provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to
man than that which protects the rights of conscience
against the enterprises of the civil authority.
liberty of speaking and writing guards our other
never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of
intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the
religious opinions of others.
loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have
occasion for them.
care of human life and happiness and not their
destruction is the first and only legitimate object of
people may establish what form of government they
please, and change it as they please, the will of the
nation being the only thing essential.
government ought to be without censors; and where the
press is free no one ever will.
we directed from Washington when to sow and when to
reap, we should soon want bread.
is...an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and
birth, without either virtue or talents.... The
artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in
government, and provisions should be made to prevent
whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual
exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most
unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading
submissions on the other. Our children see this, and
learn to imitate it.
force of public opinion cannot be resisted when
permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it
produces must be submitted to.
would rather be exposed to the inconveniences
attending too much liberty than to those attending too
small a degree of it.
The spirit of resistance to
government is so valuable on certain occasions that I
wish it to be always kept alive.
That government is best which
governs the least, because its people discipline
It is error alone which needs the
support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
Whenever any form of government
becomes destructive of these ends (life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness) it is the right of the
people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new
The will of the people is the only
legitimate foundation of any government, and to
protect its free expression should be our first
If people let government decide
what foods they eat and what medicines they take,
their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are
the souls of those who live under tyranny.
Were it left to me to decide
whether we should have a government without
newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I
should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But
I should mean that every man should receive those
papers and be capable of reading them.
with you that religion is a matter which lies solely
between man and his God, that he owes account to none
other for his faith or his worship, that the
legislative powers of government reach actions only,
and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign
reverence that act of the whole American people which
declared that their legislature should "make no
law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus
building a wall of separation between Church and
The principles on which we
engaged, of which the charter of our independence is
the record, were sanctioned by the laws of our being,
and we but obeyed them in pursuing undeviatingly the
course they called for. It issued finally in that
inestimable state of freedom which alone can ensure to
man the enjoyment of his equal rights.
Under the law of nature, all men
are born free, every one comes into the world with a
right to his own person, which includes the liberty of
moving and using it at his own will. This is what is
called personal liberty, and is given him by the
Author of nature, because necessary for his own
Of liberty I would say that, in the
whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed
action according to our will. But rightful liberty is
unobstructed action according to our will within
limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because
law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when
it violates the right of an individual.
It is to secure our rights that we
resort to government at all.
No man has a natural right to
commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and
this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.
I have never been able to conceive
how any rational being could propose happiness to
himself from the exercise of power over others.
Experience declares that man is the
only animal which devours his own kind, for I can
apply no milder term to...the general prey of the rich
on the poor.
Leave no authority existing not
responsible to the people.
I am not among those who fear the
people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for
I know no safe depositary 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.
(the people) become
inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and
Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall
all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our
general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.
Bear in mind this sacred principle,
that though the will of the majority is in all cases
to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be
reasonable; that the minority possess their equal
rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate
would be oppression.
Sometimes it is said that man
cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can
he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or
have we found angels in the form of kings to govern
him? Let history answer this question.