Founders’ Quotes

“A Christian cannot fail of being useful to the republic, for his religion teacheth him that no man ‘liveth to himself.’” Benjamin Rush, signer of the declaration, ratifier of the U.S. Constitution, founder of America’s first Bible Society

“Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country. . . . By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.” John Jay, original Chief Justice U.S. Supreme Court, president of the American Bible Society.

“Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.”  —  John Adams, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 18, 1808

“Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.” — John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781

“Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness.” —Samuel Adams, letter to John Trumbull, 16 October 1778

“It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia Query 19, 1781

“Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them.” —Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

“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.’ 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.” —Thomas Jefferson (Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 15 February 1791)

“The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.” — Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788

“Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence.” — Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833