QUOTES ON LIBERTY AND VIRTUE
Compiled and Edited by J. David Gowdy, President
The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute
lib-er-ty\ 'lib-er-te` \ n [ME, fr. MF liberte', fr. L libertat, libertas, fr. liber free]
1. FREEDOM 2. POWER 3. CHOICE 4. RIGHT 5. PRIVILEGE 6. DUTY 7. STANDARD
vir-tue\ 'ver-(,)chu: \ n [ME virtu, fr. OF, L virtut-, virtus strength, virtue]
1. MORALITY 2. POWER 3. VALOR 4. MERIT 5. CHASTITY 6. FORCE 7. AUTHORITY
"[V]irtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."
"Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? "
"[T]here is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists . . . an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness."
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim tribute to patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. . . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles."
"The aggregate happiness of the society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all government . . . ."
"Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people. The general government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppresive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people."
"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."
"Laws without morals are in vain."
Benjamin Franklin (Motto of the University of Pennsylvania)
"Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."
"A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society."
"No government can continue good but under the control of the people; and . . . . their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and to be deterred from those of vice . . . . These are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure and order of government."
"It is in the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. . . . degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats into the heart of its laws and constitution."
"[In a republic, according to Montesquieu in Spirit of the Laws, IV,ch.5,] 'virtue may be defined as the love of the laws and of our country. As such love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of all private virtue; for they are nothing more than this very preference itself... Now a government is like everything else: to preserve it we must love it . . . Everything, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education; but the surest way of instilling it into children is for parents to set them an example.'"
Thomas Jefferson: copied into his Commonplace Book.
"When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community."
Montesquieu (written by Thomas Jefferson in his Common Place Book).
"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition."
"Liberty . . . is the great parent of science and of virtue; and . . . a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free."
"The order of nature [is] that individual happiness shall be inseparable from the practice of virtue."
"Without virtue, happiness cannot be."
"The institution of delegated power implies that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence."
"To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea."
"The aim of every political Constitution, is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."
". . . Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed . . . so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger."
"Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."
"The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now. They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net."
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
"Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul."
"Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics."
"[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."
"The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy."
"Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty."
"Honor is truly sacred, but holds a lower rank in the scale of moral excellence than virtue. Indeed the former is part of the latter, and consequently has not equal pretensions to support a frame of government productive of human happiness."
"Human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. There is also in human nature a resentment of injury, and indignation against wrong. A love of truth and a veneration of virtue.
These amiable passions, are the "latent spark"... If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the differences between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice,
to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply than to the sense of this difference?"
"Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers."
"It is certainly true that a popular government cannot flourish without virtue in the people."
Richard Henry Lee
"Whenever we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."
"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen onto any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man."
"The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals."
"[M]en will be free no longer then while they remain virtuous."
"If virtue & knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great security."
"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant,
and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders."
"A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy....
While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader....
If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security."
"No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous."
"No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue,
and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."
"[A] free government . . . cannot be supported without Virtue."
"In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate -- look at his character. It is alleged by men of loose principles,
or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the scriptures teach a different doctrine.
They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, men of truth, hating covetousness. It is to the neglect of this rule that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds,
breaches of trust, speculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country and which disgrace our government.
When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest,
but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country."
"...if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish
or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men;
and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded."
"Let a man's zeal, profession, or even principles as to political measures be what they will, if he is without personal integrity and private virtue, as a man he is not to be trusted."
"... the manners of the people in general are of the utmost moment to the stability of any civil society. When the body of a people are altogether corrupt in their manners, the government is ripe for dissolution."
"So true is this, that civil liberty cannot be long preserved without virtue."
"... but a republic once equally poised, must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty, and by some tumultuous revolution, either return to its first principles, or assume a more unhappy form."
"A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue."
Jean Jacques Rousseau
"Machiavel, discoursing on these matters, finds virtue to be so essentially necessary to the establishment and preservation of liberty, that he thinks it impossible for a corrupted people to set up a good government, or for a tyranny to be introduced if they be virtuous; and makes this conclusion, 'That where the matter (that is, the body of the people) is not corrupted, tumults and disorders do not hurt; and where it is corrupted, good laws do no good:' which being confirmed by reason and experience, I think no wise man has ever contradicted him."
"[L]iberty cannot be preserved, if the manners of the people are corrupted . . ."
"[A]ll popular and well-mixed governments [republics] . . . are ever established by wise and good men, and can never be upheld otherwise than by virtue: The worst men always conspiring against them, they must fall, if the best have not power to preserve them. . . . [and] unless they be preserved in a great measure free from vices . . . ."
"Fruits are always of the same nature with the seeds and roots from which they come, and trees are known by the fruits they bear: as a man begets a man, and a beast a beast, that society of men which constitutes a government upon the foundation of justice, virtue, and the common good, will always have men to promote those ends; and that which intends the advancement of one man's desire and vanity, will abound in those that will foment them."
"[I]f vice and corruption prevail, liberty cannot subsist; but if virtue have the advantage, arbitrary power cannot be established."
"If the public safety be provided, liberty and propriety secured, justice administered, virtue encouraged, vice suppressed, and the true interest of the nation advanced, the ends of government are accomplished . . ."
"[L]iberty without virtue would be no blessing to us."
"Without virtue there can be no liberty."
"The only foundation for... a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty,
and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments."
"No free government can stand without virtue in the people, and a lofty spirit of partiotism."
"Lastly, our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits."
"[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
"Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith."
"What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint."
"Among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist."
"Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them in great measure the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex and smooth, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they support them, or they totally destroy them."
"It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, by leaving much to free will, even with some loss of the object , than to attempt to make men mere machines and instruments of political benevolence. The world on the whole will gain by a liberty, without which virtue cannot exist."
"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsel of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."
"Among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist."
"[T]he very best forms of government are vain without public virtue . . . ."
William A. Cocke
"No polity can be devised which shall perpetuate freedom among a people that are dead to honor and integrity. Liberty and virtue are twin sisters, and the best fabric in the world . . . ."
James H. Thornwell
"[P]erfect freedom consists in obeying the dictates of right reason, and submitting to natural law. When a man goes beyond or contrary to the law of nature and reason, he . . . introduces confusion and disorder into society . . . [thus] where licentiousness begins, liberty ends."
"When was public virtue to be found when private was not?"
"The laws by which the Divine Ruler of the universe has decreed an indissoluble connection between public happiness and private virtue, whatever apparent exceptions may delude our short-sighted judgments, never fail to vindicate their supremacy and immutability."
William Cabell Rives
"Unless virtue guide us our choice must be wrong."
"If men be good, government cannot be bad."
"Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them."
"The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous."
"[R]eligion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged."
Northwest Ordinance of 1787
"I consider the domestic virtue of the Americans as the principle source of all their other qualities. It acts as a promoter of industry, as a stimulus to enterprise and as the most powerful restraint of public vice. . . . No government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States with a different code of morals."
"The American Constitution is remarkable for its simplicity; but it can only suffice a people habitually correct in their actions, and would be utterly inadequate to the wants of a different nation. Change the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their high respect for morality, and it will not be necessary to change a single letter in the Constitution in order to vary the whole form of their government."
"History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster."
"[Liberty] considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom."
Alexis de Tocqueville
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her comodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies; and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast commerce, and it was not there. Not until I visited the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
An old adage attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville
"Somehow strangely the vice of men gets well represented and protected but their virtue has none to plead its cause -- nor any charter of immunities and rights."
Henry David Thoreau
"To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."
"We have never stopped sin by passing laws; and in the same way, we are not going to take a great moral ideal and achieve it merely by law."
Dwight D. Eisenhower
"No government at any level, or at any price, can afford, on the crime side, the police necessary to assure our safety unless the overwhelming majority of us are guided by an inner, personal code of morality. And you will not get that inner, personal code of morality unless children are brought up in a family -- a family that gives them the affection they seek, that makes them feel they belong, that guides them to the future, and that will build continuity in future generations. . . . the greatest inequality today is not inequality of wealth or income. It is the inequality between the child brought up in a loving, supportive family and one who has been denied that birthright."
Lady Margaret Thatcher
"A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state."
"Today it would be progress if everyone would stop talking about values. Instead, let us talk, as the Founders did, about virtues."
"The ultimate success of this government and the stability of its institutions, its progress in all that can make a nation honored, depend upon its adherence to the principles of truth and righteousness."
"Righteousness exalteth a nation."