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Quotations about Liberty and Power Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

The Jesuit priest and political philosopher Edward Bellarmine grapples with the problem of a subject’s obedience to kings or popes (1610) Robert Bellarmine 2019-06-17
Algernon Sidney on not unquestioningly “rendering unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” before checking to see if they legitimately belong to Caesar (1689) Algernon Sidney 2018-10-08
John Lilburne shows defiance to the tyrants who would force him to pay tythes to the Church (1648) John Lilburne 2018-01-01
Thomas Gordon on how people are frightened into giving up their liberties (1722) Thomas Gordon 2016-09-05
Shakespeare on the ruler who has “the power to hurt and will do none” (1609) William Shakespeare 2016-08-01
Henry Parker on Parliament’s role in limiting the power of Kings (1642) Henry Parker 2015-02-16
La Boétie argues that tyranny will collapse if enough people refuse to cooperate and withdraw their moral support to it (1576) Etienne de la Boétie 2014-12-29
Michel Chevalier on two kinds of political power in America, the Caesars and the Commissioners (1835) Michel Chevalier 2014-05-12
Pufendorf on the danger of rulers confusing their own self-interest with that of the State (1695) Samuel von Pufendorf 2014-04-28
Leonard Read on Ludwig von Mises as the economic dictator of the U.S. (1971) Leonard E. Read 2014-01-20
Thomas Gordon asks whether tyranny is worse than anarchy (1728) Thomas Gordon 2014-01-06
Montaigne argues that is right and proper for a people to speak ill of a “faulty prince” after his death (1580) Michel de Montaigne 2013-08-05
Erasmus on the “Folly” of upsetting conventional opinion by pointing out the sins of kings and princes (1511) Desiderius Erasmus 2013-07-12
Rousseau on the natural tendency of governments to degenerate into tyranny (1762) Jean-Jacques Rousseau 2013-07-01
Shaftesbury opposes the nonresisting test bill before the House of Lords as a step towards “absolute and arbitrary” government (1675) Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury 2013-04-29
Madison on “Parchment Barriers” and the defence of liberty II (1788) James Madison 2012-12-18
Viscount Bryce on how the President in wartime becomes “a sort of dictator” (1888) Viscount James Bryce 2012-02-19
Tocqueville on the “New Despotism” (1837) Alexis de Tocqueville 2012-01-02
Madame de Staël on the tyrant Napoleon (1818) Germaine de Staël 2011-11-07
John Adams on how absolute power intoxicates those who excercise that power (1814) John Adams 2011-10-31
Thomas Paine on the absurdity of an hereditary monarchy (1791) Thomas Paine 2011-04-25
Paine on the idea that the law is king (1776) Thomas Paine 2011-02-20
Milton on the ease with which tyrants find their academic defenders (1651) John Milton 2010-09-06
Jefferson’s list of objections to the British Empire in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence (1776) Thomas Jefferson 2010-07-04
Tocqueville on the form of despotism the government would assume in democratic America (1840) Alexis de Tocqueville 2010-06-14
Milton argues that a Monarchy wants the people to be prosperous only so it can better fleece them (1660) John Milton 2010-06-08
Cato denounces generals like Julius Caesar who use success on the battlefield as a stepping stone to political power (1710) Joseph Addison 2010-05-19
Cicero on the need for politicians to place the interests of those they represent ahead of their own private interests (1st century BC) Marcus Tullius Cicero 2010-05-09
Madame de Staël argues that Napoleon was able to create a tyrannical government by pandering to men’s interests, corrupting public opinion, and waging constant war (1817) Germaine de Staël 2010-03-23
Jefferson on how Congress misuses the inter-state commerce and general welfare clauses to promote the centralization of power (1825) Thomas Jefferson 2010-03-15
Livy on the irrecoverable loss of liberty under the Roman Empire (10 AD) Titus Livius (Livy) 2010-01-04
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 2009-12-07
Lao Tzu discusses how “the great sages” (or wise advisors) protect the interests of the prince and thus “prove to be but guardians in the interest of the great thieves” (600 BC) Lao Tzu 2009-11-16
Macaulay argues that politicians are less interested in the economic value of public works to the citizens than they are in their own reputation, embezzlement and “jobs for the boys” (1830) Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay 2009-11-02
Althusius argues that a political leader is bound by his oath of office which, if violated, requires his removal (1614) Johannes Althusius 2009-10-26
Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton that the same moral standards should be applied to all men, political and religious leaders included, especially since “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (1887) John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton 2008-09-03
Edward Gibbon gloomily observed that in a unified empire like the Roman there was nowhere to escape, whereas with a multiplicity of states there were always gaps and interstices to hide in (1776) Edward Gibbon 2008-08-18
Thomas Hodgskin wonders how despotism comes to a country and concludes that the “first step” taken towards despotism gives it the power to take a second and a third - hence it must be stopped in its tracks at the very first sign (1813) Thomas Hodgskin 2008-08-04
Thucydides on political intrigue in the divided city of Corcyra caused by the “desire to rule” (5thC BC) Thucydides 2008-03-03
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 2008-02-25
Plato warns of the people’s protector who, once having tasted blood, turns into a wolf and a tyrant (340s BC) Plato 2008-02-03
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 2007-02-21
After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 John Milton was concerned with both how the triumphalist monarchists would treat the English people and how the disheartened English people would face their descendants (1660) John Milton 2006-08-07
Benjamin Constant argued that mediocre men, when they acquired power, became “more envious, more obstinate, more immoderate, and more convulsive” than men with talent (1815) Benjamin Constant 2006-01-23
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 2005-12-19
John Milton laments the case of a people who won their liberty “in the field” but who then foolishly “ran their necks again into the yoke” of tyranny (1660) John Milton 2005-10-03
Adam Ferguson notes that “implicit submission to any leader, or the uncontrouled exercise of any power” leads to a form of military government and ultimately despotism (1767) Adam Ferguson 2005-09-26
Edward Gibbon believed that unless public liberty was defended by “intrepid and vigilant guardians” any constitution would degenerate into despotism (1776) Edward Gibbon 2005-07-18
Montesquieu states that the Roman Empire fell because the costs of its military expansion introduced corruption and the loyalty of its soldiers was transferred from the City to its generals (1734) Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu 2005-05-02
John Milton believes men live under a “double tyranny” within (the tyranny of custom and passions) which makes them blind to the tyranny of government without (1649) John Milton 2005-04-18
Vicesimus Knox tries to persuade an English nobleman that some did not come into the world with “saddles on their backs and bridles in their mouths” and some others like him came “ready booted and spurred to ride the rest to death” (1793) Vicesimus Knox 2005-01-17
James Bryce believed that the Founders intended that the American President would be “a reduced and improved copy of the English king” (1885) Viscount James Bryce 2004-11-02
Thomas Gordon believes that bigoted Princes are subject to the “blind control” of other “Directors and Masters” who work behind the scenes (1737) Thomas Gordon 2004-10-18
Algernon Sidney’s Motto was that his Hand (i.e. his pen) was an Enemy to all Tyrants (1660) Algernon Sidney 2004-08-09
Thomas Gordon compares the Greatness of Spartacus with that of Julius Caesar (1721) Thomas Gordon 2004-04-07

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