140 James Madison Quotes

There’s always something to learn from famous people in history, and this collection of James Madison quotes is not short on words of wisdom from America’s 4th president.

James Madison was one of the Founding Fathers, the author of the Bill of Rights, and was the last surviving signatory of the U.S. Constitution. The collection we have below features famous lines and lessons that showcase his thoughts and ideas as he went through his journey as president.

Continue to the list below.

Best James Madison Quotes

1. “Philosophy is common sense with big words.”

2. “The purpose of the separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”

3. “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”

4. “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

5. “The means of defense against foreign danger has always been the instruments of tyranny at home.”

6. “It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points.”

7. “The accumulation of all powers—legislative, executive, and judiciary—in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

8. “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

9. “Wherever the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression.”

10. “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.”

11. “In our governments, the real power lies in the majority of the community.”

12. “The advancement of science and the diffusion of information is the best aliment to true liberty.”

13. “The tendency to usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against by an entire abstinence of the government from interference in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sector against trespasses on its legal rights by others.”

14. “Freedom has more often been lost in small steps by progressive incrementalism, than it has been by catastrophic upheavals such as violence or war.”

15. “The invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the 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.”

16. “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

17. “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed—unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

18. “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.”

19. “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the constitution which granted a right to congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

James Madison Quotes on Liberty and Rights

20. “Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.”

21. “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country.”

22. “Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected.”

23. “No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.”

24. “The people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived.”

25. “The happy union of these states is a wonder; their constitution, a miracle; their example, the hope of liberty throughout the world.”

26. “The rights of persons and the rights of property, are the objects for the protection of which the government was instituted.”

27. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”

28. “Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done.”

29. “The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.”

30. “The internal effects of a mutable policy poisons the blessings of liberty itself.”

31. “A sincere and steadfast cooperation in promoting such a reconstruction of our political system would provide for the permanent liberty and happiness of the United States.”

32. “That this liberty of the press is often carried to excess; that it has sometimes degenerated into licentiousness, is seen and lamented, but the remedy has not yet been discovered. Perhaps it is an evil inseparable from the good with which it is allied; perhaps it is a shoot which cannot be stripped from the stalk without wounding vitally the plant from which it is torn. However desirable those measures might be which might be correct without enslaving the press, they have never yet been devised in America.”

33. “Every word decides a question between power and liberty.”

34. “The security intended to the general liberty consists in the frequent election and in the rotation of the members of Congress.”

35. “The state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operations of this government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a Federal Government admit the state legislatures to be sure guardians of the people’s liberty.”

36. “People will continue to seek justice until it is found, or until liberty is lost in the pursuit.”

37. “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.”

38. “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”

39. “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to an uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.”

40. “In Republics, the great danger is that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.”

41. “Liberty and order will never be perfectly safe until a trespass on the constitution provisions for either shall be felt with the same keenness that resents an invasion of the dearest rights.”

42. “In suits at common law, trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.”

43. “Democracies have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general, being as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.”

44. “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire.”

45. “The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government.”

46. “In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other, in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of the country and number of people comprehended under the same government.”

47. “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power.”

48. “A good government implies two things—first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.”

49. “A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.”

James Madison Quotes on the Public and Society

50. “The danger of disturbing the public tranquillity by interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still more serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions to the decision of the whole society.”

51. “Regarding legislative assemblies, the number ought at most to be kept within a certain limit in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude. In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason.”

52. “When men exercise their reason coolly and freely, on a variety of distinct questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions on some of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their opinions if they are so to be called, will be the same.”

53. “So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities; that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”

54. “Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.”

55. “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

56. “In civilized communities, property as well as personal rights are the essential object of the laws, which encourage industry by securing the enjoyment of its fruits—that industry from which property results, and that enjoyment which consists not merely in its immediate use, but in its posthumous destination to objects of choice and of kindred affection. In a just and free government, therefore, the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectively guarded.”

57. “Foreigners have been encouraged to settle among you.”

58. “Better also to disarm in the same way, the precedent of chaplainships for the army and navy, than erect them into a political authority in matters of religion.”

59. “It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents.”

60. “Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded against.”

61. “If we are to be one nation in any respect, it clearly ought to be in respect to other nations.”

62. “The senate ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”

63. “A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole.”

64. “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

65. “The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money.”

66. “In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate governments. Hence, a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time, that each will be controlled by itself.”

67. “A well-instructed person alone can permanently free people.”

68. “The Presidency alone unites the conjectures of the public.”

69. “It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.”

James Madison Quotes on War and the Fight for Peace

70. “War should only be declared by the authority of the people whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits.”

71. “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.”

72. “The operations of the Federal Government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the state governments, in times of peace and security.”

73. “Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”

74. “War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason.”

75. “What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, first, destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedemonians; or second, it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or third, it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or fourth, it overflows, by emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable.”

76. “Those who are to conduct a war cannot, in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded.”

77. “In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not the executive department. The trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.”

78. “War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.”

79. “As the war was just in its origin and necessary and noble in its objects, we can reflect with a proud satisfaction that in carrying it on no principle of justice or honor, no usage of civilized nations, no precept of courtesy or humanity, have been infringed.”

80. “The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad.”

81. “The constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of declaring a state of war and the power of raising armies. A delegation of such powers to the President would have struck, not only at the fabric of our constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments. The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.”

82. “In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the meanings of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people.”

83. “A certain degree of preparation for war affords also the best security for the continuance of peace.”

84. “The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both.”

85. “Constant apprehension of war has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”

86. “Testimony of all ages forces us to admit that war is among the most dangerous enemies to liberty, and that the executive is the branch most favored by it of all the branches of power.”

87. “It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute.”

88. “How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?”

89. “Among the Romans, it was a standing maxim to excite a war whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

90. “The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.”

91. “War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”

92. “The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.”

93. “We should never think of separation except for repeated and enormous violations.”

94. “The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from the civil government and exempt from its cognizance—that a connection between them is injurious to both.”

95. “The establishment of the championship to congress is a palpable violation of constitutional principles.”

96. “Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.”

97. “History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it’s issuance.”

98. “Industry and virtue have been promoted by mutual emulation and mutual inspection; commerce and the arts have flourished; and I cannot help attributing those continual exertions of genius which appear among you to the inspiration of liberty, and that love of fame and knowledge which always accompany it.”

99. “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.”

James Madison Quotes on Religion and the Separation of the Church and State

100. “In no instance have the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”

101. “Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government.”

102. “The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state.”

103. “A zeal for different opinions concerning religion has divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.”

104. “When, indeed, religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force like that of other passions is increased by the sympathy of a multitude. But enthusiasm is only a temporary state of religion, and while it lasts, will hardly be seen with pleasure at the helm. Even in its coolest state, it has been much more often a motive to oppression than a restraint from it.”

105. “It degrades from the equal rank of citizens all those whose opinions in religion do not bend to those of the legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the inquisition, it differs from it only in degree.”

106. “There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermingle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation.”

107. “Mankind is indebted for having dispelled the clouds which so long encompassed religion, for disclosing her genuine lustre, and disseminating her salutary doctrines.”

108. “That diabolical hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such business.”

109. “Christianity]existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them.”

110. “Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.”

111. “The human mind finds more facility in assenting to the self-existence of an invisible cause possessing infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, than in the self-existence of the universe, visibly destitute of these attributes, and which may be the effect of them.”

112. “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the church from the state.”

113. “Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by ecclesiastical bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

114. “No distinction seems to be more obvious than that between spiritual and temporal matters. Yet, whenever they have been made objects of legislation, they have clashed and contended with each other, till one or the other has gained supremacy.”

115. “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the governor of the universe.”

116. “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.”

117. “During almost fifteen centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”

118. “There remains, in some parts of the country, a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between government and religion neither can be duly supported.”

119. “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.”

James Madison Quotes on Values and Vice

120. “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

121. “The religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man.”

122. “If there is sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men; so that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

123. “They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.”

124. “Equal laws protecting equal rights—the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country.”

125. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

126. “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

127. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

128. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

129. “Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free person.”

130. “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.”

131. “They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.”

132. “Is there no virtue among us? If there are not, we are in a wretched situation.”

133. “Let me recommend the best medicine in the world for a long journey at a mild season through a pleasant country in easy stages.”

134. “We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it.”

135. “Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.”

136. “The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge the wants or feelings of the day laborer.”

137. “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”

138. “I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom.”

139. “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”

140. “Respect for character is always diminished in proportion to the number among whom the blame or praise is to be divided.”

Did These Quotes from James Madison Make You Value Your Rights More?

Everyone in the world has their own rights, and with them come responsibilities and values that we should uphold. The people in our history fought for the freedom and the rights we have today, and we must value and protect them no matter what. Through James Madison, we realize that we should never waver on our core principles—we need to be bold and assert what we know is good in order to succeed and be leaders in our own societies.

Are you more aware of the sacrifices our ancestors had to make in order for us to enjoy the liberties we have today? What do you do to protect your own rights and the rights of others? Comment them down below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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