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.
First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private charter gave effulgence to his public virtues. Such was the man for whom our nation morns
John Marshall, official eulogy of George Washington, delivered by Richard Henry Lee, December 26, 1799
Give me liberty or give me death.
Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind.
James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.
Patrick Henry, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
How much more do they deserve our reverence and praise, whose lives are devoted to the formation of institutions, which, when they and their children are mingled in the common dust, may continue to cherish the principles and the practice of liberty in perpetual freshness and vigour.
Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
How prone all human institutions have been to decay; how subject the best-formed and most wisely organized governments have been to lose their check and totally dissolve; how difficult it has been for mankind, in all ages and countries, to preserve their dearest rights and best privileges, impelled as it were by an irresistible fate of despotism.
James Monroe, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 10, 1788
I am commonly opposed to those who modestly assume the rank of champions of liberty, and make a very patriotic noise about the people. It is the stale artifice which has duped the world a thousand times, and yet, though detected, it is still successful. I love liberty as well as anybody. I am proud of it, as the true title of our people to distinction above others; but...I would guard it by making the laws strong enough to protect it.
Fisher Ames, letter to George Richard Minot, June 23, 1789
I am free to acknowledge that His Powers are full great, and greater than I was disposed to make them. Nor, Entre Nous, do I believe they would have been so great had not many of the members cast their eyes towards General Washington as President; and shaped their Ideas of the Powers to be given to a President, by their opinions of his Virtue.
Pierce Butler, letter to Weedon Butler, May 5, 1778
I am not a Virginian, but an American.
Patrick Henry, speech in the First Continental Congress, September 6, 1774
I am not influenced by the expectation of promotion or pecuniary reward. I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary for the public good, become honorable by being necessary.
Nathan Hale, remark to Captain William Hull, who had attempted to dissuade him from volunteering for a spy mission for General Washington, September, 1776
I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot and an abhorrence of slavery.
Patrick Henry, letter to Robert Pleasants, January 18, 1773
I have no notion of being hanged for half treason. When a subject draws his sword against his prince, he must cut his way through, if he means afterward to sit down in safety.
Colonel Joseph Reed, to Mr. Pettit, September 29, 1775
I have not yet begun to fight!
John Paul Jones, response to enemy demand to surrender, September 23, 1779
I hope some future day will bring me the happiness of seeing my family again collected under our own roof, happy in ourselves and blessed in each other.
Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, March 15, 1784
I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.
Nathan Hale, before being hanged by the British, September 22, 1776
I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.
John Paul Jones, letter to M. Le Ray de Chaumont, November 16, 1778
If all the delegates named for this Convention at Philadelphia are present, we will ever have seen, even in Europe, an assembly more respectable for the talents, knowledge, disinterestedness, and patriotism of those who compose it.
Otto (French charge d'affaires), letter to the Comite de Montmorin, April 10, 1787
If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.
Samuel Adams, letter to Elbridge Gerry, November 27, 1780