Madison Quotes

“My favorite Madison text is in my book American Creation:  Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic (New York:  Knopf, 2007) which features two chapters that focus on Madison’s crucial role, that in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, second in the creation of the Republican Party.”

–Joseph Ellis, Emeritus Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mt. Holyoke College and Pulitzer Prize winning historian

Madison’s “Advice to My Country” from page 671 of Ralph Ketcham’s James Madison :  A Biography (Charlottesville:  University of Virginia Press, sixth edition, 1998)

As this advice, if it ever see the light will not do it till I am no more, it may be considered as issuing from the tomb, where truth alone can be respected, and the happiness of man alone consulted. It will be entitled therefore to whatever weight can be derived from good intentions, and from the experience of one who has served his country in various stations through a period of forty years, who espoused in his youth and adhered through his life to the cause of its liberty, and who has borne a part in most of the great transactions which will constitute epochs of its destiny. The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my conviction is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened; and the disguised one, as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise.

“My favorite Madison quote is: ‘What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature.’ ”

–Michael C. Quinn, President emeritus of the Montpelier Foundation and

President & CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution

“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will for ever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”  Letter from James Madison to William T. Barry, 4 August 1822.

–J. C. A. Stagg, Editor-in-Chief, Papers of James Madison, Professor, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

From Gordon S. Wood’s book, Revolutionary Characters:  What Made The Founders Different (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), page 143:

“It is lamentable that Americans do not remember Madison as well as they should, especially when we reflect on who he was and what he achieved: The major architect of the Constitution; the father of the Bill of Rights and one of the strongest proponents of the rights of conscience and religious liberty in American history; the coauthor of The Federalist, surely the most significant work of political theory in American history; the leader and most important member of the first House of Representatives in 1789; the cofounder of the Democratic-Republican party in the 1790s; the secretary of state in Jefferson’s administration; and the fourth president of the United States –all this, and still he does not have the popular standing of the other founders, especially that of his closest friend, Thomas Jefferson.”

“Montpelier restored is certainly beautiful but is in no sense the most fitting memorial to James Madison. If you’re looking for Madison’s memorial, look around…look around at a free country governed by the rule of law.”

–Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr.

  • Madison’s March