Our Founding Fathers


“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. ME 14:384 Thomas Jefferson

“The system of justice will either protect citizens from tyranny or be one means by which tyranny is exercised over them. A just society rests upon an equal application of the law to each and every citizen; it protects the rights of individuals regardless of the inconveniences caused thereby. It is of inestimable importance to the happiness and security of the people that justice be administered strictly, according to the established forms of the law.”

Thomas Jefferson

“The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.” –Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy, “Political Economy,” 1816. ME 14:465

“It is the duty of the General Government to guard its subordinate members from the encroachments of each other, even when they are made through error or inadvertence, and to cover its citizens from the exercise of powers not authorized by law.” –Thomas Jefferson: Official Opinion, 1790. ME 3:88

“Were it made a question, whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last; and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under care of the wolves.” –Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XI, 1782. ME 2:129

“Law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.” –Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

“Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political, I deem [one of] the essential principles of our Government, and consequently

those which ought to shape its administration.” –Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801. ME 3:321

“Justice is the fundamental law of society.” –Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816. ME 14:490

“An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental.” –Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 1807. ME 11:341

“It is certainly for the good of the whole nation to assimilate as much as possible all its parts, to strengthen their analogies, obliterate the traits of difference, and to deal law and justice to all by the same rule and the same measure.” –Thomas Jefferson: Batture at New Orleans, 1812. ME 18:80

“As [Emerich de] Vattel says himself… ‘All the tranquility, the happiness and security of mankind rest on justice, on the obligation to respect the rights of others.'” –Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on French Treaties, 1793. ME 3:239


Benjamin Franklin

From Pennsylvania.

Benja. Franklin, Thos. Mifflin, Robt. Morris, Geo. Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimons, Jared Ingersol, James Wilson, Governeur Morris.

Dr. Franklin is well known to be the greatest phylosopher of the present age;–all the operations of nature he seems to understand,–the very heavens obey him, and the Clouds yield up their Lightning to be imprisoned in his rod. But what claim he has to the politician, posterity must determine. It is certain that he does not shine much in public Council,–he is no Speaker, nor does he seem to let politics engage his attention. He is, however, a most extraordinary Man, and tells a story in a style more engaging than anything I ever heard. Let his Biographer finish his character. He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

From New York.

Alexander Hamilton, [Robert] Yates, and W. [John] Lansing Esquires.

Colo. Hamilton is deservedly celebrated for his talents. He is a practitioner of the Law, and reputed to be a finished Scholar. To a clear and strong judgment he unites the ornaments of fancy, and whilst he is able, convincing, and engaging in his eloquence the Heart and Head sympathize in approving him. Yet there is something too feeble in his voice to be equal to the strains of oratory;–it is my opinion that he is rather a convincing Speaker, that [than] a blazing Orator. Colo. Hamilton requires time to think,–he enquires into every part of his subject with the searchings of phylosophy, and when he comes forward he comes highly charged with interesting matter, there is no skimming over the surface of a subject with him, he must sink to the bottom to see what foundation it rests on.–His language is not always equal, sometimes didactic like Bolingbroke’s at others light and tripping like Stern’s. His eloquence is not so delusive as to trifle with the senses, but he rambles just enough to strike and keep up the attention. He is about 33 years old, of small stature, and lean. His manners are tinctured with stiffness, and sometimes with a degree of vanity that is highly disagreeable.