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