Quotations by Madison, James


Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

On a proposed law to have the state financially support "Teachers of the Christian Religion."Full text.
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Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has 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 the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

On a proposed law to have the state financially support "Teachers of the Christian Religion."Full text.
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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 (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

On a proposed law to have the state financially support "Teachers of the Christian Religion."Full text.
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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.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

Quoting the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Article 16.  Full text of the letter.
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Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

On a proposed law to have the state financially support "Teachers of the Christian Religion."Full text.
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It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

On a proposed law to have the state financially support "Teachers of the Christian Religion."Full text.
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Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

On a proposed law to have the state financially support "Teachers of the Christian Religion."Full text.
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Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” letter to the Virginia Assembly (20 Jun 1785)

On a proposed law to have the state financially support "Teachers of the Christian Religion."

Full text.

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Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U.S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“Detached Memoranda”
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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.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
“Political Reflections” (22 Feb 1799)
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The purpose of 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.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
(1803)
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The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
(Attributed)
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The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
(Attributed)
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Crisis is the rallying cry of a tyrant.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
(Attributed)
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Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Annals of Congress (15 Aug 1789)
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It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist Papers, #62 (Feb 1788)
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A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. 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.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #10

Full text.

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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.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #47 (30 Jan 1788)
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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.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #47 (30 Jan 1788)
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If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #51 (6 Feb 1788)

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

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #55 (13 Feb 1788)
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The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #57 “The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many” (19 Feb 1788)
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If this spirit ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature as well as on the people, the people will be able to tolerate anything but liberty.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #57 “The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many” (19 Feb 1788)
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The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #57 (19 Feb 1788)
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It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist #62 (27 Feb 1788)

Full text.
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To the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Virginia Report of 1799

"Report on Resolutions," a report of the resolutions of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1799, submitted by a committee headed by Madison.
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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.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
In The Congressional Register (8 Jun 1789)
    (Source)

Motion made by Madison which became the "freedom of religion" clause in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
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There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it, would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Journal (12 Jun. 1788)
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The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Govt., and exempt from its cognizance; that a connexion between them is injurious to both; that there are causes in the human breast which ensure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of the law; that rival sects, with equal rights, exercise mutual censorships in favor of good morals; that if new sects arise with absurd opinions or over-heated imaginations, the proper remedies lie in time, forbearance, and example; that a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and with a toleration, is no security for public quiet & harmony, but rather a source of discord & animosity; and, finally, that these opinions are supported by experience, which has shewn that every relaxation of the alliance between Law & religion, from the partial example of Holland to its consummation in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, &c., has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Everett (18 Mar 1823)
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Prior to the Revolution, the Episcopal Church was established by law in this State. On the Declaration of independence it was left with all other sects, to a self-support. And no doubt exists that there is much more of religion among now than there ever was before the change; and particularly in the Sect which enjoyed the legal patronage. This proves rather more than, that the law is not necessary to the support of religion.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Everett (19 Mar. 1823)
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Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Livingston (10 Jul 1822)
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We are teaching the world the great truth, that Governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson: that Religion flourishes in greater purity without, than with the aid of Government.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Livingston (10 Jul 1822)
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And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Livingston (10 Jul 1822)
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We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Livingston (10 Jul. 1822)
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The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to F.L. Schaeffer (3 Dec 1821)
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The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to F.L. Schaeffer (3 Dec. 1821)
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Among the features peculiar to the Political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious Sect. And it is particularly pleasing to observe in the good citizenship of such as have been most distrusted and oppressed elsewhere, a happy illustration of the safety and success of this experiment of a just and benignant policy. Equal law protecting equal rights, are found as they ought to be presumed, the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country; as well as best calculated to cherish that mutual respect and good will among Citizens of every religious denomination which are necessary to social harmony and most favorable to the advancement of truth.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Jacob de la Motta (Aug. 1820)
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In the Papal System, Government and Religion are in a manner consolidated, & that is found to be the worst of Govts. In most of the Govts. of the old world, the legal establishment of a particular religion and without or with very little toleration of others makes a part of the Political and Civil organization and there are few of the most enlightened judges who will maintain that the system has been favorable either to Religion or to Govt.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Jasper Adams (1832?)
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Having ever regarded the freedom of religious opinion & worship as equally belonging to every sect, & the secure enjoyment of it as the best human provision for bringing all either into the same way of thinking, or into that mutual charity which is the only substitute, I observe with pleasure the view you give of the spirit in which your Sect partake of the blessings offered by our Govt. and Laws.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Mordecai Noah (15 May 1818)
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[T]he number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Robert Walsh (2 Mar. 1819)
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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. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to W. T. Barry (4 Aug 1822)
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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. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to W.T. Barry (4 Aug. 1822)
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Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to William Bradford, Jr. (1774)
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I am now more proud of the title of American than I have ever been. […] We have shed our blood in the glorious cause in which we are engaged; and we are ready to shed the last drop in its defense. Nothing is above our courage, except only (with shame I speak it) except the courage to TAX ourselves.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter, Philadelphia (9 Jun 1782)

 

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But I go by the great republican principle, that the people will have the virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. […] If there be 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.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Speech at the Virginia Convention (20 Jun 1788)

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Since 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 (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Speech in the Virginia Convention, Richmond (6 Jun. 1788)

In defense of the Constitution.
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Since 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.

Madison - gradual and silent encroachments - wist_info quote

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Speech, Virginia Ratifying Convention (6 Jun 1788)
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