"Useless laws weaken the necessary laws."
-- Charles de Montesquieu
"The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth."
-- George Mason
"Its soul, its climate, its equality, liberty, laws, people, and manners. My God! how little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!"
-- Thomas Jefferson
“There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil.”
-- Cicero, De Re Publica, Book III
"The instruments, by which [government] must act, are either the authority of the Laws or force. If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; ... and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government, there is an end to liberty."
"[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community."
-- Benjamin Rush, letter to David Ramsay, 1788
“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’”
— Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
"It (the Declaration of Independence) stands, and must forever stand alone, a beacon on the summit of the mountain, to which all the inhabitants of the earth may turn their eyes for a genial and saving light till time shall be lost in eternity, and this globe itself dissolve, nor leave a wreck behind. It stands forever, a light of admonition to the rulers of men, a light of salvation and redemption to the oppressed ... (as the delineation of) the boundries of their respective rights and duties, founded in the laws of nature, and of nature's God."
-- John Quincy Adams
"Those rights, then, which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolable. On the contrary, no human legislation has power to abridge or destroy them, unless the owner himself commit some act that amounts to forfeiture."
-- William Blackstone
"Courts are the mere instruments of the law, and can will nothing ... Judicial power is never exercised for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the Judge; always for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the Legislature; or, in other words, to the will of the law."
-- John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court
“Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.”
-- Frederic Bastiat, The Law
"The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it."
-- James Wilson, Of the Study of Law in the United States, 1790
"If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws -- the first growing out of the last. ... A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government."
-- Alexander Hamilton, Essay in the American Daily Advertiser, 1794
"Fellow-citizens, the ark of your covenant is the Declaration of Independence. Your Mount Ebal, is the confederacy of separate state sovereignties, and your Mount Gerizim is the Constitution of the United States. In that scene of tremendous and awful solemnity, narrated in the Holy Scriptures, there is not a curse pronounced against the people, upon Mount Ebal, not a blessing promised them upon Mount Gerizim, which your posterity may not suffer or enjoy, from your and their adherence to, or departure from, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, practically interwoven in the Constitution of the United States. Lay up these principles, then, in your hearts, and in your souls - bind them for signs upon your hands, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes - teach them to your children, speaking of them when sitting in your houses, when walking by the way, when lying down and when rising up - write them upon the doorplates of your houses, and upon your gates - cling to them as to the issues of life - adhere to them as to the cords of your eternal salvation. So may your children's children at the next return of this day of jubilee, after a full century of experience under your national Constitution, celebrate it again in the full enjoyment of all the blessings recognized by you in the commemoration of this day, and of all the blessings promised to the children of Israel upon Mount Gerizim, as the reward of obedience to the law of God."
-- John Quincy Adams, the Jubilee of the U.S. Constitution: a Discourse
"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court even can do much to help it."
-- Judge Learned Hand
"No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law."
-- The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
"Human law is law only by virtue of its accordance with right reason; and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence."
-- Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-Ilae, q. xciii, art. 3, ad 2m.
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Published by Tom & Siena Hoefling