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James Madison Quotes

These James Madison Quotes are taken from his own letters, writings and speeches during the years 1788 and 1789, just before and after the new US Constitution was adopted. Many of these James Madison Quotes are taken from his writings in the Federalist Papers, a joint work by Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton written to encourage the American people to adopt the new Constitution. Others are taken from personal letters to people such as Thomas Jefferson and his speech to the Virginia Constitutional Ratifying Convention. Madison was one of the most influential Founding Fathers after the Revolutionary War and is known as the Father of the US Constitution. These James Madison Quotes are listed chronologically with links to more both before and after this time period at the bottom.

James Madison

James Madison

James Madison Quotes

"It is a sound and important principle that the representative ought to be acquainted with the interests and circumstances of his constituents. But this principle can extend no further than to those circumstances and interests to which the authority and care of the representative relate." - Federalist Papers, No. 56, February 19, 1788

"The house of representatives... can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as the great mass of society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interest, and sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny." - Federalist Papers, No. 57, February 19, 1788

"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust." - Federalist Papers, No. 57, February 19, 1788

"Such will be the relation between the House of Representatives and their constituents. Duty gratitude, interest, ambition itself, are the cords by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people." - Federalist Papers, No. 57, February 19, 1788

"If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer, the genius of the whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it." - Federalist Papers, No. 57, February 19, 1788

"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others." - Federalist Papers, No. 58, 1788

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Montpelier - 
Home of James Madison

Montpelier - Home of
James Madison

"In all legislative assemblies the greater the number composing them may be, the fewer will be the men who will in fact direct their proceedings." - Federalist Papers, No. 58, 1788

"This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure." - Federalist Papers, No. 58, 1788

"The propensity of all single and numerous assemblies (is) to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions." - Federalist Papers, No. 62, February 27, 1788

"Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few not for the many." - Federalist Papers, No. 62, February 27, 1788

"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 is will be tomorrow." - Federalist Papers, No. 62, February 27, 1788

"The facility and excess of law-making seem to be the diseases to which our governments are most liable..." - Federalist Papers, No. 62, February 27, 1788

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"A continual change even of good measures is inconsistent with every rule of prudence and every prospect of success." - Federalist Papers, No. 62, February 27, 1788

"As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind?" - Federalist Papers, No. 63, 1788

"The powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction." - Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 6, 1788

"There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it, would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom." - Journal, June 12, 1788

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 16, 1788

"There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 16, 1788

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"Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks-no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea, if there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them." - Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 20, 1788

"Refusing or not refusing to execute a law to stamp it with its final character... makes the Judiciary department paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was never intended and can never be proper." - Letter to John Brown, October, 1788

"Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788

"I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic - it is also a truth, that if industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out." - Speech in the Congress of the United States, April 9, 1789

"If individuals be not influenced by moral principles; it is in vain to look for public virtue; it is, therefore, the duty of legislators to enforce, both by precept and example, the utility, as well as the necessity of a strict adherence to the rules of distributive justice." - Response to George Washington's First Inaugural Address, May 18, 1789


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