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Founding Fathers Quotes

Here are quotes by America's founding fathers, quotations about the American Revolution, and assorted remarks related to America's founding. For more history, see Founding Fathers. If you have an iPhone, you might be interested in this slick Founding Fathers Quotes app.

To browse quotes by specific founding fathers, choose one of the following pages. For other founding fathers quotations, scroll down.


John Adams Quotes


Benjamin Franklin Quotes


Alexander Hamilton Quotes


Thomas Jefferson Quotes


James Madison Quotes


Thomas Paine Quotes


George Washington Quotes



Founding Fathers Quotes

'Tis done. We have become a nation.

Benjamin Rush, on the ratification of the Constitution, letter to Boudinot, July 9, 1788

Founding Fathers Quotes

A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.

Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

Founding Fathers Quotes

A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained.

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

Founding Fathers Quotes

A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy — "A republic," replied the Doctor, "if you can keep it."

Anonymous, from Farrand's Records of the Federal Convention of 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

All good men wish the entire abolition of slavery, as soon as it can take place with safety to the public, and for the lasting good of the present wretched race of slaves. The only possible step that could be taken towards it by the convention was to fix a period after which they should not be imported.

Oliver Ellsworth, The Landholder, December 10, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish! I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood; but, if this War should continue, I wish to have the most active part in it.

John Paul Jones, letter to Gouverneur Morris, Sept 2, 1782

Founding Fathers Quotes

An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.

John Marshall, McCullough v. Maryland, 1819

Founding Fathers Quotes

And it is no less true, that personal security and private property rest entirely upon the wisdom, the stability, and the integrity of the courts of justice.

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

Founding Fathers Quotes

Another not unimportant consideration is, that the powers of the general government will be, and indeed must be, principally employed upon external objects, such as war, peace, negotiations with foreign powers, and foreign commerce. In its internal operations it can touch but few objects, except to introduce regulations beneficial to the commerce, intercourse, and other relations, between the states, and to lay taxes for the common good. The powers of the states, on the other hand, extend to all objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, and liberties, and property of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state.

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

Founding Fathers Quotes

As our president bears no resemblance to a king so we shall see the Senate has no similitude to nobles. First, not being hereditary, their collective knowledge, wisdom, and virtue are not precarious. For by these qualities alone are they to obtain their offices, and they will have none of the peculiar qualities and vices of those men who possess power merely because their father held it before them.

Tench Coxe, An American Citizen, No.2, September 28, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.

Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

Besides, to lay and collect internal taxes in this extensive country must require a great number of congressional ordinances, immediately operation upon the body of the people; these must continually interfere with the state laws and thereby produce disorder and general dissatisfaction till the one system of laws or the other, operating upon the same subjects, shall be abolished.

Federal Farmer, Antifederalist Letter, October 10, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

But the safety of the people of America against dangers from foreign force depends not only on their forbearing to give just causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to invite hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are pretended as well as just causes of war.

John Jay, Federalist No. 4

Founding Fathers Quotes

Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war let it begin here.

Captain John Parker, commander of the militiamen at Lexington, Massachusetts, on siting British Troops (attributed), April 19, 1775

Founding Fathers Quotes

Dr. Franklin, looking towards the president's chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising sun from a setting sun. "I have," said he, "often and often in the course of this session and the vicissitude of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."

Anonymous anecdote from the Constitutional Convention

Founding Fathers Quotes

Eloquence has been defined to be the art of persuasion. If it included persuasion by convincing, Mr. Madison was the most eloquent man I ever heard.

Patrick Henry, on James Madison, November 12, 1790

Founding Fathers Quotes

Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.

Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788

Founding Fathers Quotes

Every person seems to acknowledge his greatness. He blends together the profound politician with the scholar.

William Pierce, on James Madison, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both.

James Wilson



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