Quotes by America’s Founders
Notice especially the many references to God, Christianity, and morality as a vital foundations for lasting liberty. Yet, not all of these men knew the true God or lived by His guidelines.
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” John Adams 
“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.” John Adams 
“…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 
“All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. ” James Madison 
“It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.” Patrick Henry
“…ambitious encroachments of the federal government on the authority of the State governments would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm… But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity.” James Madison 
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” John Adams 
“He therefore is the truest friend to 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 into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. …It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves. …if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.” Samuel Adams 
“Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time. They therefore who are decrying the Christian religion… are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” Charles Carroll (signed the Declaration)
“Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” James Madison 
“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams (1722-1803), known as the “Father of the American Revolution.”
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” Patrick Henry
“…if we are to be told by a foreign Power … what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little. “George Washington 
‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign world. “ George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” James Madison 
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816
“…a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. ” John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775
“Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States…. I have, throughout my whole life,held the practice of slavery in… abhorrence.” John Adams, letter, June 8, 1919.
“If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” Daniel Webster
“Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things…”2 Timothy 4:2-5
Note: While all the above quotes are attributed to various founders, some still lack verifiable sources. If we find that information, it will be added.
1. John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, 11-22-1800.
2. John Adams, (1735-1826) Source: letter to John Taylor, April 15, 1814
3.The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams (Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851).
4. James Madison, James Madison, Federalist No. 42, January 22, 1788
5. James Madison, speech at the Constitutional Convention, July 11, 1787.
6. James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788.
7. John Adams, Letter, April 15, 1814.
8. Essay published in The Advertiser (1748) and later reprinted in The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams, Volume 1, by William Vincent Wells; Little, Brown, and Company; Boston, 1865.
9. Charles Carroll, letter to Secretary of War James McHenry in 1800.
10. James Madison, Essay on Property, March 29, 1792.
11. George Washington, letter to Alexander Hamilton, May 8, 1796.
12. James Madison (1751-1836), 4th US President, Speech, Virginia State Convention, 2 December 1829.
[Article Reprinted with Permission]
by Bert Kjos 2003
Original Source: http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/history/quotes-founders.htm
|The Bible, Slavery, and America’s Founders|
|Stephen McDowell – 2003|
|America’s Founding Fathers are seen by some people today as unjust and hypocrites, for while they talked of liberty and equality, they at the same time were enslaving hundreds of thousands of Africans. Some allege that the Founders bear most of the blame for the evils of slavery. Consequently, many today have little respect for the Founders and turn their ear from listening to anything they may have to say. And, in their view, to speak of America as founded as a Christian nation is unthinkable (for how could a Christian nation tolerate slavery?).It is certainly true that during most of America’s history most blacks have not had the same opportunities and protections as whites. From the time of colonization until the Civil War most Africans in America (especially those living in the South) were enslaved, and the 100 years following emancipation were marked with segregation and racism. Only in the last 30 years has there been closer to equal opportunities, though we still need continued advancement in equality among the races and race relations. But is the charge against the Founders justified? Are they to bear most of the blame for the evils of slavery? Can we speak of America as founded as a Christian nation, while at it’s founding it allowed slavery?
Understanding the answer to these questions is important for the future of liberty in America and advancement of racial equality. The secular view of history taught in government schools today does not provide an adequate answer. We must view these important concerns from a Biblical and providential perspective.
America’s Founders were predominantly Christians and had a Biblical worldview. If that was so, some say, how could they allow slavery, for isn’t slavery sin? As the Bible reveals to man what is sin, we need to examine what it has to say about slavery.
The Bible and Slavery
Slavery is a product of the fall of man and has existed in the world since that time. Slavery was not a part of God’s original created order, and as God’s created order has gradually been re-established since the time of Christ, slavery has gradually been eliminated. Christian nations (those based upon Biblical principles) have led the way in the abolition of slavery. America was at the forefront of this fight. After independence, great steps were taken down the path of ending slavery – probably more than had been done by any other nation up until that time in history (though certainly more could have been done). Many who had settled in America had already been moving toward these ends. Unfortunately, the generations following the Founders did not continue to move forward in a united fashion. A great conflict was the outcome of this failure.
When God gave the law to Moses, slavery was a part of the world, and so the law of God recognized slavery. But this does not mean that slavery was God’s original intention. The law of Moses was given to fallen man. Some of the ordinances deal with things not intended for the original creation order, such as slavery and divorce. These will be eliminated completely only when sin is eliminated from the earth. God’s laws concerning slavery provided parameters for treatment of slaves, which were for the benefit of all involved. God desires all men and nations to be liberated. This begins internally and will be manifested externally to the extent internal change occurs. The Biblical slave laws reflect God’s redemptive desire, for men and nations.
Types of Slavery Permitted by the Bible
In the Sabbath year all Hebrew debtors/slaves were released from their debts.. This was not so for foreigners (Deut. 15:3). Theologian R.J. Rushdoony writes, “since unbelievers are by nature slaves, they could be held as life-long slaves” 1 without piercing the ear to indicate their voluntary servitude (Lev. 25:44-46). This passage in Leviticus says that pagans could be permanent slaves and could be bequeathed to the children of the Hebrews. However, there are Biblical laws concerning slaves that are given for their protection and eventual redemption. Slaves could become part of the covenant and part of the family, even receiving an inheritance. Under the new covenant, a way was made to set slaves free internally, which should then be following by external preparation enabling those who were slaves to live at liberty, being self-governed under God.
Involuntary Servitude is Not Biblical
Kidnapping and enforced slavery are forbidden and punishable by death. This was true for any man (Ex. 21:16), as well as for the Israelites (Deut. 24:7). This was stealing a man’s freedom. While aspects of slavery are Biblical (for punishment and restitution for theft, or for those who prefer the security of becoming a permanent bondservant), the Bible strictly forbids involuntary servitude.
Any slave that ran away from his master (thus expressing his desire for freedom) was to be welcomed by the Israelites, not mistreated, and not returned. Deuteronomy 23:15-16 states:
This implied slaves must be treated justly, plus they had a degree of liberty. Other slave laws confirm this. In addition, such action was a fulfillment of the law of love in both the Old and New Testaments. The law of God declares: “. . . you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:17-18). Leviticus 19:33-34 clearly reveals that this applies to strangers and aliens as well: “The stranger, . . . you shall not do him wrong.. . . . you shall love him as yourself.”
It was forbidden to take the life or liberty of any other man. Rushdoony writes:
Rushdoony also says that the selling of slaves was forbidden. Since Israelites were voluntary slaves, and since not even a foreign slave could be compelled to return to his master (Deut. 23:15, 16), slavery was on a different basis under the law than in non-Biblical cultures. The slave was a member of the household, with rights therein. A slave-market could not exist in Israel. The slave who was working out a restitution for theft had no incentive to escape, for to do so would make him an incorrigible criminal and liable to death. 3
When slaves (indentured servants) were acquired under the law, it was their labor that was purchased, not their person, and the price took into account the year of freedom (Lev. 25:44-55; Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:12-13).
Laws related to slaves
Examination of the Biblical view of slavery enables us to more effectively address the assertion that slavery was America’s original sin. In light of the Scriptures we cannot say that slavery, in a broad and general sense, is sin. But this brief look at the Biblical slave laws does reveal how fallen man’s example of slavery has violated God’s laws, and America’s form of slavery in particular violated various aspects of the law, as well as the general spirit of liberty instituted by Christ.
The Christian foundation and environment of America caused most people to seek to view life from a Biblical perspective. Concerning slavery, they would ask “Is it Biblical?” While most of the Founders saw it was God’s desire to eliminate the institution, others attempted to justify it. At the time of the Civil War some people justified Southern slavery by appealing to the Bible. However, through this brief review of the Old Testament slave laws we have seen that American slavery violated some of these laws, not to mention the spirit of liberty instituted by the coming of Christ.
Slavery and the New Testament
It is in this context that we can better understand the example of Paul, Onesimus, and Philemon. Onesimus, a slave of Philemon who apparently stole some money from his master and ran away, encountered Paul in Rome and became a Christian. Paul sent him back to his master carrying the letter to Philemon. Author of the famous Bible Handbook, Henry Halley writes:
The Mosaic slave laws and the writings of Paul benefited and protected the slaves as best as possible in their situation. God’s desire for any who are enslaved is freedom (Luke 4:18; Gal. 5:1). Those who are set free in Christ then need to be prepared to walk in liberty. Pagan nations had a much different outlook toward slaves, believing slaves had no rights or privileges. Because of the restrictions and humane aspect of the Mosaic laws on slavery, it never existed on a large scale in Israel, and did not exhibit the cruelties seen in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Assyria and other nations.
Sinful man will always live in some form of bondage and slavery, as a slave to the state, to a lord or noble, or to other men. As a step in man’s freedom, God’s laws of slavery provided the best situation for those who find themselves in bondage. God’s ultimate desire is that all walk in the liberty of the gospel both internally and externally.
As the gospel principles of liberty have spread throughout history in all the nations, man has put aside the institution of overt slavery. However, since sinful man tends to live in bondage, different forms of slavery have replaced the more obvious system of past centuries. The state has assumed the role of master for many, providing aid and assistance, and with it more and more control, to those unable to provide for themselves. The only solution to slavery is the liberty of the gospel.
Brief History of Slavery
Many of the early settlers came to America as indentured servants, indebted to others for a brief period of time to pay for their passage. England at this time recognized the forced labor of the apprentice, the hired servant, convicts, and indentured servants. Some of these laborers were subject to whippings and other forms of punishment. These forms of servitude were limited in duration and “transmitted no claim to the servant’s children.” 8
According to Hugh Thomas in The Slave Trade, about 11,328,000 Africans were transported to the new world between 1440 and 1870. Of these about 4 million went to Brazil, 2.5 million to Spanish colonies, 2 million to the British West Indies, 1.6 million to the French West Indies, and 500,000 went to what became the United States of America. 9
A Dutch ship, seeking to unload its human cargo, brought the first slaves to Virginia in 1619. Over the next century a small number of slaves were brought to America. In 1700 there were not more than 20 to 30 thousand black slaves in all the colonies. There were some people who spoke against slavery (e.g. the Quakers and Mennonites) 10 and some political efforts to check slavery (as in laws of Massachusetts and Rhode Island), but these had little large scale effect. The colonies’ laws recognized and protected slave property. Efforts were made to restrict the slave trade in several colonies, but the British government overruled such efforts and the trade went on down to the Revolution.
When independence was declared from England, the legal status of slavery was firmly established in the colonies, though there were plenty of voices speaking out against it, and with independence those voices would increase.
America’s Founders and Slavery
Some say we should not listen to the Founders of America because they owned slaves, or at least allowed slavery to exist in the society. However, if we were to cut ourselves off from the history of nations that had slavery in the past we would have to have nothing to do with any people because almost every society has had slavery, including African Americans, for many African societies sold slaves to the Europeans; and up to ten percent of blacks in America owned slaves.
The Founders Believed Slavery Was Fundamentally Wrong.
John Quincy Adams, who worked tirelessly for years to end slavery, spoke of the anti-slavery views of the southern Founders, including Jefferson who owned slaves:
The Founding Fathers believed that blacks had the same God-given inalienable rights as any other peoples. James Otis of Massachusetts said in 1764 that “The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black.” 13
There had always been free blacks in America who owned property, voted, and had the same rights as other citizens. 14 Most of the men who gave us the Declaration and the Constitution wanted to see slavery abolished. For example, George Washington wrote in a letter to Robert Morris:
When Benjamin Franklin served as President of the Pennsylvania Society of Promoting the Abolition of Slavery he declared: “Slavery is . . . an atrocious debasement of human nature.” 21
Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration included a strong denunciation of slavery, declaring the king’s perpetuation of the slave trade and his vetoing of colonial anti-slavery measures as one reason the colonists were declaring their independence:
Prior to independence, anti-slavery measures by the colonists were thwarted by the British government. Franklin wrote in 1773:
The Founders took action against slavery.
Many of the founders started and served in anti-slavery societies. Franklin and Rush founded the first such society in America in 1774. John Jay was president of a similar society in New York. Other Founding Fathers serving in anti-slavery societies included: William Livingston (Constitution signer), James Madison, Richard Bassett, James Monroe, Bushrod Washington, Charles Carroll, William Few, John Marshall, Richard Stockton, Zephaniah Swift, and many more. 25
As the Founders worked to free themselves from enslavement to Britain, based upon laws of God and nature, they also spoke against slavery and took steps to stop it. Abolition grew as principled resistance to the tyranny of England grew, since both were based upon the same ideas. This worked itself out on a personal as well as policy level, as seen in the following incident in the life of William Whipple, signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. Dwight writes:
The Founders opposed slavery based upon the principle of the equality of all men. Throughout history many slaves have revolted but it was believed (even by those enslaved) that some people had the right to enslave others. The American slave protests were the first in history based on principles of God-endowed liberty for all. It was not the secularists who spoke out against slavery but the ministers and Christian statesmen.
Before independence, some states had tried to restrict slavery in different ways (e.g. Virginia had voted to end the slave trade in 1773), but the English government had not allowed it. Following independence and victory in the war, the rule of the mother country was removed, leaving freedom for each state to deal with the slavery problem. Within about 20 years of the 1783 Treaty of Peace with Britain, the northern states abolished slavery: Pennsylvania and Massachusetts in 1780; Connecticut and Rhode Island in 1784; New Hampshire in 1792; Vermont in 1793; New York in 1799; and New Jersey in 1804.
The Northwest Ordinance (1787, 1789), which governed the admission of new states into the union from the then northwest territories, forbid slavery. Thus, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa all prohibited slavery. This first federal act dealing with slavery was authored by Rufus King (signer of the Constitution) and signed into law by President George Washington.
Although no Southern state abolished slavery, there was much anti-slavery sentiment. Many anti-slavery societies were started, especially in the upper South. Many Southern states considered proposals abolishing slavery, for example, the Virginia legislature in 1778 and 1796. When none passed, many, like Washington, set their slaves free, making provision for their well being. Following independence, “Virginia changed her laws to make it easier for individuals to emancipate slaves,” 27 though over time the laws became more restrictive in Virginia.
While most states were moving toward freedom for slaves, the deep South (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina) was largely pro-slavery. Yet, even so, the Southern courts before around 1840 generally took the position that slavery violated the natural rights of blacks. For example, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 1818:
The same court ruled in 1820 that the slave “is still a human being, and possesses all those rights, of which he is not deprived by the positive provisions of the law.” 29
Free blacks were citizens and voted in most Northern states and Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In Baltimore prior to 1800, more blacks voted than whites; but in 1801 and 1809, Maryland began to restrict black voting and in 1835 North Carolina prohibited it. Other states made similar restrictions, but a number of Northern states allowed blacks to vote and hold office. In Massachusetts this right was given nearly a decade before the American Revolution and was never taken away, either before or after the Civil War.
Slavery and the Constitution
Even so, many warned of the dangers of allowing this evil to continue. George Mason of Virginia told the delegates:
Jefferson had written some time before this:
Constitutional Convention Delegate, Luther Martin, stated:
Some today misinterpret the Constitutional provision of counting the slaves as three-fifths for purposes of representation as pro-slavery or black dehumanization. But it was a political compromise between the north and the south.. The three-fifths provision applied only to slaves and not free blacks, who voted and had the same rights as whites (and in some southern states this meant being able to own slaves). While the Southern states wanted to count the slaves in their population to determine the number of congressmen from their states, slavery opponents pushed to keep the Southern states from having more representatives, and hence more power in congress.
The Constitution did provide that runaway slaves would be returned to their owners (We saw previously that returning runaway slaves is contrary to Biblical slave laws, unless these slaves were making restitution for a crime.) but the words slave and slavery were carefully avoided. “Many of the framers did not want to blemish the Constitution with that shameful term.” The initial language of this clause was “legally held to service or labor,” but this was deleted when it was objected that legally seemed to favor “the idea that slavery was legal in a moral view.” 34
While the Constitution did provide some protection for slavery, this document is not pro-slavery. It embraced the situation of all 13 states at that time, the Founders leaving most of the power to deal with this social evil in the hands of each state. Most saw that the principles of liberty contained in the Declaration could not support slavery and would eventually overthrow it.. As delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Luther Martin put it:
We have seen that after independence the American Founders actually took steps to end slavery. Some could have done more, but as a whole they probably did more than any group of national leaders up until that time in history to deal with the evil of slavery. They took steps toward liberty for the enslaved and believed that the gradual march of liberty would continue, ultimately resulting in the complete death of slavery. The ideas they infused in the foundational civil documents upon which America was founded – such as Creator endowed rights and the equality of all men before the law – eventually prevailed and slavery was abolished. But not without great difficulty because the generations that followed failed to carry out the gradual abolition of slavery in America.
The View of Slavery Changes
The Civil War
States rights and perceived unconstitutional taxes were also motivations for secession. There were many abolitionists in the North, both Christian and non-Christian, who pushed for the war, seeing it as a means to end slavery. Though slavery was not initially the reason Lincoln sent troops into the South, he did come to believe that God wanted him to emancipate the slaves.
In all the complexities and tragedy of the war, God was at work fulfilling His providential purposes. Due to the sin of man, to his inability to deal with slavery in a Christian manner, and to other factors, a war erupted. Both good and bad in the root causes, produced good and bad fruit in the outcome of the war. 41
Though America’s Founders failed to accomplish all of their desires and wishes in dealing with the issue of slavery, the principles of equality and God-given rights they established in the American constitutional republic set into motion events leading to the end of slavery in the United States and throughout the world. That America was founded upon such Biblical principles is what made her a Christian nation, not that there was no sin in the Founders. It is because of the Christian foundations that America has become the most free, just, and prosperous nation in history. The Godly principles infused in her laws, institutions, and families have had immense impact in overthrowing tyranny, oppression, and slavery throughout the world.
For more information on this issue see The Founding Fathers and Slavery, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson & Slavery in Virginia, Black History Issue 2003, Confronting Civil War Revisionism, and Setting the Record Straight (Book, DVD, or CD).
Source of article: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=120