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125 James Madison Quotes on Liberty and Rights

James Madison Quotes: There is always something to gain from famous people in history, and this compilation of James Madison quotes is not lacking in words of wisdom from the fourth president of the United States. James Madison was a Founding Father, the author of the Bill of Rights, and the last living signatory of the United States Constitution. He was also the author of the Declaration of Independence. This list of famous quotes and lessons shows how his ideas and thoughts changed over the course of his presidency. We’ve put them here for your convenience.

James Madison Quotes on Liberty and Rights

Are You More Appreciative of Your Rights as a Result of Reading These James Madison Quotes? Every person in the world is entitled to their own set of rights, and these rights come with a set of responsibilities and values that we must uphold. The people in our past fought for the freedom and the rights that we have today, and we have a responsibility to value and protect those freedoms and rights no matter what. Because of James Madison, we understand that we should never waver over the core principles that guide us. If we want to be successful and take leadership roles in our own societies, we need to be brave and assert what we already know to be right. Are you more conscious of the hardships that our ancestors had to endure in order for us to be able to enjoy the liberties that we do today? What steps do you take to safeguard not only your own rights but also those of other people?

1. “The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.” — James Madison

2. “It degrades from the equal rank of citizens all those whose opinions in religion do not bend to those of the legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the inquisition, it differs from it only in degree.” — James Madison

3. “That diabolical hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such business.” — James Madison

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4. “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” — James Madison

5. “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.” — James Madison

6. “A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole.” — James Madison

7. “Philosophy is common sense with big words.” — James Madison

James Madison Quotes

8. “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.” — James Madison

9. “It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute.” — James Madison

10. “The invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.” — James Madison

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11. “The religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man.” — James Madison

12. “In civilized communities, property as well as personal rights are the essential object of the laws, which encourage industry by securing the enjoyment of its fruits—that industry from which property results, and that enjoyment which consists not merely in its immediate use, but in its posthumous destination to objects of choice and of kindred affection. In a just and free government, therefore, the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectively guarded.” — James Madison

13. “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” — James Madison

14. “Foreigners have been encouraged to settle among you.” — James Madison

15. “When, indeed, religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force like that of other passions is increased by the sympathy of a multitude. But enthusiasm is only a temporary state of religion, and while it lasts, will hardly be seen with pleasure at the helm. Even in its coolest state, it has been much more often a motive to oppression than a restraint from it.” — James Madison

16. “Better also to disarm in the same way, the precedent of chaplainships for the army and navy, than erect them into a political authority in matters of religion.” — James Madison

17. “The establishment of the championship to congress is a palpable violation of constitutional principles.” — James Madison

18. “In suits at common law, trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.” — James Madison

19. “The purpose of the separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” — James Madison

20. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” — James Madison

21. “The tendency to usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against by an entire abstinence of the government from interference in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sector against trespasses on its legal rights by others.” — James Madison

22. “The advancement of science and the diffusion of information is the best aliment to true liberty.” — James Madison

23. “The means of defense against foreign danger has always been the instruments of tyranny at home.” — James Madison

24. “The happy union of these states is a wonder; their constitution, a miracle; their example, the hope of liberty throughout the world.” — James Madison

25. “The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.” — James Madison

26. “We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it.” — James Madison

27. “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed—unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” — James Madison

28. “Regarding legislative assemblies, the number ought at most to be kept within a certain limit in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude. In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason.” — James Madison

29. “Testimony of all ages forces us to admit that war is among the most dangerous enemies to liberty, and that the executive is the branch most favored by it of all the branches of power.” — James Madison

30. “Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free person.” — James Madison

31. “We should never think of separation except for repeated and enormous violations.” — James Madison

32. “Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.” — James Madison

33. “The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state.” — James Madison

34. “Wherever the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression.” — James Madison

35. “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.” — James Madison

36. “In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate governments. Hence, a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time, that each will be controlled by itself.” — James Madison

37. “Respect for character is always diminished in proportion to the number among whom the blame or praise is to be divided.” — James Madison

38. “Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.” — James Madison

39. “In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the meanings of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people.” — James Madison

40. “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” — James Madison

41. “Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected.” — James Madison

42. “Is there no virtue among us? If there are not, we are in a wretched situation.” — James Madison

43. “Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.” — James Madison

44. “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.” — James Madison

45. “The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both.” — James Madison

46. “How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?” — James Madison

47. “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” — James Madison

48. “A sincere and steadfast cooperation in promoting such a reconstruction of our political system would provide for the permanent liberty and happiness of the United States.” — James Madison

49. “I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom.” — James Madison

50. “The people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived.” — James Madison

51. “So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities; that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.” — James Madison

52. “Equal laws protecting equal rights—the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country.” — James Madison

53. “In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other, in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of the country and number of people comprehended under the same government.” — James Madison

54. “If there is sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men; so that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.” — James Madison

55. “The operations of the Federal Government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the state governments, in times of peace and security.” — James Madison

56. “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the constitution which granted a right to congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” — James Madison

57. “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” — James Madison

58. “Freedom has more often been lost in small steps by progressive incrementalism, than it has been by catastrophic upheavals such as violence or war.” — James Madison

59. “The internal effects of a mutable policy poisons the blessings of liberty itself.” — James Madison

60. “They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.” — James Madison

61. “It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points.” — James Madison

62. “Christianity]existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them.” — James Madison

63. “They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” — James Madison

64. “The danger of disturbing the public tranquillity by interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still more serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions to the decision of the whole society.” — James Madison

65. “Liberty and order will never be perfectly safe until a trespass on the constitution provisions for either shall be felt with the same keenness that resents an invasion of the dearest rights.” — James Madison

66. “The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” — James Madison

67. “The Presidency alone unites the conjectures of the public.” — James Madison

68. “A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.” — James Madison

69. “What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, first, destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedemonians; or second, it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or third, it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or fourth, it overflows, by emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable.” — James Madison

70. “A good government implies two things—first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.” — James Madison

71. “A certain degree of preparation for war affords also the best security for the continuance of peace.” — James Madison

72. “Let me recommend the best medicine in the world for a long journey at a mild season through a pleasant country in easy stages.” — James Madison

73. “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country.” — James Madison

74. “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” — James Madison

75. “As the war was just in its origin and necessary and noble in its objects, we can reflect with a proud satisfaction that in carrying it on no principle of justice or honor, no usage of civilized nations, no precept of courtesy or humanity, have been infringed.” — James Madison

76. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” — James Madison

77. “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.” — James Madison

78. “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.” — James Madison

79. “Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.” — James Madison

80. “Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” — James Madison

81. “Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” — James Madison

82. “Mankind is indebted for having dispelled the clouds which so long encompassed religion, for disclosing her genuine lustre, and disseminating her salutary doctrines.” — James Madison

83. “Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government.” — James Madison

84. “In Republics, the great danger is that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.” — James Madison

85. “No distinction seems to be more obvious than that between spiritual and temporal matters. Yet, whenever they have been made objects of legislation, they have clashed and contended with each other, till one or the other has gained supremacy.” — James Madison

86. “In our governments, the real power lies in the majority of the community.” — James Madison

87. “Those who are to conduct a war cannot, in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded.” — James Madison

88. “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the governor of the universe.” — James Madison

89. “War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.” — James Madison

90. “Industry and virtue have been promoted by mutual emulation and mutual inspection; commerce and the arts have flourished; and I cannot help attributing those continual exertions of genius which appear among you to the inspiration of liberty, and that love of fame and knowledge which always accompany it.” — James Madison

91. “Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by ecclesiastical bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.” — James Madison

92. “Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded against.” — James Madison

93. “The constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of declaring a state of war and the power of raising armies. A delegation of such powers to the President would have struck, not only at the fabric of our constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments. The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.” — James Madison

94. “It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents.” — James Madison

95. “The state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operations of this government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a Federal Government admit the state legislatures to be sure guardians of the people’s liberty.” — James Madison

96. “When men exercise their reason coolly and freely, on a variety of distinct questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions on some of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their opinions if they are so to be called, will be the same.” — James Madison

97. “Among the Romans, it was a standing maxim to excite a war whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.” — James Madison

98. “The security intended to the general liberty consists in the frequent election and in the rotation of the members of Congress.” — James Madison

99. “The accumulation of all powers—legislative, executive, and judiciary—in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” — James Madison

100. “The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from the civil government and exempt from its cognizance—that a connection between them is injurious to both.” — James Madison

101. “A zeal for different opinions concerning religion has divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.” — James Madison

102. “The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government.” — James Madison

103. “War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason.” — James Madison

104. “It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.” — James Madison

105. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” — James Madison

106. “Democracies have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general, being as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.” — James Madison

107. “During almost fifteen centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.” — James Madison

108. “That this liberty of the press is often carried to excess; that it has sometimes degenerated into licentiousness, is seen and lamented, but the remedy has not yet been discovered. Perhaps it is an evil inseparable from the good with which it is allied; perhaps it is a shoot which cannot be stripped from the stalk without wounding vitally the plant from which it is torn. However desirable those measures might be which might be correct without enslaving the press, they have never yet been devised in America.” — James Madison

109. “In no instance have the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.” — James Madison

110. “Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done.” — James Madison

111. “The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad.” — James Madison

112. “There remains, in some parts of the country, a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between government and religion neither can be duly supported.” — James Madison

113. “No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” — James Madison

114. “If we are to be one nation in any respect, it clearly ought to be in respect to other nations.” — James Madison

115. “There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermingle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation.” — James Madison

116. “Constant apprehension of war has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.” — James Madison

117. “The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge the wants or feelings of the day laborer.” — James Madison

118. “War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” — James Madison

119. “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the church from the state.” — James Madison

120. “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.” — James Madison

121. “A well-instructed person alone can permanently free people.” — James Madison

122. “In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not the executive department. The trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.” — James Madison

123. “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power.” — James Madison

124. “The rights of persons and the rights of property, are the objects for the protection of which the government was instituted.” — James Madison

125. “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” — James Madison