Selected Quotes of
James Madison

A pure democracy is a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person.

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country.

All men having power ought to be mistrusted.

As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government. [unverified]

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.

Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power.

No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

Such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.

The Constitution of the United States was created by the people of the United States composing the respective states, who alone had the right.

The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.

The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to an uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.

The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.

The loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad.

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.

The proposed Constitution is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal constitution; but a composition of both.

The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries. (Unverified by any original source.)

We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.

What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?

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