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Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another. It is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man.
Two of the New England Colonies enjoy a Government purely democratical the Nature and Principle of which both civil and religious are so totally incompatible with Monarchy, that they have ever lived in a restless state under it. The other two tho not so popular in their frame bordered so near upon it that Monarchical Influence hung very heavy on them. The best opportunity in the World being now offered them to throw off all subjection and embrace their darling Democracy they are determined to accept it.
The most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power into tyranny are] to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts which history exhibits, that possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power.
Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?
In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes.
: in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is a instrument for the people to restrain the government...
Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a
day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and
pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove
a deliberate, systematical plan of reducing us to slavery