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James Madison
1751 - 1836

Fourth president of the United States (1809-17) and one of its founding fathers. Madison influenced the planning and ratification of the U.S. Constitution and collaborated with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in the publication of The Federalist Papers.

Books by James Madison
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Federalist Papers, The
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The Mind of the Founder:Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison (1981)
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Click here for essays by James Madison
A government, resting on a minority is an aristocracy, not a Republic, and could not be safe with a numerical and physical force against it, without a standing army, an enslaved press, and a disarmed populace.

from Madison's autobiography as published in a 1945 edition of the William and Mary Quarterly, Volume 2
In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will.

1788 - from Federalist Paper 79
To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.

quoted by William Simon in "Why America Needs Religion", a Heritage Foundation lecture
Equal laws protecting equal rights, are ... the best guarantee of loyalty, and love of country; as well as best calculated to cherish that mutual respect and good will among citizens of every religious denomination which are necessary to social harmony and most favorable to the advancement of truth.

Aug. 1820 - from a letter
Public opinion sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one.

No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.

from the Federalist Paper No. 62
The private interest of every individual may be a sentinel on the public rights.

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. 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.

Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an element without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. In a word, as a man is said to have right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.

We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of society.

Feb. 12, 1788 - from The Federalist, quoted in Power Quotes by Daniel Baker
It is a misfortune incident to republican government, though in a less degree than to other governments, that those who administer it may forget their obligations to their constituents and prove unfaithful to their important trust...

from the Federalist Paper No. 62
Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.

1785 - from "Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments"
It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freeman of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.

1785 - from "Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments"
Respect for character is always diminished in proportion to the number among whom the blame or praise is to be divided.

1787 - from a speech at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia
The ultimate authority resides in the people alone.

from the Federalist Paper No. 47
Attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society.

1785 - from "Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments"
... democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever 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 deaths.

That alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.

Federal government will be smaller than the sum of state governments.

from the Federalist Paper No. 45
There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by the gradual and silent encroachment of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpation.

Jun. 16, 1788 - speech at the Virginia Convention
The censorial power is in the people over the government and not in the government over the people.

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.

from the Federalist Paper No. 47
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

from the Federalist Paper No. 62