Quotes about Government


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

For no people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.
Samuel Adams (1722-1803) – Letter to James Warren, November 4, 1775, in Warren-Adams Letters: Being Chiefly a Correspondence Among John Adams, Samuel Adams and James Warren, Volume 72, The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1917, p. 172.

If ever the Time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experienced Patriots to prevent its Ruin.
Samuel Adams (1722-1803) – Letter to James Warren, October 24, 1780.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
Aesop – Quoted in Eigen’s Political and Historical Quotations, Lewis D. Eigen, Quote #59154

A government, for protecting business only, is but a carcass, and soon falls by its own corruption and decay.
A. Bronson Alcott (1799-1888) – Quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources, ed. Rev. James Wood, Frederick Warne and Co., London, 1899, p. 6

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.
Oscar Ameringer (1870-1943) – Quoted in Scoundrels All, Ferdinand Lundberg, 1968.

They should rule who are able to rule best.
Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) – Politics II 1273b5

A state is not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime and for the sake of exchange. . . .Political society exists for the sake of noble actions, and not mere companionship.
Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) – Politics III 1280b30, 1281a3

The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) – Politics IV 1317a40

Nothing is so galling to a people, not broken in from the birth, as a paternal or, in other words, a meddling government, a government which tells them what to read and say and eat and drink and wear.
Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay – Southey’s Colloquies on Society (1830)

The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it.
Thomas Babington – Review of Aiken’s Life of Addison (1843)

Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) – Essays (1625) Of Cunning

It is a strange desire, to seek power, and to lose liberty; or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man’s self.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) – “Of Great Place,” Essays (1597-1625)

The best government rests on the people and not on the few, on persons and not on property, on the free development of public opinion and not on authority
George Bancroft (1800 –1891) – The Office of the People in Art, Government and Religion (1835), p. 421

The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another.
George Bancroft (1800 –1891) – A History of the United States (1834-74), Vol. 1, ch. 10, p. 365

The exact measure of the progress of civilization is the degree in which the intelligence of the common mind has prevailed over wealth and brute force.
George Bancroft (1800 –1891) – The Office of the People in Art, Government and Religion, pp. 426-7

Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.
John Basil Barnhill – “Indictment of Socialism No. 3” – Barnhill-Tichenor Debate on Socialism. Saint Louis, Missouri: National Rip-Saw Publishing. pp. p. 34

The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man.
William Lord Beveridge (1879-1963) – Social Insurance and Allied Services, pt. 7, 1942

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) – Essays on Political Economy, Pt. 3, “Government,” 1848 – also: .http://bastiat.org/en/government.html

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal well meaning but without understanding.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941), Olmstead v. U.S. 277 U.S. 438 (1928), 479.

Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal — would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) – Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928) Dissenting opinion.

A passion for politics stems usually from an insatiable need, either for power, or for friendship and adulation, or a combination of both.
Fawn M. Brodie (1915-1981) – Thomas Jefferson, ch. 1 (1974)

This is not a contest between persons. The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error.
William Jennnings Bryan – Cross of Gold Speech (1896) Speech at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois (9 July 1896)

None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) – What America Means to Me, ch. 4 (1943)

And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Thoughts and Details on Scarcity. Vol. v. p. 156.

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Speech to the Electors of Bristol (1774-11-03); reported in The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (1899), vol. 2, p. 95.

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Speech at at county meeting, Buckinghamshire, England (1784)

Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble government.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Reflections on the Revolution in France, (1790)

People crushed by law, have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those who have much hope and nothing to lose, will always be dangerous.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Letter to Charles James Fox, 10-8-1777

Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Reflections on the Revolution in France, (1790)

The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men to each govern himself, and suffer any artificial positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government becomes a consideration of convenience.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Reflections on the Revolution in France, (1790)

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791).

All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the state.
Albert Camus (1913-1960) – The Rebel (1951, trans. 1953)

In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol if its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government.
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) – Past and Present, Bk 4, ch 4, (1843)

Good government is the outcome of private virtue.
John Jay Chapman (1862-1933) – Practical Agitation, Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1898, p. 42.

The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) – Speech at Zurich University (September 19, 1946)

Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) – Speech in the House of Commons (1947-11-11)

Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.
Henry Clay (1777–1852)- Speech at Ashland, Ky., March, 1829.

When more of the people’s sustenance is extracted through the form of taxation than is necessary to meet the just obligations of government and expenses of its economical administration, such extraction becomes ruthless and a violation of the fundamental principles of a free government..
Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) – Second Annual Message, December, 1886

Thought the people support the government, the government should not support the people.
Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) – Veto of Texas Seed bill, Feb. 16, 1887

The very existence of government at all, infers inequality. The citizen who is preferred to office becomes the superior of those who are not, so long he is the repository of power
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) – The American Democrat, 1838, republished Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington D.C., 2000, p. 395.

Nations it may be have fashioned their Governments, but the Governments have paid them back in the same coin.
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) – Under Western Eyes, Harper & Brothers, NY, 1911, p. 24

Every time the government attempts to handle our affairs, it costs more and the results are worse than if we had handled them ourselves.
Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) – Cour De Politique Constitutionnelle (1818-20)

Governments are not built to perceive large truths. Only people can perceive great truths. Governments specialize in small and intermediate truths. They have to be instructed by their people in great truths.
Norman Cousins (1915-1990) – The Pathology of Power (1987), pg. 207

What a man really says when he says that someone else can be persuaded by force, is that he himself is incapable of more rational means of communication.
Norman Cousins (1915-1990) – Quoted in Peter’s Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter

It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.
Variant: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
John Philpot Curran (1750-1817) – Speech upon the Right of Election for Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1790. (The Speeches of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, ed. Thomas Davis, pp. 94–95 (1847) as quoted in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. The variants have been attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Lincoln, among others.

I repeat … that all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people and for the people all springs, and all must exist.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) Vivian Grey, Henry Colburn, London, 1826, Chapter VII.

To govern men, you must either excel them in their accomplishments, or despise them.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) – From a letter to his father – cited in Lord Beaconsfield’s Letters, 1830-1852 (1882), p. 32.

Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been found that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) – speech in the House of Commons (1874-06-15)

I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) – Campaign speech found in Selected Speeches of the Late Right Honorable the Earl of Beaconsfield, Vol. 1 (1882)

Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) – The World As I See It, “Some Notes on my American Impressions (First published as “My First Impression of the U.S.A. (1921)).

Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) – The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1847, Harvard University Printing Office, 1971, p 413.

Government has been a fossil: it should be a plant.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) – “The Young American,” Lecture read before the Mercantile Library Association, Boston, Feb. 7, 1884

A people that values it’s privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) – First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, January 20, 1953

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) – First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, January 20, 1953

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) – Speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 1953

No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.
Richard Feynman (1918-1988) – “The Uncertainty of Values” in The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist (1999)

A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) – Presidential address to a joint session of Congress, August 12, 1974 – Misattributed to Barry Goldwater.

Truth is the glue that holds government together.
Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) – Speech, August 9, 1974, on succeeding Richard Nixon as President

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin – published in Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin v 1, (1818), p 334. Many variant versions of the quote exist on the web.

All men would be masters of others, and no man is lord of himself.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) – quoted in Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical, Harrap & Co., London, 1917, p 871.

Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) – The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, tr Bailey Saunders, (1893), Maxim 225

The majority represent a mass of cowards, willing to accept him who mirror its own soul and mind poverty.
Emma Goldman (1869-1940) – “Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School,” Anarchism and Other Essays, Mother Earth Publishing, 1917

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) – The Federalist Papers No. 1, October 27, 1787

For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) – The Federalist Papers No. 1, October 27, 1787

A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) – The Federalist Papers, No. 31, January 1, 1788

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) – The Federalist Feb.8, 1788

It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)- 06-21-1788, Speech in New York urging ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

The origin of all civil government, justly established, must be a voluntary compact, between the rulers and the ruled; and must be liable to such limitations, as are necessary for the security of the absolute rights of the latter; for what original title can any man or set of men have, to govern others, except their own consent? To usurp dominion over a people, in their own despite, or to grasp at a more extensive power than they are willing to entrust, is to violate that law of nature, which gives every man a right to his personal liberty; and can, therefore, confer no obligation to obedience.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)- The Farmer Refuted, 23 February,  (1775)

When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) – The Federalist, on the New Constitution, Vol 1, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, NY, George F. Hopkins, 1802, p. 100.

All good government must begin at home. It is useless to make good laws for bad people; what is wanted is this, to subdue the tyranny of the human heart.
Hugh R. Haweis (1838-1901) – Speech in Season,, Henry S. King & Co, London, 1875, p 191.

What experience and history teach is this – that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on any lessons they might have drawn from it. Variant: What experience and history teach is this – that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.
Georg Wilhelm Fredrich Hegel (1770-1831) – Letters on the Philosophy of History, tr H.B. Nisbet, 1975, Introduction

The provisions of the Constitution are not mathematical formulas having their essence in their form; they are organic, living institutions transplanted from English soil. Their significance is vital, not formal; it is to be gathered not simply by taking the words and a dictionary, but by considering their origin and the line of their growth.
Justice Holmes (Oliver Wendell) (1841-1935) Samuel Gompers et all v United States, 233 U.S. 604 (34 S.Ct. 693, 58 L.Ed. 1115)

Nothing appears more surprising to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers.
David Hume (1711-1776) – Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, 1741-2; 1748, Essay 4, Of the First Principles of Government

If the general government should persist in the measures now threatened, there must be war. It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. They do not know its horrors. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils.
Stonwall JacksonMemoirs of Stonewall Jackson by His Widow Mary Anna Jackson (1895), Ch. IX : War Clouds — 1860 – 1861, p. 141

All governments are, to a certain extent, a treaty with the Devil.
Fredrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743-1819) – “The Flying Leaves,” in Prose Writers of Germany, ed Hedge, 1855, p. 217

Money is power, and in that government which pays all the public officers of the states will all political power be substantially concentrated.
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) – Pocket veto of a land bill, December 4, 1833. Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. II, ed. J.D. Richardson, Washington (1908)

It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.
Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) – American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 442-43 (1950)

Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.
John Jay (1745-1829) – Federalist No. 2, October 31, 1787

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – Letter to Archibald Stuart (December 23, 1791)

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – in Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774).

What more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more … a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – Letter to F .A. Van Der Kemp, March 22, 1812

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – Letter to James Madison, Jan. 30, 1787, Boyd, Julian P., ed. Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, p. 93.

I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – To Dr. Benjamin Rush – Monticello, Sep. 23, 1800. (On the issue of the separation of church and state)

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – Letter “to the Republican Citizens of Washington County, Maryland” (31 March 1809)

It must be acknowledged that the term republic is of very vague application in every language… Were I to assign to this term a precise and definite idea, I would say purely and simply it means a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally according to rules established by the majority; and that every other government is more or less republican in proportion as it has in its composition more or less of this ingredient of direct action of the citizens. Such a government is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population. I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – Letter to John Taylor, 1816, ME 15:19.

The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – Reply to Address, 1790. ME 8:6, Papers 16:225

No government power can be abused long. Mankind will not bear it…. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us safe under every form of government.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) -quoted in James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, Mar. 31, 1772 (1791)

The safety of the state is the highest law.
Justinian (483-565) – Twelve Tables, 439 BC (Roman Law)

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed – and no republic can survive.
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) – Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961.

If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.  (another variant:) But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never abused it, except on the side of mercy.
Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899 ) In a speech about Abraham Lincoln delivered on Jan. 16, 1883 in Washington D.C. The Variant was published in the Works of Robert Ingersoll, v3, 1902. The quote has been misattributed to Lincoln for over 100 years.


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