Quotes Supporting Principle Six

From The American Ideal...


And he that would palm the doctrine of unlimited passive obedience and non-resistance upon mankind . . . is not only a fool and a knave, but a rebel against common sense, as well as the laws of God, of Nature, and his Country.

James Otis ("The Rights of the British Colonies," 1764)

And yet I think it may be presumed, a free-born People can never become so servile as to regard them [obey tyrants' edicts], while they have Eyes to see that such Rulers [who violate basic Law] have gone out o! the Line of their Power.--There is no Reason they should be Fools because their Rulers are so . . .

Rev. Elisha Williams (Emphasis per original.) ("A Seasonable Plea . . ." 1744)

. . . tyranny and arbitrary power are utterly inconsistent with, and subversive of the very end and design of civil government, and directly contrary to natural law, which is the true foundation of civil government and all politick law: Consequently the authority of a tyrant is of itself null and void . . .

Rev. Samuel West (Election Sermon, 1776)

The king is as much bound by his oath, not to infringe the legal rights of the people, as the people are bound to yield subjection to him. From whence it follows, that as soon as the prince sets himself up above law, he loses the king in the tyrant: he does to all intents and purposes, unking himself, by acting out of, and beyond, that sphere which the constitution allows him to move in. And in such cases, he has no more right to be obeyed, than any inferior officer who acts beyond his commission. The subjects obligation to allegiance then ceases of course; and to resist him, is no more rebellion, than to resist any foreign invader. (Emphasis added except in last sentence.)

Rev. Jonathan Mayhew (Election Sermon, "Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers," 1750)

Third: That Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind.

North Carolina Ratifying Convention (Among proposed amendments to the Constitution; and similarly the Virginia Ratifying Convention)


A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

U.S. Constitution, 2nd Amendment (in keeping with various States' Bills of Rights, such as Sec. 13 of 1776 Bill of Rights of Virginia)


That no man shou'd scruple, or hesitate a moment to use a-ms. [arms] in [defence of so valuable a blessing [as liberty], on which all the good and evil of life depends; is clearly my opinion; yet A-ms. [arms] . . . should be the last . . . resort.

George Washington (Letter to George Mason, 1769)


If the representatives of the people betray their constituents [by usurping power], there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defence, which is paramount to all positive forms of government; and which, against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success, than against those of the rulers of an individual state . . . It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system, that the state governments will in all possible contingencies afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority.

The Federalist (no. 28, by Alexander Hamilton) (Note: Means by use of States' Militia in self-defense, in last resort.)

But 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. Every government would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would animate and conduct the whole. The same combinations in short would result from an apprehension of the federal, as was produced by the dread of a foreign yoke; and unless the projected innovations should be voluntarily renounced, the same appeal to a trial o/ force would be made in the one case, as was made in the other.*

The Federalist (no. 46, by James Madison) (Note: Emphasis added; means use of States' Militia in self-defense, in last resort.) * In the American Revolution


No political dreamer was ever wild enough to think of breaking down the lines which separate the States, and of compounding the American people into one common mass.

John Marshall, Chief Justice of the U.S. (Speaking for the Court in 1819 McCulloch v. Md. case; in 1788 was a member of the Va. Ratifying Convention)

[As to danger of the Supreme Court's misinterpreting the Constitution so as to concentrate power in Washington] To this I am opposed; because, when all government . . . shall be drawn to Washington . . . it will render Powerless the checks . . . will become as venal and oppressive . . . [as Great Britain's government] . . . If the States look with apathy on this silent descent of their government into the gulf which is to swallow all, we have only to weep over the human character formed uncontrollable but by a rod of iron, and the blasphemers of man, as incapable of self-government, become his true historians.

Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Charles Hammond, 1821)


The liberties of our Country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have receiv'd them as a fair Inheritance from our worthy Ancestors: They purchas'd them for us with toil and danger and expence of treasure and blood; and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle; or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men. Of the latter we are in most danger at present: Let us therefore be aware of it. Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity; and resolve to maintain the rights bequeath'd to us from the former, for the sake of the latter.--Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish o! our enemies, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude and perseverance. Let us remember, that "if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom." It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers in the event. (Emphasis per original.)

Samuel Adams (Essay in Boston Gazette, 1771)