Founders’ Quotes: On Society

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” ~ Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

“The great desideratum in Government is so to modify the sovereignty as that it may be sufficiently neutral between different parts of the Society to controul one part from invading the rights of another, and at the same time sufficiently controlled itself, from setting up an interest adverse to that of the entire Society.” ~ James Madison, letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1787

“Next Monday the Convention in Virginia will assemble; we have still good hopes of its adoption here: though by no great plurality of votes. South Carolina has probably decided favourably before this time. The plot thickens fast. A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America for the present generation, and probably produce no small influence on the happiness of society through a long succession of ages to come.” ~ George Washington, letter to Marquis de Lafayette, 1788

“It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States … should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well founded objections.” ~ George Washington, letter to Marquis de Lafayette, 1788

“Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society.” ~ James Madison, Federalist No. 37, 1788

“The instrument by which [government] must act are either the AUTHORITY of the laws or FORCE. If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government there is an end to liberty! ” ~ Alexander Hamilton, Tully, No. 3, 1794