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Founders' Quote Database

George Washington

The Rules of Civility — 1748
Category: Advice
Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

George Washington

letter to Benjamin Lincoln — 1788
Category: America
No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass.

George Washington

letter to James Madison — 1785
Category: America
We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: Citizenship
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.

George Washington

Circular to the States — 1783
Category: War for Independence
The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: Religion and Morality
[W]here is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths...?

George Washington

Address to Congress on Resigning his Commission — 1783
Category: War for Independence
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.

George Washington

letter to Steptoe Washington — 1790
Category: Character
[A] good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.

George Washington

letter to the Residents of Boston — 1789
Category: Character
Your love of liberty - your respect for the laws - your habits of industry - and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness.

George Washington

draft of first Inaugural Address — 1789
Category: Character
No compact among men...can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: Commerce
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 course.

George Washington

letter to Marquis de Lafayette — 1788
Category: Constitution
Next Monday the Convention in Virginia will assemble; we have still good hopes of its adoption here: though by no great plurality of votes. South Carolina has probably decided favourably before this time. The plot thickens fast. A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America for the present generation, and probably produce no small influence on the happiness of society through a long succession of ages to come.

George Washington

letter to Marquis de Lafayette — 1788
Category: Constitutional Convention
It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States ... should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well founded objections.

George Washington

First Annual Message — 1790
Category: Education
Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness.

George Washington

letter to the Marquis de la Rourie — 1786
Category: Marriage
More permanent and genuine happiness is to be found in the sequestered walks of connubial life than in the giddy rounds of promiscuous pleasure.

George Washington

letter to Marquis de Lafayette — 1785
Category: The People
Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last.

George Washington

letter to James Madison — 1786
Category: Constitutional Convention
No morn ever dawned more favorable than ours did; and no day was every more clouded than the present! Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm.

George Washington

letter to James Warren — 1785
Category: Constitutional Convention
Jealousy, and local policy mix too much in all our public councils for the good government of the Union. In a words, the confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance....

George Washington

letter to John Augustine Washington — 1776
Category: Government
To form a new Government, requires infinite care, and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid the superstructure must be bad.

George Washington

The Newburgh Address — 1783
Category: Human Nature
And you will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.

George Washington

letter to John Jay — 1786
Category: Human Nature
We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.

George Washington

Farewell Address — 1796
Category: Justice
It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a People always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.

George Washington

Last Words — 1799
Category: Last Words
Tis well.

George Washington

First Inaugural Address — 1789
Category: Laws of Nature
The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.

George Washington

letter to James Madison — 1788
Category: Liberty
Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.

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