Alexander Hamilton

Quotes by This Author

“So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions…This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so thoroughly persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 1)

“It has been observed that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.” (Alexander Hamilton, speech urging ratification of the Constitution in New York June 21, 1788.)

“Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary on the contrary has no influence over either the sword or the purse, no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments. This simple view of the matter suggests several important consequences. It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power...” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 78. May 28, 1788.)

“…the laws of Congress are restricted to a certain sphere, and when they depart from this sphere, they are no longer supreme or binding. In the same manner the states have certain independent power, in which their laws are supreme.” (Alexander Hamilton, Elliot, 2:362.)

“It is of the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 8.)

“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.(Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 8.)

“Should this at any time happen, how easy would it be to fabricate pretenses of approaching danger? Indian hostilities, instigated by Spain or Britain, would always be at hand. Provocations to produce the desired appearances might even be given to some foreign power.…” (Alexander Hamilton, speaking on “a combination between the executive and the legislative in some scheme of usurpation.” The Federalist Papers, No. 25.)

“For it is a truth, which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 25.)

“Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community require time to mature them for execution.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 26.)

“The only constitutional exception to the power of making treaties is, that it shall not change the Constitution.… On natural principles, a treaty, which should manifestly betray or sacrifice primary interests of the state, would be null.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, 1796.)

“[a] treaty cannot be made which alters the Constitution of the country or which infringes any express exceptions to the power of the Constitution of the United States.” (Alexander Hamilton)

“…if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 29.)

“We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.” (Alexander Hamilton)

“It will not, I presume, have escaped observation that it expressly confines the supremacy to laws made pursuant to the Constitution” (Alexander Hamilton, concerning the supremacy clause The Federalist Papers, #33.)

“There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, #78.)

“For my part, I sincerely esteem it a system which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.” (Alexander Hamilton)

“The smallness of the army renders the natural strength of the community an overmatch for it; and the citizens, not habituated to look up to the military power for protection, or to submit to its oppressions, neither love nor fear the soldiery; they view them with a spirit of jealous acquiescence in a necessary evil and stand ready to resist a power which they suppose may be exerted to the prejudice of their rights.

“The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories, often the theater of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors but as their superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of considering them masters is neither remote nor difficult; but it is very difficult to prevail upon a people under such impressions to make a bold or effectual resistance to usurpations supported by the military power.” (Alexander Hamilton, commenting on the evils of standing armies, and the superiority of armed citizens against it. Having armed citizens is implied in this article. See No. 29 for Hamilton's views regarding an armed community as a protection against standing armies. The Federalist Papers, No. 8.)

“When a government betrays the people by amassing too much power and becoming tyrannical, the people have no choice but to exercise their original right of self-defense — to fight the government.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 28.)