Founders of the U.S. Constitution

About this Collection

The “Founders” refers to that generation of men and women who were active in the American Revolution and the formation of the early American Republic and the Constitution.

Key People

Titles & Essays

A – Z List

America

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History Of The Americas

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United States

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Quotes

Revolution

Adams and Jefferson reflect on the Revolution and the future of liberty (1823)

John Adams

Class

Alexander Hamilton on the Civil Balance of Power

Alexander Hamilton

Money & Banking

Alexander Hamilton on the Constitutionality of a National Bank

Alexander Hamilton

War & Peace

Alexander Hamilton warns of the danger to civil society and liberty from a standing army since “the military state becomes elevated above the civil” (1787)

Alexander Hamilton

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Benjamin Franklin and the Need for Unity among the Colonies

Benjamin Franklin

The State

Benjamin Franklin on the “superstructure” of Good Government (1736)

Benjamin Franklin

Revolution

Benjamin Franklin on the trade off between essential liberty and temporary safety (1775)

Benjamin Franklin

Society

Benjamin Franklin’s List of Virtues for “Clean” Living

Benjamin Franklin

Politics & Liberty

George Washington on the Difference between Commercial and Political Relations with other Countries (1796)

George Washington

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

George Washington warns that the knee jerk reaction of citizens to problems is to seek a solution in the creation of a “new monarch”(1786)

George Washington

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

George Washington warns the nation in his Farewell Address, that love of power will tend to create a real despotism in America unless proper checks and balances are maintained to limit government power (1796)

George Washington

War & Peace

James Madison argues that the Constitution places war-making powers squarely with the legislative branch; for the president to have these powers is the “the true nurse of executive aggrandizement” (1793)

James Madison

Class

James Madison on the “sagacious and monied few” who are able to “harvest” the benefits of government regulations (1787)

James Madison

Parties & Elections

James Madison on the dangers of elections resulting in overbearing majorities who respect neither justice nor individual rights, Federalist 10 (1788)

James Madison

Politics & Liberty

James Madison on the mischievous effects of mutable government in The Federalist no. 62 (1788)

James Madison

War & Peace

James Madison on the necessity of separating the power of “the sword from the purse” (1793)

James Madison

Politics & Liberty

James Madison on the need for the “separation of powers” because “men are not angels,” Federalist 51 (1788)

James Madison

War & Peace

James Madison on the need for the people to declare war and for each generation, not future generations, to bear the costs of the wars they fight (1792)

James Madison

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Jefferson feared that it would only be a matter of time before the American system of government degenerated into a form of “elective despotism” (1785)

Thomas Jefferson

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Jefferson on how Congress misuses the inter-state commerce and general welfare clauses to promote the centralization of power (1825)

Thomas Jefferson

Taxation

Jefferson on Taxes and the General Welfare (1791)

Thomas Jefferson

Politics & Liberty

Jefferson on the right to change one’s government (1776)

Thomas Jefferson

Taxation

Jefferson tells Congress that since tax revenues are increasing faster than population then taxes on all manner of items can be “dispensed with” (i.e. abolished) (1801)

Thomas Jefferson

Revolution

Jefferson warns about the rise of an “Anglo-Monarchio-Aristocratic party” in America (1797)

Thomas Jefferson

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Jefferson’s list of objections to the British Empire in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence (1776)

Thomas Jefferson

Freedom of Speech

Jefferson’s preference for “newspapers without government” over “government without newspapers” (1787)

Thomas Jefferson

Law

John Adams argues that the British Empire is not a “true” empire but a form of a “republic” where the rule of law operates (1763)

John Adams

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

John Adams on how absolute power intoxicates those who excercise that power (1814)

John Adams

The State

John Adams on Religion and the Constitution

John Adams

Law

John Adams predicts a glorious future for America under the new Constitution and is in “reverence and awe” at its future prospects (1787)

John Adams

Politics & Liberty

John Adams thought he could see arbitrary power emerging in the American colonies and urged his countrymen to “nip it in the bud” before they lost all their liberties (1774)

John Adams

War & Peace

John Jay in The Federalist Papers discussed why nations go to war and concluded that it was not for justice but “whenever they have a prospect of getting any thing by it” (1787)

John Jay

War & Peace

John Jay on the pretended as well as the just causes of war (1787)

John Jay

Liberty

Madison on “Parchment Barriers” and the defence of liberty I (1788)

James Madison

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Madison on “Parchment Barriers” and the defence of liberty II (1788)

James Madison

War & Peace

The 7th Day of Christmas: Madison on “the most noble of all ambitions” which a government can have, of promoting peace on earth (1816)

James Madison

War & Peace

The 8th Day of Christmas: Jefferson on the inevitability of revolution in England only after which there will be peace on earth (1817)

Thomas Jefferson

Money & Banking

Thomas Jefferson and The National Bank Question Yet Again: 1813-1817

Thomas Jefferson

Taxation

Thomas Jefferson boasts about having reduced the size of government and eliminated a number of “vexatious” taxes (1805)

Thomas Jefferson

Money & Banking

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Taylor condemns the system of banking as “a blot” on the constitution, as corrupt, and that long-term government debt was “swindling” future generations (1816)

Thomas Jefferson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Thomas Jefferson on Slavery and Liberty

Thomas Jefferson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Thomas Jefferson on Slavery and the Wrath of God

Thomas Jefferson

War & Peace

Thomas Jefferson on the Draft as "the last of all oppressions" (1777)

Thomas Jefferson

Revolution

Thomas Jefferson on the Unity of the Nation

Thomas Jefferson

Natural Rights

Thomas Jefferson on whether the American Constitution is binding on those who were not born at the time it was signed and agreed to (1789)

Thomas Jefferson

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Thomas Jefferson opposed vehemently the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798 which granted the President enormous powers showing that the government had become a tyranny which desired to govern with "a rod of iron" (1798)

Thomas Jefferson

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Thomas Jefferson’s First Draft of the Declaration of Independence denounced the slave trade as an “execrable Commerce” and slavery itself as a “cruel war against nature itself” (1776)

Thomas Jefferson

Notes About This Collection

For more information see:

  • Collections: The American Revolution and Constitution
  • The Editors' Introduction to The Federalist (The Gideon Edition), Edited with an Introduction, Reader’s Guide, Constitutional Cross-reference, Index, and Glossary by George W. Carey and James McClellan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
  • Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
  • The American Republic: Primary Sources, ed. Bruce Frohnen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
  • The essays on James Madison by George Carey in In Defense of the Constitution (1989) (revised ed.) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995).
  • The Preface to Empire and Nation: Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (John Dickinson). Letters from the Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee), ed., Forrest McDonald (1962) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1999).
  • The Foreword to The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, Selected and with a Foreword by C. Bradley Thompson (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).

For additional information about the American Founding see the following: