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50 Best James Madison Quotes

James Madison, Jr. was the fourth President of the United States, an American politician, and political philosopher who contributed as a Founding Father during the late 1700s. Madison was born to Colonel James Madison, Sr. and Eleanor Rose Conway on March 16, 1751 in Orange County, Virginia. As a child, Madison spent much of his time on his parents' tobacco plantation and studied mathematics, geography, and modern and ancient languages with instructor Donald Robertson. In 1769 attended the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) where he avidly studied history, government, Latin, science, philosophy, rhetoric, speech, debate, and law. Madison completed his degree in two years and after taking a slight break, Thomas Jefferson became Madison's mentor. Madison established his political career at a state level by practicing law, served in the Continental Congress, helped frame the Virginia Constitution in 1776, and assisted Jefferson in drafting many major papers, including a declaration of religious freedom and many Federalist essays.

While serving in Congress, Madison participated in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay and earned the reference as one of the "Fathers of the Constitution." Madison also participated in framing the Bill of Rights, revenue legislation, and the founding of the Republican or Jeffersonian Party. In 1794, Madison wed Dolley Payne Todd and adopted her son, John Payne Todd. Throughout Madison's career, his wife compensated for Madison's "worn and wizened" appearance and captivated Washington with her charm.

Madison was elected Secretary of State during Jefferson's Presidency and despite the unpopularity of the Embargo Act of 1807 which led to a depression and was later repealed. Madison was elected President in 1808. During Madison's Presidency, Madison initially prohibited trade with Britain and France but Congress later authorized trade with both. Madison also expanded military policies, managed political disunity, formed the Second Bank of The United States, and asked Congress to declare war on Britain June 1, 1812. Despite very few naval and military victories, the U.S. was successful in winning the war which scholars rendered in 2006 the "sixth worst presidential mistake ever."

Madison faced heavy opposition during his presidency, including a divided cabinet, distension from political parties, incompetent generals and political leaders, a largely uncooperative Congress, and a reputation damaging lack of popular support. Madison's last years in office allowed him to repair his image and increase nationalism. In 1797, Madison left office but stayed involved in politics. Madison retired to Montpelier, his personal estate in Orange County, Virginia, in 1817. Mounting financial troubles and failing physical health burdened Madison. Madison spent his last years "straightening out" his legacy by revising his letters, possessions, and documents to ensure his fellow citizens would esteem him highly.

In 1826, Madison succeeded Thomas Jefferson as the second Rector or President of the University of Virginia and held the position for ten years until his death. In 1829 Madison was chosen to represent Virginia at the constitutional convention in Richmond. Madison wrote several memoranda regarding political topics including an essay against appointing chaplains for Congress and branches of the military. In 1836, as the last Founding Father, Madison passed away. He was buried within the Madison Family Cemetery at his family's Montpelier estate. After Madison's death, a letter written by the late Founding Founder read: "The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated." Madison's legacy remains a testament to his contribution to American politics. Here are the 50 Best James Madison Quotes:

1. "The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted."

2. "A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them."

3. "A popular government without proper information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both."

4. "A pure democracy is a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person."

5. "A sincere and steadfast co-operation in promoting such a reconstruction of our political system as would provide for the permanent liberty and happiness of the United States."

6. "A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country."

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

8. "All that seems indispensable in stating the account between the dead and the living, is to see that the debts against the latter do not exceed the advances made by the former."

9. "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition."

10. "America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture, and the arts."

11. "Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."

12. "And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

13. "Any reading not of a vicious species must be a good substitute for the
amusements too apt to fill up the leisure of the laboring classes."

14. "As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights."

15. "As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed."

16. "By rendering the labor of one, the property of the other, they cherish pride, luxury, and vanity on one side; on the other, vice and servility, or hatred and revolt."

17. "Commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive, and impolitic."

18. "Despotism can only exist in darkness, and there are too many lights now in the political firmament to permit it to remain anywhere, as it has heretofore done, almost everywhere."

19. "Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have
perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."

20. "Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations."

21. "Every nation whose affairs betray a want of wisdom and stability may calculate on every loss which can be sustained from the more systematic policy of its wiser neighbors."

22. "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

23. "I have no doubt but that the misery of the lower classes will be found to abate whenever the Government assumes a freer aspect and the laws favor a subdivision of Property."

24. "I should not regret a fair and full trial of the entire abolition of capital punishment."

25. "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

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

27. "If we are to take for the criterion of truth the majority of suffrages, they ought to be gotten from those philosophic and patriotic citizens who cultivate their reason."

28. "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

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

30. "In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority."

31. "It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad."

32. "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."

33. "Knowledge will forever govern irgnorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

34. "Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty."

35. "Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in easy stages."

36. "Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power."

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

38. "Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other."

39. "Philosophy is common sense with big words."

40. "Religion flourishes in great purity, without than with the aid of Government."

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

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

43. "The capacity of the female mind for studies of the highest order cannot be doubted, having been sufficiently illustrated by its works of genius, of erudition, and of science."

44. "The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money."

45. "The class of citizens who provide at once their own food and their own raiment, may be viewed as the most truly independent and happy."

46. "The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."

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

48. "The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse."

49. "The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war."

50. "Whenever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done."

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