James Wilson

Category: Liberty
Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness.

Inscription on the Liberty Bell, from Leviticus 25:10
Category: Liberty
Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof - Lev. XXV, v. X

Patrick Henry

Speech to the Virginia Convention — 1788
Category: Liberty
Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings - give us that precious jewel, and you may take every things else! Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.

Benjamin Franklin

An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz. The Court of the Press — 1789
Category: The Press
If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself.

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

letter to Zabdiel Adams — 1776
Category: Religion and Morality
Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand....The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.

Samuel Adams

letter to James Warren — 1779
Category: Virtue
A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.

Fisher Ames

Review of the Pamphlet on the State of the British Constituiton — 1807
Category: The Press
We are, heart and soul, friends to the freedom of the press. It is however, the prostituted companion of liberty, and somehow or other, we know not how, its efficient auxiliary. It follows the substance like its shade; but while a man walks erect, he may observe that his shadow is almost always in the dirt. It corrupts, it deceives, it inflames. It strips virtue of her honors, and lends to faction its wildfire and its poisoned arms, and in the end is its own enemy and the usurper's ally, It would be easy to enlarge on its evils. They are in England, they are here, they are everywhere. It is a precious pest, and a necessary mischief, and there would be no liberty without it.

Fisher Ames

letter to George Richard Minot — 1789
Category: Law
I am commonly opposed to those who modestly assume the rank of champions of liberty, and make a very patriotic noise about the people. It is the stale artifice which has duped the world a thousand times, and yet, though detected, it is still successful. I love liberty as well as anybody. I am proud of it, as the true title of our people to distinction above others; but...I would guard it by making the laws strong enough to protect it.

Benjamin Franklin

Historical Review of Pennsylvania — 1759
Category: Liberty
They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Alexander Hamilton

The Farmer Refuted — 1775
Category: Rights
The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms and false reasonings is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice.

Alexander Hamilton

speech to the New York Ratifying Convention — 1788
Category: Separation of Powers
Good constitutions are formed upon a comparison of the liberty of the individual with the strength of government: If the tone of either be too high, the other will be weakened too much. It is the happiest possible mode of conciliating these objects, to institute one branch peculiarly endowed with sensibility, another with knowledge and firmness. Through the opposition and mutual control of these bodies, the government will reach, in its regular operations, the perfect balance between liberty and power.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Edward Coles — 1814
Category: Tyranny
I had always hoped that the younger generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty had been kindled in every breast...would have sympathized with oppression wherever found, and proved their love of liberty beyond their own share of it.

Thomas Jefferson

Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18 — 1781
Category: God
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.

James Madison

National Gazette Essay — 1792
Category: Liberty
In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example . . . of charters of power granted by liberty. This revolution in the practice of the world, may, with an honest praise, be pronounced the most triumphant epoch of its history, and the most consoling presage of its happiness.

Benjamin Rush

On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic — 1806
Category: Religion and Morality
[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.

James Wilson

Of the Study of the Law in the United States — 1790
Category: Law
Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness.

John Witherspoon

The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men — 1776
Category: Religious Liberty
There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.

John Adams

A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law — 1765
Category: Liberty
Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.

John Adams

letter to Mercy Warren — 1776
Category: Virtue
Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superiour to all private passions.

John Adams

letter to Abigail Adams — 1780
Category: Politics and Parties
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

John Adams

letter to Zabdiel Adams — 1776
Category: Virtue
The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.

John Adams

An Essay on Man's Lust for Power — 1763
Category: Democracy
[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few.

John Adams

the Novanglus — 1775
Category: Human Nature
Human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. There is also in human nature a resentment of injury, and indignation against wrong. A love of truth and a veneration of virtue. These amiable passions, are the "latent spark"... If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the differences between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply than to the sense of this difference?

John Adams

letter to Abigail Adams — 1775
Category: Liberty
But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.