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James Madison Quotes

James Madison

James Madison

These James Madison Quotes are from his own writings, letters and speeches during the years 1829-1831. They include quotes from his correspondence with such prominent figures as the Marquis de Lafayette, Daniel Webster and Martin Van Buren. Topics covered include such things as the newly proposed Constitution for the state of Virginia, the idea that the government derives its power from the people and the necessity of abolishing slavery. James Madison was a great American leader and is known as the Father of the US Constitution. He also became the 4th President of the United States. Our James Madison Quotes are listed chronologically with links to more both before and after this time period at the bottom of the page.

James Madison Quotes

"A silent appeal to a cool and candid judgment of the public may, perhaps, serve the cause of truth." - Letter to Joseph C. Cabell, March 19, 1829

"His authority is made to weigh nothing, or outweigh everything, according to the scale in which it is put." - Letter to Joseph C. Cabell, March 19, 1829

"The compound Government of the United States is without a model, and to be explained by itself, not by similitudes or analogies. The terms Union, Federal, National, ought not to be applied to it without the qualifications peculiar to the system." - Outline, September, 1829

"The Constitution of the United States was created by the people of the United States composing the respective states, who alone had the right..." - Outline, September, 1829

"The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world. Woe to the ambition that would meditate the destruction of either!" - Outline, September, 1829

"The Union of so many States is in the eyes of a world, a wonder; the harmonious establishment of a government over them all, a miracle." - Speech at the Virginia Constitutional Convention, December 2, 1829

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James Madison Quotes

Montpelier - Home of James Madison

Montpelier - Home of
James Madison

"It is due to justice; due to humanity; due to truth; due to the sympathies of our nature; in fine, to our character as a people, both abroad and at home, that they should be considered, as much as possible, in the light of human beings, and not as mere property. As such, they are acted on by our laws, and have an interest in our laws. They may be considered as making a part, though a degraded part, of the families to which they belong." - Speech at the Virginia Constitutional Convention, December 2, 1829

"It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated." - Speech at the Virginia Constitutional Convention, December 2, 1829

"The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse." - Speech at the Virginia Constitutional Convention, December 2, 1829

"Outlets for the freed blacks are alone wanted for the erasure of the blot from our Republican character." - Letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, February 1, 1830

"The meaning collected from the general scope, and from a collation of the several parts (of the Virginia Resolutions) ought not to be affected by a particular word or phrase not irreconcilable with all the rest, and not made more precise, because no danger of their being misunderstood was thought of." - Letter to N. P. Trist, February 15, 1830

"The merit of the founders of our Republics lies in the more accurate views and the practical applications of the doctrines (of self-government). The rights of man as the foundation of just Government had been long understood; but the superstructures projected had been sadly defective." - Letter to N. P. Trist, February 15, 1830

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James Madison Quotes

"Although the old idea of a compact between the Government and the people be justly exploded, the idea of a compact among those who are parties to a Government is a fundamental principle of free Government." - Letter to N. P. Trist, February 15, 1830

"If the able debates on Mr. Foot's resolution have thrown lights on some constitutional questions, they shew errors which have their sources in an oblivion of explanatory circumstances, and in the silent innovations of time on the meaning of words and phrases." - Letter to Edward Everett, April 8, 1830

"The real measure of the powers meant to be granted to Congress by the Constitution is to be sought in the specifications, to be expounded, indeed, not with the strictness applied to an ordinary statute by a court of law, nor, on the other hand, with a latitude that, under the name of means for carrying into execution a limited Government, would transform it into a Government without limits." - Letter to M. L. Hulbert, May, 1830

"The Constitution and laws of the United States are declared to be paramount to those of the individual states, and an appellate supremacy is vested in the judicial power of the United States..." - Letter to M. L. Hulbert, May, 1830

"Although I have not concealed my opinion of that doctrine (Nullification), and of the use made of the proceedings of Virginia (Virginia Resolutions), in 1798-99, I have been unwilling to make a public exhibition of them, as well from a consideration that it might appear obtrusive, as that it might enlist me as a newspaper polemic, and lay me under an obligation to correct errors in other cases in which I was concerned, or by my silence admit that they were not errors." - Letter to Daniel Webster, May 27, 1830

"Undertakings by private companies carry with them a presumptive evidence of utility, and the private stakes in them some security of execution, the want of which is the bane of public undertakings. Still, the importunities of private companies cannot be listened to with more caution than prudence requires." - Letter to Martin Van Buren, July 5, 1830

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"It may often happen, as experience proves, that erroneous constructions, not anticipated, may not be sufficiently guarded against in the language used..." - Letter to Edward Everett, August, 1830

"In order to understand the true nature of the Constitution of the United States, the error must be avoided... of viewing it through the medium, of a Consolidated Government, or of a Confederated Government, whilst it is neither the one nor the other; but a mixture of both." - North American Review, October, 1830

"As the people of the United States enjoy the great merit of having established a system of Government on the basis of human rights, and of giving it a form without example, which, as they believe, unites the greatest national strength with the best security for public order and individual liberty, they owe to themselves, to their posterity and to the world, a preservation of the system in its purity, its symmetry, and its authenticity." - Letter to A. Stevenson, November 27, 1830

"The two vital characteristics of the political system of the United States are, first, that the Government holds its powers by a charter granted to it by the people; second, that the powers of government are formed in two grand divisions - one vested in a Government over the whole community, the other in a number of independent Governments over its component parts. Hitherto charters have been written grants of privileges by Governments to the people. Here they are written grants of power by the people to their Governments." - Letter to A. Stevenson, November 27, 1830

"I am among those who are most anxious for the preservation of the Union of the States, and for the success of the Constitutional experiment of which it is the basis. We owe it to ourselves, and to the world, to watch, to cherish, and as far as possible, to perfect a new modification of the powers of Government, which aims at the better security against external danger and internal disorder, a better provision for national strength and individual rights, than had been exemplified under any previous form." - Letter to Andrew Bigelow, 1831

"I am far from regarding a change of opinions, under the lights of experience and the results of improved reflection, as exposed to censure..." - Letter to C. E. Haynes, February 25, 1831

"With respect to the words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." - Letter to James Robertson, April 20, 1831

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