America’s Founding Fathers did not only shape America into what it is today, form a truly exceptional democracy, and create a system of government that has been a force of stability in the world for over 200 years; they provided us with everlasting tidbits of wisdom and insight on life and the rights that mankind is endowed with by virtue of birth. Over 200 years later, we as Americans can look upon the quotes our Founders left behind and find inspiration and guidance on both political and personal matters. The Founding Fathers left us messages regarding our freedoms, their vision for America, and the responsibilities we have to guard those freedoms and this exceptional vision. The Founders were also quite astute on matters of life and wisdom. Some of my favorite inspirational quotes come from our Founding Fathers, and I am happy to share them here.

You may have already read some of the quotes, in your history classes or your college studies, but some may be new. However, it is important to note and to ultimately be wary of where you find a quote and its source. If the quote cannot be traced back to the Founders’ actual papers or writings, it probably is a mis-attributed quote. Don’t fall into the trap, and rest assured that these ten quotes here are properly sourced!

On Natural Rights

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” –Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted”, 1775

On Government

And it is to secure our just rights that we resort to government at all.” –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to F. D’Ivernois, February 6th, 1795

“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” –James Madison, Speech before Virginia State Constitutional Convention, December 1st, 1829

On Gun Rights as a Defense Against Tyranny

“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.” –Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 28

Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually.” –George Mason, Speech at the Virginia Constitutional Ratifying Convention, June 14th, 1778

On Liberty

“The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a stake, to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.” –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Duane, March 28th, 1811

On Taxes

“There is no part of the administration of government that requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The man who understands those principles best will be least likely to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always be the least burdensome.” –Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 35

On Friendship

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.” –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Benjamin Rush, August 17th, 1811

“Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.” –Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac

On Knowledge

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” –George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

Cat B
FFL Contributor