You will ever remember that all the end of study is to make you a good man and a useful citizen.
Property monopolized or in the possession of a few is a curse to mankind.
The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families.
Ideology is the science of idiots.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.
Always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.
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, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Music, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelain.
Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.
My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived; and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet the common fate.
When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.
Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.
When annual elections end, there slavery begins.
Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.
Make Things rather than Persons the subjects of conversations.
What is to become of an independent statesman, one who will bow the knee to no idol, who will worship nothing as a divinity but truth, virtue, and his country? I will tell you; he will be regarded more by posterity than those who worship hounds and horses; and although he will not make his own fortune, he will make the fortune of his country.
I am a revolutionary, so my son can be a farmer, so his son can be a poet.
The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.
There never was yet a people who must not have somebody or something to represent the dignity of the state.
Popularity, next to virtue and wisdom, ought to be aimed at; for it is the dictate of wisdom, and is necessary to the practice of virtue inmost.
You are apprehensive of monarchy; I, of aristocracy. I would therefore have given more power to the President and less to the Senate.
Our whole system of banks is a violation of every honest principle of banks. There is no honest bank but a bank of deposit. A bank that issues paper at interest is a pickpocket or a robber. But the delusion will have its course. … An aristocracy is growing out of them that will be as fatal as the feudal barons if unchecked in time.
[I] never understood [what a republican government was and] I believe no other man ever did or ever will.
If Aristotle, Livy, and Harrington knew what a republic was, the British constitution is much more like a republic than an empire. They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men. If this definition is just, the British constitution is nothing more or less than a republic, in which the king is first magistrate. This office being hereditary, and being possessed of such ample and splendid prerogatives, is no objection to the government’s being a republic, as long as it is bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend.
Major Greene this evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the argument he advanced was, “that a mere creature or finite being could not make satisfaction to infinite justice for any crimes,” and that “these things are very mysterious.” Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.
Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination.
I shall have liberty to think for myself without molesting others or being molested myself.
Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws.
The idea of infidelity [a disbelief in the inspiration of the Scriptures or the divine origin of Christianity] cannot be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor in his heart and ought to be execrated [denounced] as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason.
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this Earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. … There is no authority, civil or religious, there can be no legitimate government, but that which is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words, damnation.
No truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being and the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well being of communities.
The study and practice of law … does not dissolve the obligations of morality or of religion.
Since natural law was thought to be accessible to the ordinary man, the theory invited each juror to inquire for himself whether a particular rule of law was consonant with principles of higher law. This view is reflected in John Adams’ statement that it would be an ‘absurdity’ for jurors to be required to accept the judge’s view of the law, ‘against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience.’
Mr. Jefferson has reason to reflect upon himself. How he will get rid of his remorse in his retirement, I know not. He must know that he leaves the government infinitely worse than he found it, and that from his own error or ignorance.
If there is ever an amelioration of the condition of mankind, philosophers, theologians, legislators, politicians and moralists will find that the regulation of the press is the most difficult, dangerous and important problem they have to resolve. Mankind cannot now be governed without it, nor at present with it.
We shall convince France and the world, that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and a sense of inferiority, fitted to be the miserable instruments of foreign influence, and regardless of national honor, character, and interest.
In general, our generals were outgeneralled.
Mr. Adams, describing a conversation with Jonathan Sewall in 1774, says: “I answered that the die was now cast; I had passed the Rubicon. Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination.”
The Europeans are all deeply tainted with prejudices, both ecclesiastical and temporal, which they can never get rid of. They are all infected with episcopal and presbyterian creeds, and confessions of faith. They all believe that great Principle which has produced this boundless universe, Newton’s universe and Herschell’s universe, came down to this little ball, to be spit upon by Jews. And until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.
The ten commandments and the sermon on the mount contain my religion.
The arts and sciences, in general, during the three or four last centuries, have had a regular course of progressive improvement. The inventions in mechanic arts, the discoveries in natural philosophy, navigation and commerce, and the advancement of civilization and humanity, have occasioned changes in the condition of the world and the human character which would have astonished the most refined nations of antiquity. A continuation of similar exertions is everyday rendering Europe more and more like one community, or single family.
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature. . . . [In] the formation of the American governments . . . it will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven. . . . These governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
My God! This is a revolution! We have to offend someone!
The public negotiations and secret intrigues of the English (Jews) and the French (Jews) have been employed for centuries in every court and country in Europe. Look back to the history of Spain, Holland, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, Italy and Turkey for the last hundred years…all the power of Europe will be continually maneuvering with us to work us into the real or imaginary balance of power.
Set before us the conduct of our own British ancestors, who defended for us the inherent rights of mankind against foreign and domestic tyrants and usurpers, against arbitrary kings and cruel priests; in short against the gates of earth and hell.
Borrowed eloquence, if it contains as good stuff, is as good as own eloquence
When I was young, and addicted to reading, I had heard about dancing on the points of metaphysical needles; but, by mixing in the world, I found the points of political needles finer and sharper than the metaphysical ones.
The numbers of men in all ages have preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer to liberty, when they have been in competition.
The truth is that neither then nor at any former time, since I had attained my maturity in Age, Reading and reflection had I imbibed any general Prejudice against Kings, or in favour of them. It appeared to me then as it has done ever since, that there is a State of Society in which a Republican Government is the best, and in America the only one…
Elections, especially of representatives and counselors, should be annual, there not being in the whole circle of the sciences a maxim more infallible than this, “where annual elections end, there slavery begins.” These great men … should be (chosen) once a year-Like bubbles on the sea of matter bourne, they rise, they break, and to the sea return. This will teach them the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.
There is not an enemy so stout, as to storm and take the fortress of the mind, Unless its infirmity turn traitor, and Fear unbar the gates.
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.
The world grows more enlightened. Knowledge is more equally diffused.
Neither my father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, great grandfather or great grandmother, nor any other relation that I know of, or care a farthing for, has been in England these one hundred and fifty years; so that you see I have not one drop of blood in my veins but what is American.
When we say God is a spirit, we know what we mean, as well as we do when we say that the pyramids of Egypt are matter. Let us be content, therefore, to believe him to be a spirit, that is, an essence that we know nothing of, in which originally and necessarily reside all energy, all power, all capacity, all activity, all wisdom, all goodness.
My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.
By my physical constitution I am but an ordinary man … Yet some great events, some cutting expressions, some mean hypocracies, have at times thrown this assemblage of sloth, sleep, and littleness into rage like a lion.
A single assembly will never be a steady guardian of the laws, if Machiavel is right, when he says, Men are never good but through necessity: on the contrary, when good and evil are left to their choice, they will not fail to throw every thing into disorder and confusion. Hunger and poverty may make men industrious, but laws only can make them good; for, if men were so of themselves, there would be no occasion for laws; but, as the case is far otherwise, they are absolutely necessary.
There never was yet a people who must not have somebody or something to represent the dignity of the state, the majesty of the people, call it what you will – a doge, an avoyer, an archon, a president, a consul, a syndic; this becomes at once an object of ambition and dispute, and, in time, of division, faction, sedition, and rebellion.
Tacitus appears to have been as great an enthusiast as Petrarch for the revival of the republic and universal empire. He has exerted the vengeance of history upon the emperors, but has veiled the conspiracies against them, and the incorrigible corruption of the people which probably provoked their most atrocious cruelties. Tyranny can scarcely be practised upon a virtuous and wise people.
Tis impossible to judge with much Praecision of the true Motives and Qualities of human Actions, or of the Propriety of Rules contrived to govern them, without considering with like Attention, all the Passions, Appetites, Affections in Nature from which they flow. An intimate Knowledge therefore of the intellectual and moral World is the sole foundation on which a stable structure of Knowledge can be erected.
Whether they be old or young, rich or poor, high or low, wise or foolish, ignorant or learned, every individual is seen to be strongly actuated by a desire to be seen, heard, talked of, approved and respected… a passion for distinction.
If the empire of superstition and hypocrisy should be overthrown, happy indeed will it be for the world; but if all religion and morality should be over-thrown with it, what advantage will be gained?
Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty. Perhaps, at first, prejudice, habit, shame or fear, principle or religion, would restrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from usurping on the industrious; but the time would not be long before courage and enterprise would come, and pretexts be invented by degrees, to countenance the majority in dividing all the property among them, or at least, in sharing it equally with its present possessors.
Suppose a nation, rich and poor, high and low, ten millions in number, all assembled together; not more than one or two millions will have lands, houses, or any personal property; if we take into the account the women and children, or even if we leave them out of the question, a great majority of every nation is wholly destitute of property, except a small quantity of clothes, and a few trifles of other movables.
If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.
Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist. But if unlimited or unbalanced power of disposing property, be put into the hands of those who have no property, France will find, as we have found, the lamb committed to the custody of the world. In such a case, all the pathetic exhortations and addresses of the national assembly to the people, to respect property, will be regarded no more than the warbles of the songsters of the forest.
We may… affirm that the balance of power in a society accompanies the balance of property in land. The only possible way, then, of preserving the balance of power on the side of liberty and public virtue is to make the acquisition of land easy to every member of society; to make a division of the land into small quantities, so that the multitude may be possessed of landed estates.
If the multitude is possessed of the balance of real estate, the multitude will have the balance of power, and in that case the multitude will take care of the liberty, virtue, and interest of the multitude in all acts of government.
I do not like the reappearance of the Jesuits… Nevertheless, we are compelled by our system of religious toleration to offer them an asylum.
The frightful engines of ecclesiastical councils, of diabolical malice, and Calvinistical good-nature never failed to terrify me exceedingly whenever I thought of preaching.
When philosophic reason is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it.
There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel… Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating the divine authority of those books?
He is too illiterate, unread, unlearned for his station and reputation.
I do not like the reappearance of the Jesuits…. Shall we not have regular swarms of them here, in as many disguises as only a king of the gipsies can assume, dressed as printers, publishers, writers and schoolmasters? If ever there was a body of men who merited damnation on earth and in Hell, it is this society of Loyola’s. Nevertheless, we are compelled by our system of religious toleration to offer them an asylum.
The Church of Rome has made it an article of faith that no man can be saved out of their church, and all other religious sects approach this dreadful opinion in proportion to their ignorance, and the influence of ignorant or wicked priests.
The Christian Religion as I understand it is the best.
Let us hear the dangers of thralldom to our consciences from ignorance, extreme poverty, and dependence; in short, from civil and political slavery. Let us see delineated before us the true map of man. Let us hear the dignity of his nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God-that consenting to slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust, as offensive in the sight of God as it is derogatory from our own honor or interest or happiness-and that God Almighty has promulgated from heaven liberty, peace, and goodwill to man!
If the way to do good to my country were to render myself popular, I could easily do it. But extravagant popularity is not the road to public advantage.
I am for making of terms annual, and for sending an entire new set every year.
Where annual elections end, there slavery begins … Humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.
Be not intimidated…nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.
Among the sentiments of most powerful operation upon the human heart, and most highly honorable to the human character, are those of veneration for our forefathers, and of love for our posterity.
Life is probation: mortal man was made To solve the solemn problem – right or wrong.
In days of yore, the poet’s pen From wing of bird was plunder’d, Perhaps of goose, but now and then, From Jove’s own eagle sunder’d. But now, metallic pens disclose Alone the poet’s numbers; In iron inspiration glows, Or with the poet slumbers.
The true source of our sufferings has been our timidity.
…Cities may be rebuilt, and a People reduced to Poverty, may acquire fresh Property: But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the People once surrendered their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.
This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.
[L]iberty 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.
Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.
There is no greater guilt than the unneccessary war.
We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls.
And liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people who have a right from the frame of their nature to knowledge, as their great Creator who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings and a desire to know. But besides this they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible divine right to the most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.
There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.
When legislature is corrupted, the people are undone.
There are persons whom in my heart I despise, others I abhor. Yet I am not obliged to inform the one of my contempt, nor the other of my detestation. This kind of dissimulation…is a necessary branch of wisdom, and so far from being immoral…that it is a duty and a virtue.
No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.
It was reserved for the first settlers of New England to perform achievements equally arduous, to trample down obstructions equally formidable, to dispel dangers equally terrific, under the single inspiration of conscience.
All the perplexities, confusions, and distress in America arise, not from defects in their constitution or confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.
Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?
Vanity, I am sensible, is my cardinal vice and cardinal folly; and I am in continual danger, when in company, of being led an ignis fatuus chase by it.
A Pen is certainly an excellent Instrument, to fix a Mans Attention and to inflame his Ambition.
The jaws of power are always opened to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.
The law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions, or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men…. On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamors of the populace.
I agree with you, that in Politicks the Middle Way is none at all.
The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.-I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
I am but an ordinary Man. The Times alone have destined me to Fame-and even these have not been able to give me, much…. Yet some great Events, some cutting Expressions, some mean Hypocrisies, have at Times, thrown this Assemblage of Sloth, Sleep, and littleness into Rage a little like a Lion.
Amidst your Ardor for Greek and Latin I hope you will not forget your mother Tongue. Read Somewhat in the English Poets every day…. You will never be alone, with a Poet in your Poket. You will never have an idle Hour.
You are afraid of the one-I, of the few. We agree perfectly that the many should have a full fair and perfect Representation.-You are Apprehensive of Monarchy; I, of Aristocracy. I would therefore have given more Power to the President and less to the Senate.
But my Country has in its Wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant Office [the vicepresidency] that ever the invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived: and as I can do neither good nor Evil, I must be borne away by Others and meet the common Fate.
The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.
A boy of fifteen who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at twenty.
Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish with my country.
Education makes a greater difference between man and man than nature has made between man and brute.
As the happiness of the people is the sole end of government, so the consent of the people is the only foundation of it.
The divine science of government is the science of social happiness, and the blessings of society depend entirely on the constitutions of government.
This wasted time I have found by constant experience to be as indispensable as sleep. It cannot be employed in reading, nor even in thinking upon any serious subject. It must be wasted on trifles – doing nothing. The string of the bow must be slackened, and the bow itself laid aside.
Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding and softens the heart.
All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue.
Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.
Riches attract the attention, consideration, and congratulations of mankind.
The universal object and idol of men of letters is reputation.
Did you ever see a portrait of a great man without perceiving strong traits of pain and anxiety?
Courage and perseverance have a magic talisman, before which difficulties and obstacles vanish into air.
Liberty can not be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.
The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.
A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
But America is a great, unwieldy Body. Its Progress must be slow. It is like a large Fleet sailing under Convoy. The fleetest Sailors must wait for the dullest and slowest. Like a Coach and six-the swiftest Horses must be slackened and the slowest quickened, that all may keep an even Pace.
Let them revere nothing but religion, morality and liberty.
You bid me burn your letters. But I must forget you first.
There is something very unnatural and odious in a government a thousand leagues off. A whole government of our own choice, managed by persons whom we love, revere, and can confide in, has charms in it for which men will fight.
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.
Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.
There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
Thanks to God that he gave me stubbornness when I know I am right.
All the perplexities, confusions, and distresses in America arise, not from defects in their constitution or confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.
The new Government has my best Wishes and most fervent Prayers, for its Success and Prosperity: but whether I shall have any Thing more to do with it, besides praying for it, depends on the future suffrages of Freemen.
I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough…. The more one reads the more one sees we have to read.
The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own.
I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.
I had heard my father say that he never knew a piece of land run away or break.
Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.
The Declaration of Independence I always considered as a Theatrical Show. Jefferson ran away with all the stage effect of that; i.e. all the Glory of it.
While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.
You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.
Indeed, Mr. Jefferson, what could be invented to debase the ancient Christianism which Greeks, Romans, Hebrews and Christian factions, above all the Catholics, have not fraudulently imposed upon the public? Miracles after miracles have rolled down in torrents.
As long as Property exists, it will accumulate in Individuals and Families. As long as Marriage exists, Knowledge, Property and Influence will accumulate in Families.
Government has no right to hurt the hair of an Atheist for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices.
Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?
No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it. He will make one man ungrateful, and a hundred men his enemies, for every office he can bestow.
Negro Slavery is an evil of Colossal magnitude and I am utterly averse to the admission of Slavery into the Missouri Territories.
A natural and almost unavoidable consequence of that foul contagion in the human character – Negro slavery.
A pen is certainly an excellent instrument to fix a man’s attention and to inflame his ambition.
Virtue is not always amiable.
By my physical constitution I am but an ordinary man… Yet some great events, some cutting expressions, some mean hypocracies, have at times thrown this assemblage of sloth, sleep, and littleness into rage like a lion.
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity, and humanity, let the blackguard Paine say what he will; it is resignation to God, it is goodness itself to man.
It is folly to anticipate evils, and madness to create imaginary ones.
Omnium rerum domina, virtus. Virtue is the mistress of all things. Virtue is the master of all things. Therefore a nation that should never do wrong must necessarily govern the world. The might of virtue, the power of virtue, is not a very common topic, not so common as it should be.
The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country.
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.
Let every sluice of knowledge be opened and set a-flowing.
Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people.
Metaphysicians and politicians may dispute forever, but they will never find any other moral principle or foundation of rule or obedience, than the consent of governors and governed.
The judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that.
The proposition, that the people are the best keepers of their own liberties, is not true; they are the worst conceivable; they are no keepers at all; they can neither judge, act, think, or will, as a political body.
I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either.
One sailor will do us more good than two soldiers.
Politics are a labyrinth without a clue.
All great changes are irksome to the human mind, especially those which are attended with great dangers and uncertain effects.
They worry one another like mastiffs, scrambling for rank and pay like apes for nuts.
People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity.
Government is nothing more than the combined force of society, or the united power of the multitude, for the peace, order, safety, good and happiness of the people.
Ambition is one of the ungovernable passions of the human heart. The love of power is insatiable and uncontrollable.
It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power.
The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooist brutality, is patently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with the dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes and hand, and fly into your face and eyes.
Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion… in private self-defense.
The date will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.
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 those United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.
July 4th ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion.
Before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of education…to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.
It will be celebrated… with pomp and parade… bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.
As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] … it is declared … that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries…. The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.
We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.
The proposition that the people are the best keepers of their own liberties is not true. They are the worst conceivable, they are no keepers at all; they can neither judge, act, think, or will, as a political body.
The only way to form an army to be confided in, was a systematic discipline, by which means all men may be made heroes.
The real fabric of American society is not all those flags you see on people’s cars…it’s in the Bill of Rights and in our constitutional form of government.
Ambition is the subtlest beast of the intellectual and moral field. It is wonderfully adroit in concealing itself from its owner.
I drink no cider, but feast on Philadelphia beer.
We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!
Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart
A lawyer once told a jury that the person his client stood accused of having killed was about to walk through the courtroom door. When the jurors looked startled, the lawyer asserted that if those jurors had wondered, even for one second that the victim might appear, that belief constituted enough reasonable doubt for them to find his client innocent.
The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.
I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.
As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him.
Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion.
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.
Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de tres bon foi, believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.
The law no passion can disturb. ‘Tis void of desire and fear, lust and anger. ‘Tis mens sine affectu, written reason, retaining some measure of the divine perfection. It does not enjoin that which pleases a weak, frail man, but, without any regard to persons, commands that which is good and punishes evil in all, whether rich or poor, high or low.
But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?
Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.
To believe all men honest is folly. To believe none is something worse.
The form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.
Riches attract attention, consideration, and congratulations of mankind.
Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. What a Utopia! What a paradise this region would be.
Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences…
Pray how does your asparagus perform?
I Pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessing on THIS HOUSE, and on All that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof! President Franklin D. Roosevelt had this lettered in gold in the marble over the fireplace in the State Dining Room of the White House. The quotation above follows the capitalization used in the inscription.
Thomas Jefferson?-Still surv….
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.
Liberty, according to my metaphysics, is an intellectual quality, an attribute that belongs not to fate nor chance. Neither possesses it, neither is capable of it. There is nothing moral or immoral in the idea of it. The definition of it is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power; it can elect between objects, indifferent in point of morality, neither morally good nor morally evil.
The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.
[You have Rights] antecedent to all earthly governments: Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; Rights, derived from the Great Legislator of the universe.
Were I to define the British constitution, therefore, I should say, it is a limited monarchy, or a mixture of the three forms of government commonly known in the schools, reserving as much of the monarchical splendor, the aristocratical independency, and the democratical freedom, as are necessary that each of these powers may have a control, both in legislation and execution, over the other two, for the preservation of the subject’s liberty.
Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul.
[I]t 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.
Honor is truly sacred, but holds a lower rank in the scale of moral excellence than virtue. Indeed the former is part of the latter, and consequently has not equal pretensions to support a frame of government productive of human happiness.
Mankind will in time discover that unbridled majorities are as tyrannical and cruel as unlimited despots.
Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States … I have, throughout my whole life, held the practice of slavery in … abhorrence.
Negro slavery is an evil of colossal magnitude.
Slavery is a foul contagion in the human character.
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.
In vain are Schools, Academies, and Universities instituted, if loose Principles and licentious habits are impressed upon Children in their earliest years . . . . The Vices and Examples of the Parents cannot be concealed from the Children. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers.
A native of America who cannot read or write is . . . as rare as a comet or an earthquake.
The consequences of these institutions (The towns or districts, the congregations, the schools,and the militia.) have been, that the inhabitants, having acquired from their infancy the habit of discussing, of deliberating, and of judging of public affairs, it was in these assemblies of towns or districts that the sentiments of the people were formed in the first place, and their resolutions were taken from the beginning to the end of the disputes and the war with Great Britain.
The education here intended in not merely that of the children of the rich and noble, but of every rank and class of people, down to the lowest and the poorest. It is not too much to say that schools for the education of all should be placed at convenient distances, and maintained at the public expense.
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!
Tom, had you and I been 40 days with Moses, and beheld the great God, and even if God himself had tried to tell us that three was one … and one equals three, you and I would never have believed it. We would never fall victims to such lies.
Indeed, Mr. Jefferson, what could be invented to debase the ancient Christianism, which Greeks, Romans, Hebrews and Christian factions, above all the Catholics, have not fraudulently imposed upon the public? Miracles after miracles have rolled down in torrents, wave succeeding wave in the Catholic church, from the Council of Nicea, and long before, to this day.
What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because suspected of heresy? Remember the ‘index expurgatorius’, the inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter and the guillotine.
This is my religion … joy and exaltation in my own existence … so go ahead and snarl … bite … howl, you Calvinistic divines and all you who say I am no Christian. I say you are not Christian.
A militia law, requiring all men, or with very few exceptions besides cases of conscience, to be provided with arms and ammunition… is always a wise institution, and, in the present circumstances of our country, indispensable.
Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would.
Here, every private person is authorized to arm himself, and on the strength of this authority, I do not deny the inhabitants had a right to arm themselves at that time, for their defense, not for offense…
The United States of America…has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Muslims.
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?
Power in any Form . . . when directed only by human Wisdom and Benevolence is dangerous.
I have long been settled in my own opinion that neither Philosophy, nor Religion, nor Morality, nor Wisdom, nor Interest, will ever govern nations or Parties, against their vanity, their Pride, their Resentment, or Revenge, or their Avarice, or Ambition. Nothing but Force and Power and Strength can restrain them.
Thus, experience has ever shown, that education, as well as religion, aristocracy, as well as democracy and monarchy, are, singly, totally inadequate to the business of restraining the passions of men, of preserving a steady government, and protecting the lives, liberties, and properties of the people . . . . Religion, superstition, oaths, education, laws, all give way before passions, interest, and power, which can be resisted only by passions, interest, and power.
But before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of Education and knowledge must become so general as to raise the lower ranks of Society nearer to the higher. The Education of a Nation, instead of being confined to a few schools & Universities, for the instruction of the few, must become the National Care and expence, for the information of the Many.
There are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth: those with the commitment, and those who require the commitment of others.
It is not only the juror’s right, but his duty to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the instruction of the court.
Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence for ever!
The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or there will be no blessings.
There is nothing I dread so much as the division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution.
The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to prevent their growth in our own.
Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.
That the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of the history of the world.
The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or limited sovereignty, or absolute power is the same [whether] in a majority of a popular assembly; an aristocratic council; or oligarchical junto and a single emperor – equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody and in every respect diabolical.
We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands: we have a check upon two branches of the legislature, as each branch has upon the other two; the power I mean of electing at stated periods, one branch, which branch has the power of electing another. It becomes necessary to every subject then, to be in some degree a statesman: and to examine and judge for himself of the tendencies of political principles and measures.
Historically, usury was defined as any interest whatever on an unproductive loan.Our whole banking system I have ever abhorred, I continue to abhor, and I shall die abhorring.
I do not like the late resurrection of the Jesuits. . . . If ever any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth, and in hell, according to these historians, though, like Pascal, true Catholics, it is this company of Loyolas.
Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society.
The form of government which you admire, when its principles are pure is admirable indeed. It is productive of every Thing which is great and excellent among men. But its principles are as easily destroyed as human nature is corrupted. Such a government is only to be supported by pure religion or Austere morals.
When the Congress first met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer . . . Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue, who was at the same time a friend to his country. He . . . had heard that Mr. Duche . . . deserved that character and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche . . . might be desired to read prayers to the Congress . . . . After (he read several prayers), Mr. Duche, unexpected to everybody, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present.
Objects of the most stupendous magnitude, and measure in which the lives and liberties of millions yet unborn are intimately interested, are now before us. We are in the very midst of a revolution the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.
The die is cast. The people have passed the river and cut away the bridge. Last night three cargoes of tea were emptied into the harbor. This is the grandest event which has ever yet happened since the controversy with Britain opened.
I was very strenuous for retaining and insisting on it [law of nature], as a resource to which we might be driven by Parliament much sooner than we were aware.
A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal.
The dignity and stability of government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend so much upon an upright and skillful administration of justice, that the judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that.
To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, counties or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws.
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.
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.
Will you tell me how to prevent riches from producing luxury? Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminacy, intoxication, extravagance, vice and folly?
Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest numbers of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best. All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue.
Human government is more or less perfect as it approaches nearer or diverges farther from the imitation of this perfect plan of divine and moral government.
The question before the human race is, Whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether Priests and Kings shall rule it by fictitious Miracles? Or, in other words, whether authority is originally in the People? Or whether it has descended for 1800 Years in a succession of Popes and Bishops, or brought down from Heaven by the Holy Ghost in the form of a Dove, in a Phial of holy Oil?
If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?
Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.
We must not then depend alone upon the love of liberty in the soul of man for its preservation.
It has ever been my hobby-horse to see rising in America an empire of liberty, and a prospect of two or three hundred millions of freemen, without one noble or one king among them. You say it is impossible. If I should agree with you in this, I would still say, let us try the experiment, and preserve our equality as long as we can. A better system of education for the common people might preserve them long from such artificial inequalities as are prejudicial to society, by confounding the natural distinctions of right and wrong, virtue and vice.
[T]he liberty, the unalienable, indefeasible rights of men, the honor and dignity of human nature, the grandeur and glory of the public, and the universal happiness of individuals, were never so skillfully and successfully consulted as in that most excellent monument of human art, the common law of England.
[A] republic . . . [is] a government, in which the property of the public, or people, and of every one of them was secure and protected by law . . . implies liberty; because property cannot be secured unless the man be at liberty to acquire, use or part with it, at his discretion, and unless he have his personal liberty of life and limb, motion and rest, for that purpose.
Men must be ready, they must pride themselves and be happy to sacrifice their private pleasures, passions and interests, nay, their private friendships and dearest connections, when they stand in competition with the rights of society.
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.
National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.
Thomas Jefferson survives.
What other form of government, indeed, can so well deserve our esteem and love?
[J]udges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men.
A single assembly is liable to all the vices, follies, and frailties of an individual; subject to fits of humor, starts of passion, flights of enthusiasm, partialities, or prejudice, and consequently productive of hasty results and absurd judgments. And all these errors ought to be corrected and defects supplied by some controlling power.
A single assembly is apt to grow ambitious, and after a time will not hesitate to vote itself perpetual. This was one fault of the Long Parliament; but more remarkably of Holland, whose assembly first voted themselves from annual to septennial, then for life, and after a course of years, that all vacancies happening by death or otherwise, should be filled by themselves, without any application to constituents at all.
The deliberate union of so great and various a people in such a place, is without all partiality or prejudice, if not the greatest exertion of human understanding, the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen.
I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations … They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.
[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.
Your Letters concerning Miss N. have given me as much Concern as they ought-not knowing the Character nor what to advise, but feeling all a Fathers Tenderness, longing to be at home that I might enquire and consider and take the Care I ought.
I am well pleased with what I hear of you: The principal Satisfaction I can expect in Life, in future will be in your good Behavior and that of my other Children. My Hopes from all of you are very agreable. God grant, I may not be disappointed.
I am quite content to come home and go to Farming, be a select Man, and owe no Man any Thing but good Will. There I can get a little health and teach my Boys to be Lawyers.
If my superiors shall permit me to come home, I hope it will be soon; if they mean I should stay abroad, I am not able to say what I shall do, until I know in what capacity. One thing is certain, that I will not live long without my family.
As good government is an empire of laws, how shall your laws be made? In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.
As unbalanced parties of every description can never tolerate a free inquiry of any kind, when employed against themselves, the license, and even the most temperate freedom of the press, soon excite resentment and revenge.
There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; for the true idea of a republic is “an empire of laws, and not of men.” That, as a republic is the best of governments, so that particular arrangement of the powers of society, or in other words, that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the law, is the best of republics.
A representative assembly, although extremely well qualified, and absolutely necessary, as a branch of the legislative, is unfit to exercise the executive power, for want of two essential properties, secrecy and dispatch.
A question arises whether all the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, shall be left in this body? I think a people cannot be long free, nor ever happy, whose government is in one Assembly.
The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation: The doctrine of a supreme, intelligent sovereign of the universe, I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.
When public virtue is gone, when the national spirit is fled the republic is lost in essence, though it may still exist in form
We have no Constitution which functions in the absence of a moral people
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity
Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom. Aristotle speaks plainly to this purpose, saying, ‘that the institution of youth should be accommodated to that form of government under which they live; forasmuch as it makes exceedingly for the preservation of the present government, whatsoever it be.
The people, when they have been unchecked, have been as unjust, tyrannical, brutal, barbarous, and cruel, as any king or senate possessed of uncontrollable power. The majority has eternally, and without one exception, usurped over the rights of the minority.
The history of our Revolution will be one continued lie from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin’s electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod – and thenceforward these two conducted all the policies, negotiations, legislatures, and war.
The balance of power in a society accompanies the balance of property in land.
If national pride is ever justifiable or excusable it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information and benevolence….
Modesty is a virtue that can never thrive in public.
Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.
I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.
Farther I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites . . . & marching with them into Judea & making a conquest of that country & restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation.
Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years?
The human understanding is a revelation from its maker, which can never be disputed or doubted. There can be no scepticism, Pyrrhonism, or incredulity or infidelity here. No prophecies, no miracles are necessary to prove this celestical communication. This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three, and that one is not three nor can three be one. We can never be so certain of any prophecy, or the fulfilment of any prophecy, or of any miracle, or the design of any miracle, as we are from the revelation of nature, that is, nature’s God, that two and two are equal to four.
Politics are the divine science, after all.
It’s of more importance to community that innocence should be protected than it is that guilt should be punished
No good government but what is republican… the very definition of a republic is ‘an empire of laws, and not of men.’
What a pity it is that our Congress had not known this discovery, and that Alexander Hamilton’s projects of raising an army of fifty thousand Men, ten thousand of them to be Cavalry and his projects of sedition Laws and Alien Laws and of new taxes to support his army, all arose from a superabundance of secretions which he could not find whores enough to draw off! and that the same vapours produced his Lyes and Slanders by which he totally destroyed his party forever and finally lost his Life in the field of Honor.
There is but one element of government, and that is THE PEOPLE. From this element spring all governments. “For a nation to be free, it is only necessary that she wills it.” For a nation to be slave, it is only necessary that she wills it.
Public business must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise man decline, others will not; if honest man refuse it, others will not.
I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation.
I consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for public service.
The people “have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge- I mean of the character and conduct of their rulers.”
The destiny of America is to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to all men everywhere.
The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.
When economic power became concentrated in a few hands, then political power flowed to those possessors and away from the citizens, ultimately resulting in an oligarchy or tyranny.
Griefs upon griefs! Disappointments upon disappointments. What then? This is a gay, merry world notwithstanding.
The most sensible and jealous people are so little attentive to government that there are no instances of resistance until repeated, multiplied oppressions have placed it beyond a doubt that their rulers had formed settled plans to deprive them of their liberties; not to oppress an individual or a few, but to break down the fences of a free constitution, and deprive the people at large of all share in the government, and all the checks by which it is limited.
It is an observation of one of the profoundest inquirers into human affairs that a revolution of government is the strongest proof that can be given by a people of their virtue and good sense.
An honest, sensible, humane man, . . . laboring to do good rather than be rich, to be useful rather than make a show, living in modest simplicity . . . is really the most respectable man in society, [and] makes himself and all about him most happy.
Let frugality and industry be our virtues.
Oh! the wisdom, the foresight and the hindsight and the rightsight and the leftsight, the northsight and the southsight, and the eastsight and the westsight that appeared in that august assembly.
My History of the Jesuits is in four volumes…. This society has been a greater calamity to mankind than the French Revolution, or Napoleon’s despotism or ideology. It has obstructed progress of reformation and the improvement of the human mind in society much longer and more fatally.
My history of the Jesuits is not elegantly written, but is supported by unquestionable authorities, is very particular and very horrible. Their restoration is indeed “a step toward darkness,” cruelty, perfidy, despotism, death and I wish we were out of danger of bigotry and Jesuitism.
One useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three is a Congress.
I didn’t grow up imagining myself as an opera composer. Only once in my entire adolescence did I attend an opera. I went and saw Aida at the old Met, didn’t understand a thing about it, and thought it was pretty awful. But I think I had it in my genes without even realising it.
Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company-I mean hell.
I must study war and politics so that my children shall be free to study commerce, agriculture and other practicalities, so that their children can study painting, poetry and other fine things.
If the Christian religion, as I understand it, or as you understand it, should maintain its ground, as I believe it will, yet Platonic, Pythagoric, Hindoo, and cabalistical Christianity, which is Catholic Christianity, and which has prevailed for 1500 years, has received a mortal wound, of which the monster must finally die. Yet so strong is his constitution, that he may endure for centuries before he expires.
I would define liberty to be a power to do as we would be done by. The definition of liberty to be the power of doing whatever the law permits, meaning the civil laws, does not seem satisfactory.
Had I been chosen President again, I am certain I could not have lived another year.
We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.
. . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.
Admit that the press transferred the pontificate of Rome to Henry VIII-Admit that the press demolished in some sort the feudal system, and set the serfs and villains free; admit that the press demolished the monasteries, nunneries, and religious houses; into whose hands did all these alienated baronies, monasteries, and religious houses and lands fall? Into the hands of the democracy? Into the hands of serfs and villains? Serfs and villains were the only real democracy in those time. No. They fell into the hands of other aristocrats. . . .
Disease, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake, I’d accept with some despair, but no, you sent us Congress! Good God, Sir, was that fair?
In every society where property exists there will ever be a struggle between rich and poor. Mixed in one assembly, equal laws can never be expected; they will either be made by the member to plunder the few who are rich, or by the influence to fleece the many who are poor.
Numberless have been the systems of iniquity contrived by the great for the gratification of this passion in themselves; but in none of them were they ever more successful than in the invention and establishment of the canon and the feudal law.
By the former of these (canon law), the most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy that ever was conceived by the mind of man was framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandizement of their own order.
I never engaged in public affairs for my own interest, pleasure, envy, jealousy, avarice or ambition, or even the desire of fame
I desire no other inscription over my gravestone than: ‘Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of peace with France in the year 1800’.
I sometimes, in my sprightly moments, consider myself, in my great chair at school, as some dictator at the head of a commonwealth. In this little state I can discover all the great geniuses, all the surprising actions and revolutions of the great world in miniature. I have several renowned generals but three feet high, and several deep-projecting politicians in petticoats. I have others catching and dissecting flies, accumulating remarkable pebbles, cockleshells, etc., with as ardent curiosity as any virtuoso in the Royal Society…
This is a revolution, damn it! We’re going to have to offend somebody!
Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.
We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands; we have a check upon two branches of the legislature.
The appearance of religion only on Sunday proves that it is only an appearance.
If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?
I would quarrel with both parties, and with every individual of each, before I would subjugate my understanding, or prostitute my tongue or pen to either.
It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have the good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies and vices . . . But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.
Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees, for the people; and if the cause, the interest and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute abler and better agents, attorneys, and trustees.
We are in the the very midst of a revolution, the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.
We hold that each man is the best judge of his own interest.
Those who trade liberty for security have neither.
Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be.
Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.
Several country towns, within my observation, have at least a dozen taverns. Here the time, the money, the health and the modesty, of most that are young and of many old, are wasted. Here diseases, vicious habits, bastards and legislators are frequently spawned.
You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular; you are very much otherwise. And you can write ten times better than I can.
During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together.
Elections to office, which are the great objects of ambition, I look at with terror!
It is much easier to pull down a government, in such a conjuncture of affairs as we have seen, than to build up, at such a season as the present.
That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience.
The Constitution is …the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen
The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament, and would be secured by the study of history, law, and tradition.
The good of the governed is the end, and rewards and punishments are the means, of all government. The government of the supreme and all-perfect Mind, over all his intellectual creation, is by proportioning rewards to piety and virtue, and punishments to disobedience and vice. … The joys of heaven are prepared, and the horrors of hell in a future state, to render the moral government of the universe perfect and complete. Human government is more or less perfect, as it approaches nearer or diverges further from an imitation of this perfect plan of divine and moral government.
The dons, the bashaws, the grandees, the patricians, the sachems, the nabobs, call them by what names you please, sigh and groan and fret, and sometimes stamp and foam and curse, but all in vain. The decree is gone forth, and it cannot be recalled, that a more equal liberty than has prevailed in other parts of the earth must be established in America.
National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman, and that there is an obligation to perform such a duty absolutely irrespective of party politics or factional differences.
Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers and destroyers press upon them so fast that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachments is to, grow every day more encroaching; like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour.
We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our Liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections. If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party through artifice or corruption, the Government may be the choice of a party for its own ends, not of the nation for the national good.
Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researchers, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors.
The happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue.
What havoc, said I to myself, would these manners make in America! Our governors, our judges, our senators or representatives, and even our ministers, would be appointed by harlots, for money; and their judgments, decrees, and decisions, be sold to repay themselves, or, perhaps, to procure the smiles of profligate females.
If we take a survey of the greatest actions…in the world…we shall find the authors of them all to have been persons whose Brains had been shaken out of their natural position.
This oration will be read five hundred years hence with as much rapture as it was heard. It ought to be read at the end of every century, and indeed at the end of every year, forever and ever.
Shall we have recourse to the art of printing? But this has not destroyed property or aristocracy or corporations or paper wealth in England or America, or diminished the influence of either; on the contrary, it has multiplied aristocracy and diminished democracy.
Have you ever found in history, one single example of a nation, thoroughly corrupted, that was afterwards restored to virtue? And without virtue there can be no political liberty.
America is destined to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, unless you have a coupon for a free lunch…or someone gives you a lunch…never mind.
It would be an absurdity for jurors to be required to accept the judge’s view of the law, against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience.
The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many.
Conclude not from all this that I have renounced the Christian religion. . . . Far from it. I see in every page something to recommend Christianity in its purity, and something to discredit its corruptions. . . . The ten commandments and the sermon on the mount contain my religion.
A taste for literature and a turn for business, united in the same person, never fails to make a great man.
Whenever serious art loses track of its roots in the vernacular, then it begins to atrophy.
I shall have the liberty to think for myself.
If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, and that a free country!
I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
The rich, the well-born, and the able, acquire an influence among the people that will soon be too much for simple honesty and plain sense, in a house of representatives. The most illustrious of them must, therefore, be separated from the mass, and placed by themselves in a senate; this is, to all honest and useful intents, an ostracism.
I request that they may be considered in confidence, until the members of Congress are fully possessed of their contents, and shall have had opportunity to deliberate on the consequences of their publication; after which time, I submit them to your wisdom.
As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.
I read my eyes out and cant read half enough. The more one reads the more one sees we have to read.
I Pray Heaven to Bestow The Best of Blessing on THIS HOUSE, and on All that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof!
The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
Fear is the foundation of most government.
They shall not be expected to acknowledge us until we have acknowledged ourselves.
Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.
It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.
Power must never be trusted without a check.
Human passions unbridled by morality and religion…would break the stronges cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.
I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.
But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.
I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine. (12 May 1780)
The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly [with your God]. This is enough.
The whole drama of the world is such tragedy that I am weary of the spectacle.
Thanks to God that he gave me stubborness when I know I am right.
The way to secure liberty is to place it in the people’s hands, that is, to give them the power at all times to defend it in the legislature and in the courts of justice.
The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
Always stand on principle….even if you stand alone.
I wish I could lay down beside her and die too.
I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough…the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. – I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. – Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.
Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.
Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
The happiness of society is the end of government.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.
Fear is the foundation of most governments.
A government of laws, and not of men.
Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.
Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak.
The Declaration of Independence I always considered as a theatrical show. Jefferson ran away with all the stage effect of that… and all the glory of it.
I must not write a word to you about politics, because you are a woman.
I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.
The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations.
There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
Power always thinks… that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.
When people talk of the freedom of writing, speaking or thinking I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.
In politics the middle way is none at all.
Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.
While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill – little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.
All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.
My country has contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.
Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society.
The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.
A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man.
I have accepted a seat in the House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and to the ruin of our children. I give you this warning that you may prepare your mind for your fate.
The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries.
Genius is sorrow’s child.
Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear and imagination – everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.
The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws.
Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power.
As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.
The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.
God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.
You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.
We cannot insure success, but we can deserve it.
To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.
Everything in life should be done with reflection.
If worthless men are sometimes at the head of affairs, it is, I believe, because worthless men are at the tail and the middle
Admire and adore the Author of the telescopic universe, love and esteem the work, do all in your power to lessen ill, and increase good, but never assume to comprehend.
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.
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.
I am determined to control events, not be controlled by them.
But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.
The only thing most people do better than anyone else is read their own handwriting.
You may have the bishop pair but I have the ultimate advantage; I am the better player!
When you see a good move, sit on your hands and find a better one.
But all provisions that He (God) has made for the gratification of our senses…are much inferior to the provision, the wonderful provision that He has made for the gratification of our nobler powers of intelligence and reason. He has given us reason to find out the truth, and the real design and true end of our existence.
Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.