James Madison Quotes

In no instance have… the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.

James Madison

Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression.

James Madison (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1788)

But what is Government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?

James Madison (Federalist No. 51, 1788)

All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.
Variant: The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.

James Madison (Quoted in the Journal of the Federal Convention, 1898)

Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of every thing; and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided, by the practice of the states, that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth, than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigor of those yielding the proper fruits.

James Madison (Quoted in The Examiner, 1834)

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.

James Madison (Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785)

As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.

James Madison (Essay in The National Gazette, 1792)

A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

James Madison (Federalist No. 51, 1788)

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

James Madison (Letter to W. T. Barry, 1822)

It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.
Variant: We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.

James Madison (Quoted in History of the Life and Times of James Madison, 1859)

Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.

James Madison (Federalist No. 10, 1787)

As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other.

James Madison (Federalist No. 10, 1787)

It is the reason alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government.

James Madison (Federalist No. 49, 1788)

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.

James Madison (Letter to William Bradford, 1774)

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

James Madison (Federalist No. 51, 1788)

To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.

James Madison (Speech at the Virgina Convention, 1788)

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

James Madison

The civil government ... functions with complete success ... by the total separation of the Church from the State.

James Madison (Quoted in James Madison: Philosopher, Founder and Statesman, 2008)

Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done.

James Madison (Quoted in From Parchment to Power: How James Madison Used the Bill of Rights to Save the Constitution, 1997)

What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?

James Madison (Letter to W. T. Barry, 1822)

We are teaching the world the great truth that Governments do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion Flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government.

James Madison (Letter to Edward Livingston, 1822)

War ... should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits.

James Madison (Universal Peace, 1792)

The diversity in the faculties of men from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.

James Madison (Federalist No. 10, 1787)

No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

James Madison (Quoted in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 1865)

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.

James Madison (Quoted in James Madison and the Future of Limited Government, 2002)

Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.

James Madison (Federalist No. 41, 1788)

A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.

James Madison (Quoted in To The People of the United States, 1858)

The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge the wants or feelings of the day-laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages.

James Madison (Statement made as quoted in Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787)

Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

James Madison (Letter to Edward Livingston, 1822)

War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason.

James Madison (Universal Peace, 1792)

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain circumspection and distrust, so there are qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.

James Madison (Federalist No. 55, 1788)

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.

James Madison (Federalist No. 51, 1788)

Another of my wishes is to depend as little as possible on the labour of slaves.

James Madison (Letter to Robert Henry Lee, 1785)

Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.

James Madison (Federalist No. 55, 1788)

Nothing is so contagious as opinion, especially on questions which, being susceptible of very different glosses, beget in the mind a distrust of itself.

James Madison (Letter to Benjamin Rush, 1790)

Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience.

James Madison (Annals of Congress, 1789)

A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

James Madison (Federalist No. 10, 1787)

He was certainly one of the most learned men of the age. It may be said of him as has been said of others that he was a "walking Library," and what can be said of but few such prodigies, that the Genius of Philosophy ever walked hand in hand with him.

James Madison (Letter to Samuel Harrison describing Thomas Jefferson, 1826)

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.

James Madison (Letter to George Thomson, 1825)

The civil rights of none, shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.

James Madison (Speech in the House of Representatives, 1789)

You give me a credit to which I have no claim in calling me "the writer of the Constitution of the United States." This was not, like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands.

James Madison (Letter to William Cogswell, 1834)

Every new & successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.

James Madison (Letter to Edward Livingston, 1822)

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.

James Madison (Federalist No. 51, 1788)

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.

James Madison (Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785)

Conscience is the most sacred of all property.

James Madison (Essay in The National Gazette, 1792)

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.

James Madison (Federalist No. 10, 1787)

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.

James Madison (Letter to William Bradford, 1772)

James Madison Biography

Born: March 16, 1751
Died: June 28, 1836

James Madison was the 4th President of the United States. He commonly known as being a political theorist and is often regarded as the "Father of the Constitution.

Notable Works

Federalist Papers - 26 Articles (1787-1788)