James Madison Quotes

It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. . . . 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?


Memorial and Remonstrance Against ReligiousAssessments.

By a faction, understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

1787. The Federalist No. 10.

A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well as speculation as of practice; an attachment of different leaders ambitiously contending for preeminence 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 cooperate for their common good … But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.

1787. The Federalist No. 10.

To secure the public good, and private rights, against the gander of … faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.

1787. The Federalist No. 10.

Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an ailment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

1787. The Federalist No. 10.

The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results.

1787. The Federalist No. 10.

The most common and durable source of factions, has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold, and those who are without property, have ever formed distinct interests in society.

1787. The Federalist No. 10.

To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of . . . faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.

1787. The Federalist No. 10.

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.

1788. The Federalist No. 47.

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others. . . . Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. . . . If men were angels, no government would be necessary. . . . 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.

1788. The Federalist No. 51.

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.

1788. The Federalist No. 62.

Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the pople by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

16th June, 1788. Speech in the Virginia Convention.

I go on the principle that a public debt is a public curse, and in a Republican Government a greater curse than in any other.

13th April, 1790. Letter to Henry Lee.

In every political society, parties are unavoidable. A difference of interests, real or supposed, is the most natural and fruitful source of them. . . . The great art of politicians lies in making them checks and balances to each other.

1792. “Parties”

Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of every thing; and in no instance is this more true, than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the states, that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches, to their luxuriant growth, than by pruning them away, to injure the vigor of those yielding the proper fruits.

1799-1800. “Report on the Virginia Resolutions.”

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.

4th August, 1822. Letter to W.T. Barry.