"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."
Thomas Jefferson, 1816
"A wise and frugal government… 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. This is the sum of good government."
Thomas Jefferson, 1801
"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, 1789
"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives."
John Adams, 1756
"The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution."
Joseph Story, 1833
"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, 1788
"I acknowledge, in the ordinary course of government, that the exposition of the laws and Constitution devolves upon the judicial. But I beg to know upon what principle it can be contended that any one department draws from the Constitution greater powers than another in marking out the limits of the powers of the several departments."
James Madison, 1789
"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, 1789
"Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants."
"Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm."
James Madison, Federalist No. 10
"The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind."
Thomas Jefferson, 1790
"Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives."
John Adams, 1808
"Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families."
Benjamin Rush, 1773
"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Ben Franklin, 1759
"That these are our grievances which we have thus laid before his majesty, with that freedom of language and sentiment which becomes a free people claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate."
Thomas Jefferson, 1774
"Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and shew the whole world, that a Freeman contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth."
"They tell us Sir, that we are weak -- unable to cope with so formidable an adversary . But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature has placed in our power."
Patrick Henry, 1775
"Our own Country's Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions -- The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny mediated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world, that a free man contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth."
George Washington, 1776
"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."
Samuel Adams, 1779
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
John Adams, 1789
Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance.
Samuel Adams, 1771
Courage, then, my countrymen, our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.
Samuel Adams, 1776
Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States."
John Adams, July 3rd, 1776
Welcome to Heritage
Founders on Government Page
What did the Founding Fathers or our great nation
believe about government? What form should it
take? What lessons from the past did they
learn from and apply?
These and many other questions must be answered if
we are to gain an understanding of how our
government is supposed to function, what the
Declaration of Independence and Constitution mean
and what lessons from the past we should learn from
Through this page you will access individual quotes
as well as collective writings of many of the
Please check back often to access newly added
George Washington's Farewell Address
was never delivered orally but instead submitted to
newspapers for publishing. Washington wrote
this speech on the occasion of his retiring, after
two terms, form the Presidency. An interesting
history is that Washington ask for comments and
corrections from both his Secretary of Treasury,
Alexander Hamilton, and the former Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court, John Jay. In 1861, on the
130th anniversary of George Washington's birthday,
the United States Senate began reading the address
aloud and has continued annually to repeat the
tradition. Washington's address became one of
three documents that set the standard for the United
State's international relationships for the next 100
years. Henry Cabot Lodge in describing the
address wrote "...no man ever left a nobler
Other Links Regarding Washington's Farewell Address:
United States Department of State