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Top Ten James Madison Quotes to Celebrate His 266th Birthday

James Madison Birthday Card

Today is President James Madison’s 266th birthday.  Known as the “Father of the Constitution,” he is near and dear to our hearts here at The OpenGov Foundation— our collaborative policymaking software bears his name.  President Madison, like our Madison, believed that in America, governing better means governing together, with all voices heard and all perspectives

To mark his birthday, we’ve collected some of our favorite James Madison quotes below.  They inspire us, challenge us and remind us that, while we may be working with modern technology and systems, it’s the people and their fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that matter most.  Enjoy!

  • “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty” – Letter to George Thompson, June 30, 1825
  • “There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public.” Speech to Congress, April 22, 1790
  • “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 forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” – Letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822
  • “Equal laws protecting equal rights are the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country.” – Letter to Jacob de la Motta, August 1820
  • “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government” – Federalist No. 51, February 8, 1788
  • “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” – Federalist No. 10, November 23, 1787
  • “The right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon … has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.” – Virginia Resolutions, December 21, 1798
  • “What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?” – Letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822
  • “Public opinion sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one.” – Public Opinion, December 19, 1791
  • “Such will be the relation between the House of Representatives and their constituents. Duty gratitude, interest, ambition itself, are the cords by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people.” – Federalist No. 57, February 19, 1788



Statement on U.S. Digital Service Co-Founder Haley Van Dyck Returning to Serve in the Trump Administration

CONTACT: Mary Kate Mezzetti, | +1-508-776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (March 14, 2017) — The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the news that Haley Van Dyck, who co-founded the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) under President Barack Obama, is returning to serve at USDS under President Donald Trump.  Van Dyck joins the innovative technology team led by Acting Administrator Matt Cutts:

“There are few who understand how to modernize federal information technology systems and culture better than Haley Van Dyck.  As a co-founder of USDS, she intimately knows the organization, the people and the problems they are solving.  As a civic tech leader, she knows how to get it done in one of the most challenging environments on earth.  As a public servant, she is setting an unparalleled example that, no matter who occupies the Oval Office, talented individuals need to put aside partisanship to help deliver fantastic digital services for our fellow Americans— inside and outside government.

“As The OpenGov Foundation continues our push for a sorely needed Congressional Digital Service, we will keep watching and learning from Haley’s pioneering efforts at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  And as a taxpayer, I am deeply grateful that someone with the courage, creativity and kindness of Haley Van Dyck is on the job ensuring that every single day, the federal government is getting better with tech, design and data.  Thank you, Haley.”


Statement on Internet Archive Offer to Deliver Free and Perpetual Public Access to PACER


February 14, 2017

CONTACT: Mary Kate Mezzetti, | +1-508-776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (February 14, 2017) — The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the Internet Archive’s offer to “archive and host— for free, forever and without restriction on access to the public— all records contained in [the Public Access to Court Electronic Records platform],” commonly known as PACER.  Right now, PACER charges the public per-page fees to access online these critical public judicial records, which undercuts PACER’s stated mission to deliver the best possible public access.  Public information freedom-fighter Aaron Swartz fought to liberate public court records from behind the problematic PACER paywall before his tragic passing:

“The vital public information in PACER is the property of the American people.  Public information, from laws to court records, should never be locked away behind paywalls, never be stashed behind arbitrary barriers and never be covered in artificial restrictions.  Forcing Americans to pay hard-earned money to access public court records is no better than forcing them to pay a poll tax.

“The Internet Archive’s offer to archive and deliver unrestricted public access to PACER for free and forever is the best possible Valentine’s Day gift to the American people.  The Internet Archive is proposing a cost-effective and innovative public-private partnership that will finally fix a clear injustice.  There is no reason to do anything but accept this offer in a heartbeat.”

PACER is hosted and maintained by the Administrative office of the U.S. Courts and is the main public access program for all federal appellate, district and bankruptcy court case and docket information.  The offer to host PACER at no cost to American taxpayers was made by Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle in a February 10, 2017 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which is today hosting a hearing on the issue.



Statement on U.S. District Court Decision Allowing Private Copyright Holders to Continue Restricting Public Access to the Public Law


February 9th, 2017


Mary Kate Mezzetti | +1 (508) 776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (February 9th, 2017The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling that allows private standards organizations to continue restricting public access to critical elements of the public law.  The federal court decision against Public.Resource.Org, long-time advocates for the public’s right to know the laws under which they must live, upheld a copyright claim by private parties over the critical components of the public safety laws of the United States— public safety laws such as building codes, fire codes and electrical codes:

“Everyone should agree that the code of law is the bedrock of American society. Our country is governed by laws, not men-and certainly not private companies. In fact, our country was founded on the principle that everyone has a right to know the law, to access it freely, debate it and engage with it where they want and how they want.  Any artificial barriers or restrictions or paywalls erected between citizens and their own laws erode our most basic civil rights, undercut our democracy and must be removed by any means necessary.

“The U.S. District Court could have decided to strengthen public access to the law.  It could have removed a patently artificial barrier standing between citizens and their right to know the law.  It could have secured a basic civil right for all Americans.  It did not.

“Make no mistake: this copyright catastrophe will end soon enough, whether through the courts or Congressional action. Smart leaders of private standards bodies should recognize that reality and acknowledge that public safety is everybody’s business, that public safety codes created by thousands of dedicated volunteers are meant to be the law, and that rationing access to the law is not only anti-democratic, but harms public safety.”