166+ Best James Madison Quotes: Exclusive Selection

James Madison Jr. was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, philosopher and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. He wrote the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution, co-wrote the Federalist Papers and sponsored the Bill of Rights. Inspirational James Madison quotes on immigration, guns, political parties, education, electoral college, and first amendment will broaden your horizon.

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Most Famous James Madison Quotes

The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money. – James Madison

Oppressors can tyrannize only when they achieve a standing army, an enslaved press, and a disarmed populace. – James Madison

The future and success of America is not in this Constitution, but in the laws of God upon which this Constitution is founded. – James Madison

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

No error is more certain than the one proceeding from a hasty and superficial view of the subject. – James Madison

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment. – James Madison

To provide employment for the poor, and support for the indigent, is among the primary, and, at the same time, not least difficult cares of the public authority. – James Madison

A people armed and free, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition and is a bulwark for the nation against foreign invasion and domestic oppression. – James Madison

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce. … The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State. – James Madison

If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer, the genius of the whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it. – James Madison

They can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. – James Madison

I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security. – James Madison

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. – James Madison

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history. – James Madison

Disarm the people- that is the best and most effective way to enslave them. – James Madison

The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State. – James Madison

The people can never willfully betray their own interests: But they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people; and the danger will be evidently greater where the whole legislative trust is lodged in the hands of one body of men, than where the concurrence of separate and dissimilar bodies is required in every public act. – James Madison

The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of government. – James Madison

It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage…Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe… – James Madison

A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies 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. – James Madison

The problem to be solved is, not what form of government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect. – James Madison

It is very certain that [the commerce clause] grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government. – James Madison

The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature. – James Madison

There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by…corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses. – James Madison

The growing wealth acquired by them corporations never fails to be a source of abuses. – James Madison

It may be concluded that a pure democracy . . . can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. – James Madison

Temporary deviations from fundamental principles are always more or less dangerous. When the first pretext fails, those who become interested in prolonging the evil will rarely be at a loss for other pretexts. – James Madison

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

Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. – James Madison

But the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain. – James Madison

That the foundation of our national policy should be laid in private morality. If individuals be not influenced by moral principles, it is in vain to look for public virtue; it is, therefore, the duty of legislators to enforce, both by precept and example, the utility, as well as the necessity, of a strict adherence to the rules of distributive justice. – James Madison

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. – James Madison

Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ. – James Madison

Is there a Legislative power in fact, not expressly prohibited by the Constitution, which might not, according to the doctrine of the Court, be exercised as a means of carrying into effect some specified Power? – James Madison

[A]s it must be admitted that the remedy under the Constitution lies where it has been marked out by the Constitution; and that no appeal can be consistently made from that remedy by those who were and still profess to be parties to it, but the appeal to the parties themselves having an authority above the Constitution or to the law of nature & of nature’s God. – James Madison

Our country, if it does justice to itself, will be the workshop of liberty to the civilized world. – James Madison

A government resting on the minority is an aristocracy, not a Republic, and could not be safe with a numerical and physical force against it, without a standing army, an enslaved press and a disarmed populace. – James Madison

Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. – James Madison

The governments of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms. If they did, the people would certainly shake off the yoke of tyranny, as America did. – James Madison

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest. – James Madison

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

Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of everything; 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. – James Madison

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. – James Madison

We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments. – James Madison

If there be a principle that ought not to be questioned within the United States, it is that every man has a right to abolish an old government and establish a new one. This principle is not only recorded in every public archive, written in every American heart, and sealed with the blood of American martyrs, but is the only lawful tenure by which the United States hold their existence as a nation. – James Madison

Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. – James Madison

Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant. – James Madison

Freedom has more often been lost in small steps by progressive incrementalism, than it has been by catastrophic upheavals such as violence or war. – James Madison

Congress shall never disarm any citizen unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion. – James Madison

It is vain to say that enlightened statesmen will always be able to adjust their interests. Enlightened men will not always be at the helm. – James Madison

Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done. – James Madison

Good conscience is the most valuable asset of all! – James Madison

The right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon . . . has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right. – James Madison

A pure Democracy, by which I mean a Society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the Government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of Government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that 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. – James Madison

No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability. – James Madison

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise…. 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 laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. – James Madison

Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. – James Madison

The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned. – James Madison

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. – James Madison

The truth was that all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. – James Madison

If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one. – James Madison

Armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. – James Madison

Democracy was the right of the people to choose their own tyrant. – James Madison

It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute. – James Madison

In the first place, it is to be remembered, that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any. – James Madison

Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations. – James Madison

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

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. – James Madison

The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable. – James Madison

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

Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. – James Madison

In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority. – James Madison

To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. – James Madison

The people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived. – James Madison

Our Constitution represents the work of the finger of Almighty God. – James Madison

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

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

If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior. – James Madison

If our nation is ever taken over, it will be taken over from within. – James Madison

The purpose of the Constitution is to restrict the majority’s ability to harm a minority. – James Madison

We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A Republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when the day comes when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nations to the changed conditions. – James Madison

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

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

If man is not fit to govern himself, how can he be fit to govern someone else? – James Madison

Americans need not fear the federal government because they enjoy the advantage of being armed, which you possess over the people of almost every other nation. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. – James Madison

It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. – James Madison

History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance. – James Madison

The very definition of tyranny is when all powers are gathered under one place. – James Madison

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

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. 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. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. – James Madison

America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts. – James Madison

In no instance have… the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people. – James Madison

Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government. – James Madison

What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support? – James Madison

Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad. – James Madison

War should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits. – James Madison

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

Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in easy stages. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world. – James Madison

The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state. – James Madison

As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. – James Madison

The rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. – James Madison

The capacity of the female mind for studies of the highest order cannot be doubted, having been sufficiently illustrated by its works of genius, of erudition, and of science. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

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

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

A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people. – James Madison

Whenever a youth is ascertained to possess talents meriting an education which his parents cannot afford, he should be carried forward at the public expense. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

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

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? – James Madison

Every nation whose affairs betray a want of wisdom and stability may calculate on every loss which can be sustained from the more systematic policy of its wiser neighbors. – James Madison

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. – James Madison

All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. – James Madison

I have no doubt but that the misery of the lower classes will be found to abate whenever the Government assumes a freer aspect and the laws favor a subdivision of Property. – James Madison

A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. – James Madison

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

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. – James Madison

The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security. – James Madison

All that seems indispensable in stating the account between the dead and the living, is to see that the debts against the latter do not exceed the advances made by the former. – James Madison

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

War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason. – James Madison

Despotism can only exist in darkness, and there are too many lights now in the political firmament to permit it to remain anywhere, as it has heretofore done, almost everywhere. – James Madison

There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. – James Madison

A sincere and steadfast co-operation in promoting such a reconstruction of our political system as would provide for the permanent liberty and happiness of the United States. – James Madison

I should not regret a fair and full trial of the entire abolition of capital punishment. – James Madison

The internal effects of a mutable policy poisons the blessings of liberty itself. – James Madison

By rendering the labor of one, the property of the other, they cherish pride, luxury, and vanity on one side: on the other, vice and servility, or hatred and revolt. – James Madison

If we are to take for the criterion of truth the majority of suffrages, they ought to be gotten from those philosophic and patriotic citizens who cultivate their reason. – James Madison

The class of citizens who provide at once their own food and their own raiment, may be viewed as the most truly independent and happy. – James Madison

Commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive, and impolitic. – James Madison

The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, when acquired, a right to protection, as a social right. – James Madison

Union of religious sentiments begets a surprising confidence. – James Madison

Any reading not of a vicious species must be a good substitute for the amusements too apt to fill up the leisure of the laboring classes. – James Madison

Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power. – James Madison

We had some great set-ups with Inge and Jessica Miller in the middle, … Inge gets better and better every day. I think at first, she had to get used to what was going on, but she is really starting to move the ball well and ignite our attack. – James Madison

Can it be of less consequence that the meaning of a Constitution should be fixed and known, than a meaning of a law should be so? – James Madison

An armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics – that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe… – James Madison

We look back, already, with astonishment, at the daring outrages committed by despotism, on the reason and rights of man; we look forward with joy, to the period, when it shall be despoiled of all its usurpations, and bound forever in the chains, with which it had loaded its miserable victims. – James Madison

In proportion to the value of this revolution; in proportion to the importance of instruments, every word of which decides a question between power and liberty; in proportion to the solemnity of acts, proclaiming the will authenticated by the seal of the people, the only earthly source of authority, ought to be the vigilance with which they are guarded by every citizen in private life, and the circumspection with which they are executed by every citizen in public trust. – James Madison

As compacts, charters of government are superior in obligation to all others, because they give effect to all others. As truths, none can be more sacred, because they are bound, on the conscience by the religious sanctions of an oath. As metes and bounds of government, they transcend all other landmarks, because every public usurpation is an encroachment on the private right, not of one, but of all. – James Madison

The citizens of the United States have peculiar motives to support the energy of their constitutional charters. – James Madison

There is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust. – James Madison

But the most deplorable effect of all, is that diminution of attachment and reverence, which steals into the hearts of the people, towards a political system which betrays so many marks of infirmity and disappoints so many of their flattering hopes. No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected, without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability. – James Madison

Nothing could be more irrational than to give the people power, and to withhold from them information without which power is abused. – James Madison

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

The preservation of a free government requires not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority and are Tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them and are slaves. – James Madison

Of all the objections which have been framed against the federal Constitution, this is perhaps the most extraordinary. Whilst the objection itself is levelled against a pretended oligarchy, the principle of it strikes at the very root of republican government. – James Madison

What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, 1st. destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedemonians; or 2d. it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or 3d. it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or 4th. it overflows, by emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable. – James Madison

The temple through which alone lies the road to that of Liberty. – James Madison

Liberty and order will never be perfectly safe until a trespass on the Constitution provisions for either, shall be felt with the same keenness that resents and invasion of the dearest rights… – James Madison

An efficient militia is authorized and contemplated by the Constitution and required by the spirit and safety of free government. – James Madison

Experience has instructed us that no skill in the science of government has yet been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its three great provinces the legislative, executive, and judiciary: or even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches. – James Madison

Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured. But what particular degree of frequency may be absolutely necessary for the purpose, does not appear to be susceptible of any precise calculation; and must depend on a variety of circumstances with which it may be connected. Let us consult experience, the guide that ought always to be followed, whenever it can be found. – James Madison

Experience assures us, that the efficacy of the provision has been greatly over-rated; and that some more adequate defense is indispensably necessary for the more feeble, against the more powerful members of the government. – James Madison

At first view it might seem not to square with the republican theory, to suppose either that a majority have not the right, or that a minority will have the force to subvert a government… But theoretic reasoning in this, as in most other cases, must be qualified by the lessons of practice. – James Madison

To consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle. – James Madison

The primary function of government is to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority of the poor. – James Madison

I hope this will find you…enjoying the commencement of a new year with every prospect that can make it a happy one. – James Madison

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