Quotes Supporting Principle Three

From The American Ideal...


And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?

Thomas Jefferson ("Notes on the State of Virginia," 1782)

The Sacred Rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.

Alexander Hamilton (An essay, "The Farmer Refuted," 1775) (Note: entire passage in capital letters in the original.)


Resolved, that the inhabitants of this Province are unalienably entitled to those essential rights ["founded in the law of God and of Nature"] in common with all men: and that no law of society can, consistent with the law of God and nature, divest them of those rights.

Resolutions of House of Representatives, Mass., 1765

In short it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one or any number of men at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights when the great end of civil government from the very nature of its institution is for the support, protection and defence of those very rights: the principal of which as is before observed, are life liberty and property. If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave--- (Emphasis per original.)

Resolutions of Town of Boston, 1772 ("The Rights of The Colonists, . . . ")


[The people] have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know . . .

John Adams ("A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law," 1765)


Men, when they enter into civil society, relinquish some of their natural rights, in order to their more secure enjoyment of the remainder.

Resolution of Town of Braintree, Mass., 1780 (Concerning the new Constitution of Mass.)

Accordingly it may be Observed, That it appears to Us That in immerging from a State of Nature, into a State of well regulated Society, Mankind gave up some of their natural Rights, in order that others of Greater Importance to their Well-being Safety & Happiness both as Societies and Individuals might be better enjoyed Secured & defended . . .

Resolution of Town of Lexington, Mass., 1778

[All men born with equal rights] Some of those rights are alienable, and may be parted with for an equivalent. Others are unalienable and inherent, and of that importance, that no equivalent can be received in exchange. Sometimes we shall mention the surrendering of a power to controul our natural rights, which perhaps is speaking with more precision, than when we use the expression of parting with natural rights--but the same thing is intended. Those rights which are unalienable, and of that importance, are called the rights of conscience. We have duties, for the discharge of which we are accountable to our Creator and benefactor, which no human power can cancel. What those duties are, is determinable by right reason, which may be, and is called, a well informed conscience. What this conscience dictates as our duty, is so; and that power which assumes a controul over it, is an usurper; for no consent can be pleaded to justify the controul, as any consent in this case is void . . . [Men forming government voluntarily delegate some power] . . . No individual, in this case, parts with his unalienable rights, the supreme [governmental] power therefore cannot controul them. (Emphasis added.)

"Essex Result" (Report of Conventions of Towns, Essex County, Mass., rejecting first proposed Constitution for Mass., 1778)


The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

Thomas Jefferson ("Rights of British America," 1774)


. . . as all men by nature are free . . . that no man can be deprived of liberty, and subjected to perpetual bondage and servitude, unless he has forfeited his liberty as a malefactor . . .

Pittsfield, Mass., Town-meeting Resolution, 1779


God hath given to every Man an Unalienable Right in Matters of His Worship to Judge for himself as his Conscience reserves ye Rule from God.

Petition from Church Organizations in 19 Towns in Massachusetts, 1749


Reason teaches that all Men are naturally equal in Respect of Jurisdiction or Dominion one over another.  Altho' true it is that Children are not born in this full State of Equality, yet they are born to it . . . [entitled to it . . .] For God having given Man an Understanding to direct his Actions, has given him therewith a Freedom of Will and Liberty of Acting, as properly belonging thereto, within the Bounds of that Law he is under . . . [Natural Law, God's Law] . . . So that we are born Free as we are born Rational . . . This natural Freedom is not a Liberty for every one to do what he pleases without any Regard to any Law; for a rational Creature cannot but be made under a Law from its MAKER: But it consists in a Freedom from any superior Power on Earth, and not being under the Will or legislative Authority of Man, and having only the Law of Nature (or in other Words, of its MAKER) for his Rule. (Emphasis per original.)

Rev. Elisha Williams ("A Seasonable Plea . . ."--1744) (Note: a plea primarily for the right to freedom of conscience and private judgment in religious matters.)