Initiatives v Oligarchy

Our Founders' Warning: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” (Thomas Jefferson)

What are Some Relevant Quotations?

Relevant Quotations by James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, James Wilson et al.:

  • John Adams, 1776
    “[A legislature]…should be an exact portrait, in miniature, of the people at large, as it should feel, reason and act like them”

  • Lord Acton, 1887
    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…”
  • Thomas M. Cooley, 1908 (Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations which Rest Upon the Legislative Power of the States of the American Union…#28)
    “The theory of our political system is that the ultimate sovereignty is in the people, from whom springs all legitimate authority.”
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 Farewell Address
    “…In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist …We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted …”
  •  Samuel Gompers (AFL)
    “Reward your friends and punish your enemies”
  • Thomas Jefferson
    “I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people…”
  • Thomas Jefferson, 1781
    “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.”
  • Thomas Jefferson, 1812
    “Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust.”
  • Alexander Hamilton, Aug. 16, 1788 (Federalist #85)
    Discussion of “the additional security which its [the Constitution’s] adoption will afford to republican government, to liberty, and to property.”
    “…the persons delegated to the administration of the national government will always be disinclined to yield up any portion of the authority of which they were once possessed.…By the fifth article of the plan, the Congres will be obliged “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States [which at present amount to nine], to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof.” The words of this article are peremptory. The Congress “shall call a convention.” Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body. And of consequence, all the declamation about the disinclination to a change vanishes in air.…We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.‟
    Federalist #85 was the final Federalist paper. The constitution was adopted 32 days later.
  •  James Madison, 1787 (Debate Notes Aug. 31, 1787)
    “The People were, in fact, the fountain of all power, and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over. They could alter constitutions as they pleased.”
  •  James Madison (Federalist #39)
    “The proposed Constitution is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal constitution; but a composition of both.”
  •  James Madison (Virginia Convention 1788)
    “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
  •  James Madison, Nov. 22, 1787 (Federalist #10)
    ” … a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person…The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.”
  •  James Madison (Federalist #49)
    “As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived, it seems strictly consonant to the republican theory to recur to the same original authority … whenever it may be necessary to enlarge, diminish, or new-model the powers of government.”
  • John Matsusaka, 2004
    “…the initiative has had significant impact on state and local governments. States with the initiative spent less and taxed less than states without the initiative, they decentralized spending from state to local government, and they raised more money from user fees and less from taxes…a majority of people supported each of these policy changes …” “…about 70 percent of [Americans] live in a city or state where …the initiative process is available.”
  • Martin Niemöller, 1968 (Citizen Action)
    When Hitler came for the Jews… I was not a Jew, therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church — and there was nobody left to be concerned. — Pastor Martin Niemöller, Congressional Record, October 14, 1968, vol. 114, p. 31636.
  • George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair)
    “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
  • Teddy Roosevelt
    “I believe in the Initiative and Referendum, which should be used not to destroy representative government, but to correct it whenever it becomes misrepresentative.”
  • John Talley of Texas
    “There are those occasions under our form of government when the interests of the represented and the interests of the representatives are at odds. The initiative is the means by which the represented assure that their interests ultimately prevail.”
  • George Washington, letter to James Madison, Mar. 31, 1787
    “I think the people (for it is with them to judge), can, as they will have the advantage of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary, as ourselves. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us.”
  • George Washington, (Farewell Address, October 19, 1796)
    “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.”
  • James Wilson (Convention Debate June 6, 1787)
    “The Legislature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole Society. Representation is made necessary only because it is impossible for the people to act collectively.”
  • James Wilson (Lorenzo Press 1804)
    “All power is originally in the People and should be exercised by them in person, if that could be done with convenience, or even with little difficulty.”
  • James Wilson (Lorenzo Press 1804)
    “But in large states, the people cannot assemble together. As they cannot, therefore, act by themselves, they must act by their representatives.”