James Madison

James Madison on the “General Welfare” Clause of the Constitution

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James Madison“If Congress can apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may establish teachers in every State, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public Treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post roads.  In short, every thing, from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.”

James Madison, on the House floor during debates on a Cod Fishery bill [February 1792]

Liberty Quotation: James Madison on the Danger of Oppression by the Majority

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James Madison“Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression.  In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”

James Madison, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Oct. 17, 1788

Liberty Quotation: James Madison on the Essence of Government

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James Madison“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”

James Madison, Speech on the Virginia Constitutional Convention, 2 December 1829

Liberty Quotation of the Day: James Madison on Gradual and Silent Encroachment

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James MadisonSince the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations . . . .”

James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention to Ratify the Constitution, June 6, 1788

Liberty Quotation of the Day: James Madison on the Great Difficulty of Self-Government

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James Madison“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.”

James Madison (writing as “Publius”), No. 51 of The Federalist Papers [Feb. 6, 1788]

Liberty Quotation of the Day: James Madison’s Essay on Property

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James Madison“This term in its particular application means ‘that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.’

In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.  In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandise, or money is called his property.

In the latter sense, a man has property in his opinions and the free communication of them.

He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.  He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.

He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.

In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses.  This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

James Madison, “Property,” The National Gazette, 29 March 1792