"A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice."
-- Thomas Paine, 1792
“If we must have an enemy at the head of Government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures.”
-- Alexander Hamilton
James Madison: Guarding against government and the injustice of special interests, parties and sects
"It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.
In the extended republic of the United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties, and sects which it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good."
--James Madison, Federalist #51
“Nay, I believe we may advance one step farther, and 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 equal liberty and public virtue, is to make the acquisition of land easy to every member of society; to make a division of 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 believe these principles have been felt, if not understood, in the Massachusetts Bay, from the beginning.”
--John Adams, Letter to James Sullivan, May 26, 1776
"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
"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."
-- John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
We're One Nation Under God.
The first sworn duty of every officer of government is to protect the God-given, unalienable, rights to life, liberty, and private property of every person, from creation to natural death.
The God-given institution of one man-one woman marriage and the natural family must be protected.
The right of the people to Keep and Bear Arms shall not be infringed.
Our national sovereignty, security, and borders must be defended.
Our republican form of representative self-government must be adhered to.
The oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States must be fulfilled.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The hand entrusted with power becomes…the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity."
-- Wendell PHILLIPS, 1852
"There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises. To say that the United States should be answerable for twenty-five millions of dollars without knowing whether the ways and means can be provided, and without knowing whether those who are to succeed us will think with us on the subject, would be rash and unjustifiable."
-- James Madison, Speech in Congress, 1790
"A man with God is always in the majority."
-- John Knox
"Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm."
-- Abraham Lincoln
"Impress upon children the truth that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own. "
-- Daniel Webster
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
-- John Quincy Adams
"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the great body of our country. Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom & harmony."
--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1801
The triumph of the Convention of 1787 is that in raising a standard to which the wise and honest could repair, it also raised one that met the threefold test of legitimacy, popularity, and viability.
One reason the Convention was able to strike the right balance between the urge to lead the people and the need to obey them, and between the urge to be noble and the need to be practical, was the disposition of most delegates to be “whole men” on stern principles and “halfway men” on negotiable details. Another was the way in which it worked with familiar details – the State Constitutions, the Articles of Confederation, the best of the colonial experiences – and thus presented the people with a constitution that surprised but did not shock.
Rejoicing in philosophy but despising ideology, putting a high value on reason but an even higher one on experience, interested in the institutions of other times and peoples but confident that their own were better, unafraid to contemplate the mysteries of the British Constitution but aware, in Wilson’s words, that it “cannot be our model,” the Framers kept faith with the American past even as they prepared to make a break with it. Indeed, the excellence of their handiwork is as much a tribute to their sense of continuity as to their talent for creative statesmanship. The Constitution was an ingenious plan of government chiefly in the sense that its authors made a careful selection of familiar techniques and institutions, then fitted them together with an unerring eye for form. It had very little novelty in it, and that, we with the aid of hindsight, was one of its strongest points.
A final reason – and also perhaps the most heartening lesson the Convention presents to supporters of Constitutional republics, was the process of give-and-take through which these masterful public men managed to create a Constitution that could be carried home with some confidence to every part of a sprawling country. While the process may have often seemed unnecessarily erratic and time wasting to those trapped in its midst, we can see that it was the only way in which self respecting representatives of free men could have pieced together a set of operational rules of government and, at the same time, settled their outstanding political differences. In doing these things so well, and so acceptably to all but a handful of their colleagues, the men of 1787 met the supreme test of the democratic assembly; they proved beyond a doubt that the whole was wiser than the parts, that the collective was more creative than any individual in it. No single man, nor even the most artfully constructed team of four or five, could have provided so wisely for the Constitutional needs of the American people as did the logic of reason that operated through the whole Convention.
All in all, it was a convincing demonstration of the truth that the highest political wisdom in a Constitutional republic lies in the assembly rather than in the individual lawmaker.
From Clinton Rossiter, 1787 The Grand Convention W.W. Norton & Co., 1966
"My principle is to do whatever is right and leave the consequences to Him who has the disposal of them."
-- Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1813
"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."
-- Thomas Jefferson