutional Convention
All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? 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?"

Joseph Story

Commentaries on the Constitution — 1833
Category: Government
Men, to act with vigour and effect, must have time to mature measures, and judgment and experience, as to the best method of applying them. They must not be hurried on to their conclusions by the passions, or the fears of the multitude. They must deliberate, as well as resolve.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Thomas McKean — 1801
Category: Politics and Parties
To restore... harmony,... to render us again one people acting as one nation should be the object of every man really a patriot.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to John Adams — 1817
Category: Political Leaders
Men of energy of character must have enemies; because there are two sides to every question, and taking one with decision, and acting on it with effect, those who take the other will of course be hostile in proportion as they feel that effect.

Thomas Jefferson

Second Inaugural Address — 1805
Category: America
We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations as with individuals our interests soundly calculated will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties, and history bears witness to the fact that a just nation is trusted on its word when recourse is had to armaments and wars to bridle others.

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.

Patrick Henry

letter to Robert Pleasants — 1773
Category: Slavery
I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot and an abhorrence of slavery.

George Washington

letter to Marquis de Lafayette — 1786
Category: Slavery
[Y]our late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view to emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country; but I despair of seeing it.

Thomas Jefferson

Rights of British America — 1774
Category: Rights
The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

Benjamin Franklin

letter to Collinson — 1753
Category: Poverty
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.

Thomas Paine

The American Crisis, No. 1 — 1776
Category: National Defense
If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.

John Adams

Thoughts on Government — 1776
Category: The People
It already appears, that there must be in every society of men superiors and inferiors, because God has laid in the constitution and course of nature the foundations of the distinction.

Alexander Hamilton

Federalist No. 1 — 1787
Category: War for Independence
It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

Thomas Jefferson

Opinion on National Bank — 1791
Category: Constitutional Interpretation
They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please...Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect.

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