• July 2015

Revolutionary Ideas: Wisdom from the Founding Fathers

What insights do the founders of the United States have to share with us on Independence Day 2015?

Scroll down for a month’s worth of wisdom.

  • July 1: “No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free, no one ever will.” — Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), pictured right
  • July 2: “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” — John Adams (1735–1826)
  • July 3: “That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” — Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794)
  • July 4: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” — Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
  • July 5: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Law of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” — The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
  • July 6: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” — Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

  • July 7: “A government is like fire, a handy servant, but a dangerous master.” — George Washington (1732-1799), pictured right
  • July 7: “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” — Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
  • July 8: “To prevent crimes, is the noblest end and aim of criminal jurisprudence. To punish them, is one of the means necessary for the accomplishment of this noble end and aim.” — James Wilson, “A Charge Delivered to the Grand Jury,” 1791
  • July 9: “Under all those disadvantages no men ever show more spirit or prudence than ours. In my opinion nothing but virtue has kept our army together through this campaign.” — Colonel John Brooks, letter to a friend, Jan. 5, 1778

  • July 10: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), pictured right
  • July 11: “We are not to consider ourselves, while here, as at church or school, to listen to the harangues of speculative piety; we are here to talk of the political interests committed to our charge.” — Fisher Ames, speech in the United States House of Representatives, April 8, 1789
  • July 12: “We have duties, for the discharge of which we are accountable to our Creator and benefactor, which no human power can cancel. What those duties are, is determinable by right reason, which may be, and is called, a well-informed conscience. What this conscience dictates as our duty, is so; and that power which assumes a control over it, is an usurper; for no power can be pleaded to justify the control, as any consent in this case is void.” — The Essex Result, May 12, 1778
  • July 13: “Well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age; — all the operations of nature he seems to understand, — the very heavens obey him, and the Clouds yield up their Lightning to be imprisoned in his rod.” — William Pierce, on Benjamin Franklin, 1787
  • July 14: “Those gentlemen, who will be elected senators, will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of your state.” — George Mason, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 14, 1778
  • July 15: “What is it that affectionate parents require of their Children; for all their care, anxiety, and toil on their accounts? Only that they would be wise and virtuous, Benevolent and kind.” — Abigail Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams, Nov. 20, 1783
  • July 16: “When divorces can be summoned to the aid of levity, of vanity, or of avarice, a state of marriage frequently becomes a state of war or stratagem.” — James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791

  • July 17: “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means. This is our day of deliverance.” — John Adams (1735-1826), pictured right
  • July 18: “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? It is feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. … [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” — The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788
  • July 19: “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” — Thomas Jefferson
  • July 20: “We know the Race is not to the swift nor the Battle to the Strong. Do you not think an Angel rides in the Whirlwind and directs this Storm?” — John Page, letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 20, 1776

  • July 21: “This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a ban of brethren, united to each other by the strongest of ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.” — John Jay, Federalist No. 2, 1787
  • July 22: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” — Leviticus 25:10, Inscription on the Liberty Bell
  • July 23: “With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves.” — Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson, Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms, July 6, 1775
  • July 24: “There is always room at the top.” — Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
  • July 25: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)
  • July 26: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right … and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” — John Adams, (1735-1826) _
  • July 27: “There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.” — Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

  • July 28: “What a glorious morning this is!” — Samuel Adams, to John Hancock (pictured right) at the Battle of Lexington, 1775
  • July 29: “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” — George Washington (1732-1799)
  • July 30: “We are, heart and soul, friends to the freedom of the press. It is however, the prostituted companion of liberty, and somehow or other, we know not how, its efficient auxiliary. It follows the substance like its shade; but while a man walks erect, he may observe that his shadow is almost always in the dirt. It corrupts, it deceives, it inflames. It strips virtue of her honors, and lends to faction its wildfire and its poisoned arms, and in the end is its own enemy and the usurper’s ally, It would be easy to enlarge on its evils. They are in England, they are here, they are everywhere. It is a precious pest, and a necessary mischief, and there would be no liberty without it.” — Fisher Ames, Review of the Pamphlet on the State of the British Constitution, 1807
  • July 31: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” — Benjamin Franklin, (1706-1790)

Sources:

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