A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.
Edward Abbey (1927-1989) – A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto) (1990)
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.
Lord Acton (1834-1902) – Letter to Mandell Creighton (5 April 1887), published in Historical Essays and Studies, by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1907), edited by John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, Appendix, p. 504
Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.
Lord Acton (1834-1902) – The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877)
Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realization the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.
Lord Acton (1834-1902) – “Nationality” in Home and Foreign Review (July 1862); republished in The History of Freedom and Other Essays (1907), p. 288
The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.
Lord Acton (1834-1902) – Letter to Mary Gladstone, April 24, 1881, Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, 1913, p. 73.
The difference is slight, to the influence of an author, whether he is read by five hundred readers, or by five hundred thousand; if he can select the five hundred, he reaches the five hundred thousand.
Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918) – The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 17, 1907
As the happiness of the people is the sole end of government, so the consent of the people is the only foundation of it.
John Adams (1735-1826) – Proclamation (1774)
The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.
John Adams (1735-1826) – A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law, (1765)
But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
John Adams (1735-1826) – Letter to Abigail Adams (17 July 1775)
Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.
John Adams (1735-1826) – Letter to Zabdiel Adams (21 June 1776)
Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.
John Adams (1735-1826) – Letter to Abigail Adams (27 April 1777), published as Letter CXI in Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife (1841) edited by Charles Francis Adams, p. 218
The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or there will be no blessings.
John Adams (1735-1826) – Letter to Abigail Adams (3 July 1776)
There is nothing I dread so much as the division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution.
John Adams (1735-1826) – Letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1789)
The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to prevent their growth in our own.
John Adams (1735-1826) – First Address to Congress, November 23, 1797, in Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society