From 'The Conservative', by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The two parties which divide the state, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation, are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made. This quarrel is the subject of civil history. The conservative party established the reverend hierarchies and monarchies of the most ancient world. The battle of patrician and plebeian, of parent state and colony, of old usage and accommodation to new facts, of the rich and the poor, reappears in all countries and times. The war rages not only in battle-fields, in national councils, and ecclesiastical synods, but agitates every man's bosom with opposing advantages every hour. On rolls the old world meantime, and now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and hot personalities.

Misc Quotes

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. — Samuel Adams, speech at the Philadelphia State House, August 1, 1776.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. — Benjamin Franklin

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins; all of them imaginary. — H.L. Mencken

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt. — John Curran, July 10, 1790, in a speech about electing the mayor of Dublin

Thomas Jefferson


We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. . . . Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

it is the great parent of science and of virtue: and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free -Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, March 24, 1789

our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost. -Thomas Jefferson to Dr. James Currie, January 28, 1786

nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. -Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 11, 1807

I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. -Thomas Jefferson to William Plumer, July 21, 1816

bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. education and free discussion are the antidotes of both. -Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 1, 1816

What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment and death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose. -Thomas Jefferson to Jean Nicholas Demeunier, January 24, 1786

yet the hour of emancipation is advancing . . . this enterprise is for the young; for those who can follow it up, and bear it through to it's consummation. it shall have all my prayers, and these are the only weapons of an old man. -Thomas Jefferson to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814

the two principles on which our conduct towards the Indians should be founded, are justice and fear. after the injuries we have done them, they cannot love us . . . . -Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Hawkins, August 13, 1786

The expedition of Messrs. Lewis and Clarke for exploring the river Missouri, and the best communication from that to the Pacific ocean, has had all the success which could have been expected. -Thomas Jefferson's Sixth Annual Message to Congress, December 2, 1806

I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities, which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country. -Thomas Jefferson to Hugh P. Taylor, October 4, 1823

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give. -Thomas Jefferson to Alexander Donald, February 7, 1788

Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights. -Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, January 8, 1789

I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe eturn in due time. -Thomas Jefferson to John Wyche, May 19, 1809

our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man's and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend's or our foe's, are exactly the right. -Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, September 26, 1814

. . . there is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive. -Thomas Jefferson to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803

When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred. -Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Smith, February 21, 1825

I cannot live without books. -Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, June 10, 1815

George Washington


Elect the Best: George Washington to Henry Lee, 22 September 1788

Probably, prudence, wisdom, and patriotism were never more essentially necessary than at the present moment: and so far as it can be done in an irreproachable direct manner, no effort ought to be left unessayed to procure the election of the best possible characters to the new Congress. On their harmony, deliberation and decision every thing will depend.

Fears of Despotism: George Washington to John Jay, 15 August 1786

What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and falacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.

Powers to Congress: George Washington to Jabez Bowen, 9 January 1787

I have been long since fully convinced of the necessaty of Granting to Congress more ample and extensive powers than they at present possess; the want of power an[d] energy in that Body has been severely felt in every part of the United States. The disturbances in new England, The declining state of our Commerce--and the general languor which seems to pervade the Union are in a great measure (if not entirely) owing to the want of proper Authority in the surpreme Council.Power to Congress

Warning to France: George Washington to Lafayette, 18 June 1788 (The Papers, Confederation Series, 6:335-38)

I like not much the situation of affairs in France. The bold demands of the Parliaments and the decisive tone of the King, shew that but little more irritation would be necessary to blow up the spark of discontent into a flame that might not easily be quenched. If I were to advise, I would say that great moderation should be used on both sides. Let it not, my dear Marquis, be considered as a derogation from the good opinion that I entertain of your prudence, when I caution you, as an individual desirous, of signalising yourself in the cause of your country and freedom, against running into extremes and prejudicing your cause.

George Washington; on the Constitution

George Washington to John Jay, 18 May 1786

I coincide perfectly in sentiment with you, my dear Sir, that there are errors in our National Government which call for correction; loudly I will add; but I shall find my self happily mistaken if the remedies are at hand. We are certainly in a delicate situation, but my fear is that the people are not yet sufficiently misled to retract from error! To be plainer, I think there is more wickedness than ignorance, mixed with our councils. Under this impression, I scarcely know what opinion to entertain of a general Convention. That it is necessary to revise, and amend the articles of Confederation, I entertain no doubt; but what may be the consequences of such an attempt is doubtful. Yet, something must be done, or the fabrick must fall. It certainly is tottering!

Constitutional Realism: George Washington to David Humphreys, 10 October 1787

The Constitution that is submitted, is not free from inperfections; but there are as few radical defects in it as could well be expected, considering the heterogenious mass of which the Convention was composed--and the diversity of interests which were to be reconciled. A Constitutional door being opened, for future alterations and amendments, I think it would be wise in the People to adopt what is offered to them; and I wish it may be by as great a majority of them as in the body that decided on it; but this is hardly to be expected, because the importance, and sinister views of too many characters will be affected by the change.

Constitutional humility: George Washington to Bushrod Washington, 9 November 1787

The warmest friends to and the best supporters of the Constitution, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but these were not to be avoided, and they are convinced if evils are likely to flow from them, that the remedy must come thereafter; because, in the present moment it is not to be obtained. And as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the people (for it is with them to judge) can, as they will have the aid of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments wch shall be found necessary, as ourselves; for I do not conceive that we are more inspired--have more wisdem--or possess more virtue than those who will come after us

James Madison


A pure democracy is a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person.

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

All men having power ought to be mistrusted.

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

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

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.

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.

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

Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.

Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power.

No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

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.

Such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.

The Constitution of the United States was created by the people of the United States composing the respective states, who alone had the right.

The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.

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.

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.

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

The loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad.

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.

The proposed Constitution is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal constitution; but a composition of both.

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 with blood for centuries.

We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.

What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? 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.

What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?

John Adams


A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man.

A government of laws, and not of men.

Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society.

All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.

Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion... in private self-defense.

As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.

Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

Fear is the foundation of most governments.

Genius is sorrow's child.

Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.

Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear and imagination - everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.

I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.

I have accepted a seat in the House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and to the ruin of our children. I give you this warning that you may prepare your mind for your fate.

I must not write a word to you about politics, because you are a woman.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.

If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?

In politics the middle way is none at all.

Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.

Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power.

My country has contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.

Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak.

Power always thinks... that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws.

Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.

The Declaration of Independence I always considered as a theatrical show. Jefferson ran away with all the stage effect of that... and all the glory of it.

The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries.

The happiness of society is the end of government.

The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.

There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

When people talk of the freedom of writing, speaking or thinking I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.

While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill - little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.

Alexander Hamilton


Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.

Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things

Power over a man's subsistence is power over his will.

Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have is this. When I have a subject in mind. I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it... the effort which I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.

A promise must never be broken

Your people, sir, is nothing but a great beast

I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value

A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.

Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal.

Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.

Benjamin Franklin


A lady [Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia] asked Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin Well, Doctor. What have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?. A Republic, replied the Doctor, if you can keep it.-

Poor Richard's Almanack 1734

 * Would you live with ease? Do what you ought, not what you please.
    * Better slip with foot than tongue.
    * You cannot pluck roses without fear of thorns, Nor enjoy fair wife without
       danger of horns.
    * Without justice, courage is weak.
    * Blame-all and Praise-all are two blockheads.
    * No man e'er was glorious, who was not laborious.
    * Whate'ers begun in anger ends in shame.
    * What one relishes, nourishes.
    * Fools multiply folly.
    * Beauty and Folly are old companions.
    * Hope of gain, lessens pain.
    * All things are easy to Industry, All things difficult to Sloth.
    * If you ride a horse, sit close and tight, if you ride a man,
       sit easy and light.
    * Don't think to hunt two hares with one dog.
    * Who pleasure gives, Shall joy receive.
    * Where there is Marriage without Love, there will be Love without Marriage.
    * Be neither silly, nor cunning, but wise.
    * Neither a Fortress nor a Maidenhead will hold out
      long after they begin to parly.
    * Jack Little sow'd little, and little he'll reap.
    * All things are cheap to the saving, dear to the wasteful.
    * Would you persuade, speak of Interest, not of Reason.
    * Happy's the Woing, that's not long a doing.
    * Don't value a man for the Quality he is of, but for the Qualities he possesses.
    * Be good to thy Friend to keep him, to thy enemy to gain him.
    * A good Man is seldom uneasy, an ill one never easie.
    * Teach your child to hold his tongue, he'l learn fast enough to speak.
    * He that cannot obey, cannot command.
    * An innocent Plowman is more worthy than a vicious Prince.
    * As Charms are nonsense, Nonsence is a Charm.
    * An Egg to day is better than a Hen to-morrow.
    * Drink Water, Put the Money in your Pocket, and leave the
      Dry-bellyach in the Punchbowl.
    * He that is rich need not live sparingly, and he that can live sparingly 
    need not be rich.
    * If you wou'd be reveng'd of your enemy, govern your self.
    * A wicked Hero will turn his back to an innocent coward.
    * Laws like to Cobwebs catch small Flies, Great one break thro' before your eyes.
    * Strange, that he who lives by Shifts, can seldom shift himself.
    * As sore places meet most rubs, proud folks meet most affronts.
    * He does not possess Wealth, it possesses him.
    * Necessity has no Law; I know some Attorneys of the name.
    * Onions can make ev'n heirs and Widows weep.
    * Avarice and Happiness never saw each other, how then shou'd they become acquainted.
    * The thrifty maxim of the wary Dutch, is to save all the Money they can touch.
    * He that waits upon Fortune, is never sure of a Dinner.
    * A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.
    * Marry your Son when you will, but your Daughter when you can.
    * If you woul'd have Guests meery with your cheer, be so your self, 
    or so at least appear.

Abraham Lincoln


Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and loss of self-control. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Things may come to those who wait. But only the things left by those who hustle. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Whatever you are, be a good one. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master This expresses my idea of democracy. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Everything I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know who his grandson will be. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. --Abraham Lincoln

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. --Abraham Lincoln

The better part of one's life consists of his friendships. --Abraham Lincoln

I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to men. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) Address at Gettysburg, (Gettysburg Address) 1863

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

I fear explanations explanatory of things explained. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

He will have to learn, I know, that all people are not just - that all men and women are not true. Teach him that for every scoundrel there is a hero that for every enemy there is a friend. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

I'm a slow walker, but I never walk back. --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him --Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)


Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer --Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. --Mark Twain

It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them. --Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. --Mark Twain

You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. --Mark Twain

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company. --Mark Twain (1835-1910)

First, God created idiots. That was just for practice. Then He created school boards. --Mark Twain

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. --Samuel Johnson

I've lived a long life and seen a lot of hard times ... most of which never happened. --Mark Twain

Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. --Mark Twain

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she has laid an asteroid. --Mark Twain

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. --Mark Twain

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man --Mark Twain

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything --Mark Twain

Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before him. --Mark Twain

Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense. --Mark Twain

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries of life disappear and life stands explained. --Mark Twain

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. --Mark Twain

The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money. --Mark Twain Pudd'nhead Wilson

To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know, I've done it a thousand times. - Mark Twain

It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. --Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this it the ideal life. --Mark Twain

One of the striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives. --Mark Twain

Etiquette requires us to admire the human race. --Mark Twain

I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead. --Mark Twain

The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them. --Mark Twain