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James Madison Quotes

James Madison

James Madison

These James Madison Quotes are taken from his own letters and writings and are listed chronologically. The quotes on this page begin in 1772 and go through 1787, so they cover the entire period of the American Revolution up through the Constitutional Convention, in which Madison played a key role as chief architect of the US Constitution. Many of these James Madison Quotes are taken from his work Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, which was written to discourage a proposed tax to fund Christian ministers. Other quotes are taken from letters to such people as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Since our James Madison Quotes are listed chronologically, you will find links to more after this time period at the bottom of the page.

James Madison Quotes

"Bad health has intimated to me not to expect a long or healthy life, yet it may be better with me after some time tho I hardly dare expect it and therefore have little spirit and alacrity to set about any thing that is difficult in acquiring and useless in possessing after one has exchanged Time for Eternity." - Letter to William Bradford, November 9, 1772

"A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven." - Letter to William Bradford, November 9, 1772

"I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way." - Letter to William Bradford, September 25, 1773

"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." - Letter to William Bradford, January 24, 1774

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect." - Letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774

"The bill for a religious assessment has not been yet brought in. Mr. Henry, the father of the scheme, is gone up to his seat for his family and will no more sit in the House of Delegates, a circumstance very inauspicious to his offspring." - Letter to James Monroe, November 27, 1784

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James Madison Quotes

Montpelier - Home of James Madison

Montpelier -
Home of James Madison

"The free men 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. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?" - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

"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." - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

"Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease." - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

"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." The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. 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. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority." - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

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3 James Madison Quotes

"The preservation of a free government requires not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be universally maintained but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great barrier which defends the rights of the people. The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commission from which they derive their authority and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them and are slaves." - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

"During almost fifteen centuries has 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 the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy." - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

"It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits." - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

"What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not." - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785

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"Another of my wishes is to depend as little as possible on the labour of slaves." - Letter to Robert Henry Lee, July 17, 1785

"There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong... In fact it is only reestablishing under another name and a more specious form, force as the measure of right..." - Letter to James Monroe, October 5, 1786

"I think myself that it will be expedient... to lay the foundation of the new system in such a ratification by the people themselves of the several States as will render it clearly paramount to their Legislative authorities." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, March 19, 1787

"A sanction is essential to the idea of law, as coercion is to that of Government." - Notes on the Confederacy, April, 1787

"As far as laws are necessary to mark with precision the duties of those who are to obey them, and to take from those who are to administer them a discretion which might be abused, their number is the price of liberty. As far as laws exceed this limit they are a nuisance; a nuisance of the most pestilent kind." - Notes on the Confederacy, April, 1787

"To give the new system its proper validity and energy, a ratification must be obtained from the people, and not merely from the ordinary authority of the Legislatures." - Letter to George Washington, April 16, 1787

"We have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man." - Speech at the Constitutional Convention, June 6, 1787


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