Founding Fathers Quotes
Look for definitive Founding Fathers quotes from the likes of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson or John Jay to get a feel for the birth of our nation. Historians usually regard these history-making men to be inner circle of the group, while all signatories to the Constitution can lay claim to being one of the nation’s founders. Which Founding Fathers quotes are the most poignant?
- John Adams in a letter to Zabdiel Adams. Adams was preoccupied with the roles of liberty and faith. Understanding that it took a people strongly grounded in an understanding of there being a deity, he encouraged those contemplating a call to the ministry. One such example is this exerpt from a letter to Zabdiel. “Statesmen my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand...The only foundation of a free constitution, is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people, in a greater measure, than they have it now, they may change their rulers, and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies. You cannot therefore be more pleasantly, or usefully employed than in the way of your profession, pulling down the strong holds of Satan. This is not cant, but the real sentiment of my heart.”
- George Washington. “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Founding Fathers quotes are usually very brief but hard-hitting. In this instance, too, Washington does not disappoint. He realizes that the same zeal that created the nation could also very easily tear it apart.
- James Madison in the Federalist Papers. “Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust their people with arms.” Even today the right to carry weapons is a hot-button issue. While some may point to hunting as the reason for the constitutional right, Madison makes a different point. He equates a government's loyalty to and trust in its people to the amount of liberty it gives them. The ultimate freedom, he believed, was the right to be armed and offer resistance.
- Benjamin Franklin on November 11, 1755. “They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Franklin's take on today's Patriot Act is frequently fodder for debate. He regarded a voluntary abdication of freedoms as treasonous to the nation. In the same way, he also saw the slippery slope of giving away one right alone, which would be little more than a prelude to losing even more rights.
- Thomas Jefferson. The Founding Fathers quotes continue with a stern warning to stay the course. Jefferson saw this urgency particularly in the arena of money. Even though the government would need money to remain operational, taxes could indeed land the people back to the times of English rule. “This is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of society is reduced to mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering... And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.”
Founding Fathers quotes are as educational as they are sobering. In some cases, it is almost fair to consider these utterings to be prophetic.