Force (is) the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.
Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of person under the protection of habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected – these principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us.
Government can do something for the people only in proportion as it can do something to the people.
He [King George III] has erected a multitude of New Offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.
Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.
Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us.
I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple. Were we directed from Washington when to sow, when to reap, we should soon want bread.
I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. It places the governors indeed more at their ease at the expense of the people. The late rebellion in Massachusetts has given much more alarm than I think it should have done. Calculate that one rebellion in thirteen States in the course of eleven years is but one for each State in a century and a half. No country should be so long without one. Nor will any degree of power in the hands of the government prevent insurrections. In England, where the hand of power is heavier than with us, there are seldom half a dozen years without an insurrection. In France, where it is still heavier but less despotic, as Montesquieu supposes, than in some other countries and where there are always two or three hundred thousand men ready to crush insurrections, there have been three in the course of the three years I have been here, in every one of which greater numbers were engaged than in Massachusetts.
I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are preserved to the states or to the people.' ... To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition. The incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill (chartering the first Bank of the United States), have not, been delegated to the United States by the Constitution.
I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people' (10th Amendment). To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible to any definition.
I discharge every person under punishment or prosecution under the Sedition Law, because I considered, and now consider, that law to be a nullity as absolute and palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image.
I do believe that General Washington had not a firm confidence in the durability of our government. He was naturally distrustful of men, and inclined to gloomy apprehensions; and I was ever persuaded that a belief that we must at length end in something like a British constitution, had some weight in his adoption of the ceremonies of levees, birthdays, pompous meetings with Congress, and other forms of the same character, calculated to prepare us gradually for a change which he believed possible, and to let it come on with as little shock as might be to the public mind.
I do verily believe that if the principle were to prevail of a common law being in force in the United States (which principle possesses the general government at once of all the powers of the state governments, and reduces us to a single consolidated government), it would become the most corrupt government on the earth.
I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people, which produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.
I hope we shall take warning from the example of England and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our Government to trial, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
I never did, or countenanced, in public life, a single act inconsistent with the strictest good faith; having never believed there was one code of morality for a public, and another for a private man.
I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
I place economy among the first and most important virtues and public debt as the greatest dangers to be feared ... We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our choice between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude ... The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the disposition of public money. We are endeavoring to reduce the government to the practice of rigid economy to avoid burdening the people ...
I tolerate with utmost latitude the right of others to differ with me in opinion without imputing to them criminality. I know too well all the weaknesses and uncertainty of human reason to wonder at its different results.