Founder’s Quotes

Important quotes by the Founders of America.

James Otis – On the Writs of Assistance (Delivered February 1761) “MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONOURS: I was desired by one of the court to look into the books, and consider the question now before them concerning Writs of Assistance. I have accordingly considered it, and now appear not only in obedience to your order, but likewise in behalf of the inhabitants of this town, who have presented another petition, and out of regard to the liberties of the subject. And I take this opportunity to declare that whether under a fee or not (for in such a cause as this I despise a fee) I will to my dying day oppose, with all the power and faculties God has given men, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand and villainy on the other, as this Writ of Assistance is… I pray God I may never be brought to the melancholy trial; but if ever I should, it will then be known how far I can reduce to practice principles which I know to be founded in truth. In the meantime I will proceed to the subject of this writ…”

Benjamin Franklin – On Civil War – (To the Printer of the London Public Advertiser, August 25, 1768) “…And is there not one wise and good man to be found in Britain, who can propose some conciliating measure that may prevent this terrible mischief?–I fear not one. For Quos Deus vult perdere, dementat prius!”

Translated it means.. Those whom God wishes to destroy he first drives mad. This is sometimes translated “the gods” but this is not correct in the case of the Franklin quote, nor have I ever found the word in its plural form in the Latin quote. The word Deus is capitalized signifying a personal pronoun and the Latin there is a singular nominative case which can only be translated as “God” with a capitalize “G” and in the singualar. Quos of chose just means “those whom” and “vult” is to will as in voluntary or volition. The word “perdere” is to destroy or damn as in perdition. The word “dementat” is like demented or insane. And “prius” could be likened to “drive” as in the Prius car company or more precisely to “proceed” or to do before.

Joseph Warren – Constitutional Liberty and Arbitrary Power (Delivered in Boston, March 5, 1772) [see the full text at]

“…It was this attachment to a Constitution, founded of free and benevolent principles, which inspired the first settlers of this country,–they saw with grief the daring outrages committed on the free Constitution of their native land,–they knew nothing but a civil war could, at any time, restore its pristine purity. So hard was it to resolve to imbrue their hands in the blood of their brethren, that they chose rather to quit their fair possessions and seek another habitation in a distant clime. When they came to this new world, which they fairly purchased of the Indian natives, the only rightful proprietors, they cultivated the then barren soil by their incessant labor, and defended their dear-bought possession with the fortitude of the Christian and the bravery of the hero…

If you, with united zeal and fortitude, oppose the torrent of oppression; if you feel the true fire of patriotism burning in your breasts; if you, from your souls, despise the most gaudy dress that slavery can wear; if you really prefer the lonely cottage (whilst blest with liberty) to gilded palaces, surrounded with the ensigns of slavery, you may have the fullest assurance that tyranny, with her whole accursed train, will hide their hideous heads in confusion, shame, and despair, if you perform your part, you must have the strongest confidence that the same Almighty Being who protected your pious and venerable forefathers, who enabled them to turn a barren wilderness into a fruitful field, who so often made bare his arm for their salvation, will still be mindful of you, their offspring.

May this Almighty Being graciously preside in all our councils! May He direct us to such measure as He himself shall approve and be pleased to bless! May we ever be a people favored of God! May out land be a land of liberty, the seat of virtue, the asylum of the oppressed, a name and a praise in the whole earth, until the last shock of time shall bury the empires of the world in one common undistinguished ruin!”

Thomas Jefferson – A Summary View of the Rights of British America – Set Forth in Some Resolutions Intended for the Present Delegates of the People of Virginia, Now in Convention 1774

“Resolved, that it be an instruction to the said deputies, when assembled in general congress with the deputies from the other states of British America, to propose to the said congress that an humble and dutiful address be presented to his majesty, begging leave to lay before him, as chief magistrate of the British empire, the united complaints of his majesty’s subjects in America; complains which are excited by many unwarrantable enchroachments and usurpations, attempted to be made by the legislature of one part of the empire, upon those rights which God and the laws have given equally and independently to all…

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them. This, Sir, is our last, our determined resolution; and that you will be pleased to interpose with that efficacy which your earnest endeavours may ensure to procure redress of these our great grievances, to quite the minds of your subjects in British America, against any apprehensions of future encroachment, to establish fraternal love and harmony through the whole empire, and that these may continue to the latest ages of time, is the fervent prayer of all British America!”

From The Federalist No. VIII – The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States
By Alexander Hamilton

“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

From the Federalist X – The Same Subject Continued (The Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection) by James Madison

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy ; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it ; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.”