Why may we not suppose, that the great Father of all is pleased with a variety of devotion; and that the greatest offence we can act, is that by which we seek to torment and render each other miserable, For my own part, I am fully satisfied that what I am now doing, with an endeavour to conciliate mankind, to render their condition happy, to unite nations that have hitherto been enemies, and to extirpate the horrid practice of war, and break the chains of slavery and oppression, is acceptable in his sight, and being the best service I can perform, I act it chearfully.
Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man Part Two, 1792
Three or four shillings as a penalty will enforce obedience better in New England, than forty lashes in some other places.
Oliver Ellsworth, as recorded in James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention, August 18, 1787
Here comes Glib-tongue: who can out-flatter a Dedication; and lie, like ten Epitaphs.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1742
It is as much the duty of government to render prompt justice against itself, in favor of citizens, as it is to administer the same, between private individuals.
Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861
He [Madison] could not but regard an indefinite power to negative legislative acts of the States as absolutely necessary to a perfect system. Experience had evinced a constant tendency in the States to encroach on the federal authority; to violate national Treaties; to infringe the rights & interests of each other; to oppress the weaker party within their respective jurisdictions. A negative was the mildest expedient that could be devised for preventing these mischiefs. The existence of such a check would prevent attempts to commit them. …… In a word, to recur to the illustrations borrowed from the planetary system. This prerogative of the General Government is the great pervading principle that must controul the centrifugal tendency of the States; which, without it, will continually fly out of their proper orbits and destroy the order & harmony of the political System.
James Madison, from his own notes on the Constitutional Convention, June 8, 1787
Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?
James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, June 20, 1785
The Government ought to possess not only 1st the force but 2nd the mind or sense of the people at large. The Legislature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole Society. Representation is made necessary only because it is impossible for the people to act collectively. The opposition was to be expected he said from the Governments, not from the Citizens of the States.
James Wilson, as recorded in James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention, June 6, 1787
When one party wins the popular vote for the House of Representatives by over a million votes, but the other party still ends up with a majority, do we have the most exact transcription of the whole society?
They observe that on ignition of the needle or spring, Their magnetism and elasticity cease. So on dissolution of the material organ by death it’s action of thought may cease also. And that nobody supposes that the magnetism or elasticity retire to hold a substantive and distinct existence. These were the qualities only of particular conformations of matter: change the conformation, and it’s qualities change also. …… Were it necessary however to form an opinion, I confess I should, with Mr. Locke, prefer swallowing one incomprehensibility rather than two. It requires one effort only to admit the single incomprehensibility of matter endowed with thought: and two to believe, 1st. that of an existence called Spirit, of which we have neither evidence nor idea, and then 2dly. how that spirit which has neither extension nor solidity, can put material organs into motion. These are things which you and I may perhaps know ere long.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, March 14, 1820
Many a Man’s own Tongue gives Evidence against his Understanding.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1757
But they still don’t understand that they don’t understand!
If the prospects of our country inspire you with gloom how do you think a man must be affected who partakes of all your opinions, and whose geographical position enables him to see a great deal that is concealed from you. I yield slowly and reluctantly to the conviction that our constitution cannot last. I had supposed that North of the Potowmack a firm and solid government, competent to the security of national liberty might be preserved. Even that now seems doubtful. The case of the south seems to me to be desperate. Our opinions are incompatible with a united government even among ourselves. The union has been prolonged thus far by miracles. I fear they cannot continue.
John Marshall, letter to Joseph Story, September 22, 1832