Upon President’s Day every year – and particularly in election years – I go back and search for wisdom and guidance among the words of our immortals. These men created perhaps the greatest possibility in human history – that all men were born free and equal. They then declared it to be true and took up arms in order to prove it.
Much has changed since that time. Initially, additional freedoms were bestowed until all were truly free. Since that time, however – slowly and methodically and often for the most palatable of reasons – freedoms have been chipped away.
We were warned not to allow this to occur. Yet, election after election, we continue not to listen. Perhaps if more people were to educate themselves about both the concerns and the advice handed down, we could put America back on sound footing.
Here, then, are the words which we’d do well to heed…
“Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin
“… God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)
“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained _ we must fight!” Patrick Henry
“(T)he foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; …the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…” George Washington, First Inaugural, April 30 1789
“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams
“Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right”
“Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God? Thomas Jefferson
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
“The citizens of the U.S. are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society”
“We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” James Madison
“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” Thomas Jefferson
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” William Pitt in the House of Commons November 18, 1783
“We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicity. Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.
QUOTES FROM FOUNDING FATHERS AND REVOLUTIONARY THINKERS ON THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS
A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.
Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.
One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.
Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1796. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.
Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774_1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
Thomas Jefferson, Proposed Virginia Constitution, 1776, Jefferson Papers 344.
“The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world not destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside … Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them … the weak will become prey to the strong.”
Thomas Paine, Thoughts on Defensive War
“Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust their people with arms.”
“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms . . .”
“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…I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor…”
George Mason, Virginia Constitution Convention
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in 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. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.”
Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787)
“Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”
Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
RICHARD HENRY LEE
“A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves … and include all men capable of bearing arms.”
Richard Henry Lee – Senator, First Congress
“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms…”
“Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.”
Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts
“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference they deserve a place of honor with all that is good.”
“A free people ought not only to be armed…”
“The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
“Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?”
March 23, 1775:
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.” Thomas Jefferson
“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” Thomas Jefferson
“You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe” John Adams – 2nd Pres.
“The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.” Thomas Jefferson
“Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the world that a free man, contending for his liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.” George Washington, July 2, 1776
“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the priciples of its Constitution.” Thomas Jefferson
“Democracies have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.” James Madison
“A generous parent would have said, ‘if there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” Thomas Paine, Common Sense
“Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it.” John Adams
“The way to have safe government is not to trust it all to the one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the functions in which he is competent….To let the National Government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations….. The State Governments with the Civil Rights, Laws, Police and administration of what concerns the State generally. The Counties with the local concerns, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these Republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations until it ends in the administration of everyman’s farm by himself, by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.” Thomas Jefferson
“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform them.”
“There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle in religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation.” James Madison
“If taxes are laid upon us without our having a legal representation where they are laid, we are reduced from the character of free subjects to the state of tributary slaves.” Samuel Adams
“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our selection between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat in our drink, in our necessities and comforts, in our labors and in our amusements, for our callings and our creeds…our people.. must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live.. We have not time to think, no means of calling the mis-managers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow suffers. Our landholders, too…retaining indeed the title and stewardship of estates called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must…be contented with penury, obscurity and exile.. private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance.
This is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of society is reduced to mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering… And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.” Thomas Jefferson
“If the present (Continental) Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise, in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?” Thomas Jefferson – 1821
“It is not only his right, but his duty…to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” John Adams
“All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, nor from want of honor or virtue, so much as downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.” John Adams
“We, the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts; not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution.” Abraham Lincoln
“The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.. corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in the hands of a few, and the Republic is destroyed. Abraham Lincoln
Here are some things that the words above have taught me:
Forsake not your Liberty for the greater good, for there is none greater than this.
Remember always that your freedom was not begotten by the blood of soldiers and sailors, but rather, that you were born free. Your liberty was bestowed by your Creator… and millions have died to preserve and protect it. Let no man separate you from it – particularly those who hold your own flag – for they do it an even greater injustice. Take offense; take such offense that you, too, would die to protect it. Not on a battlefield, but in your home; your city; your streets. This alone will guarantee that you shall have it every day of your life… and your heirs shall inherit their own.
Only a fool or a politician would believe that a government could provide better for him than he can provide for himself.
Better to fight or to starve than to submit to a government who would rob a man of half a day’s pay under the guise of providing him free lunch.
The more a man falls in love with his country, the more he is compelled to protect it from its own government.