Liberty Quotes

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church statueAlexander Hamilton was a proponent of liberty throughout his life. He was surrounded by slavery during his childhood in the Caribbean, which gives him a unique perspective on human liberty. Alexander Hamilton then fought for almost seven years for American liberty during the Revolutionary War. After the war, Alexander Hamilton worked to create a government that would preserve the liberty of its citizens. He also fought for the liberty of slaves for the rest of his life. 

In his writings, Alexander Hamilton discusses liberty at length. In his earlier Revolutionary writings, Hamilton focuses his arguments on natural rights and liberty in terms of Enlightenment thought and religious freedom. Later writings focus on the relationship between liberty, the goverment, and the individual. Read Alexander Hamilton's quotes on liberty below.


 Most Popular

quote sunbeam new

The Sacred Rights Of Mankind Are Not To Be Rummaged For Among Old Parchments Or Musty Records. They Are Written, As With A Sunbeam, In The Whole Volume Of Human Nature, By The Hand Of The Divinity Itself, And Can Never Be Erased Or Obscured By Mortal Power.

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775


 quote enthusiasm in liberty new

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself in acts of bravery and heroism.

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775


A POWER OVER A MAN'S SUBSISTENCE AMOUNTS TO A POWER OVER HIS WILL.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 79, "The Judiciary Department Continued," McLean's Edition, New York.


I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed.”

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


quote extremes of democracy new

We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.

- Alexander Hamilton, as recorded by Robert Yates from the Constitutional Convention, June 26nd, 1787. See Speeches in the Federal Convention – Alexander Hamilton


Government is frequently and aptly classed under two descriptions—a government of force, and a government of laws; the first is the definition of despotism—the last, of liberty.

-Alexander Hamilton, Tully III, August 28, 1794


Civil liberty is only natural liberty, modified and secured by the sanctions of civil society. 

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775


quote vigor of government new

…[V]igor of government is essential to the security of liberty...

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, "General Introduction," Independent Journal, October 27, 1787


quote greatest terrestrial blessings new

I consider civil liberty, in a genuine unadulterated sense, as the greatest of terrestrial blessings. I am convinced, that the whole human race is intitled to it; and, that it can be wrested from no part of them, without the blackest and most aggravated guilt.

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775


quote external danger less free new

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. To be more safe, [nations] at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No 8, "The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States," New York Packet, Tuesday, November 20, 1787.


[If you understood the natural rights of mankind,] [y]ou would be convinced that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that, and cannot be wrested from any people without the most manifest violation of justice.

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775


quote civil religious liberty new

Remember civil and religious liberty always go together: if the foundation of the one be sapped, the other will fall of course.

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


Freedom and Slavery*


quote choose to be free

No man in his senses can hesitate in choosing to be free, rather than a slave.

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


Hence, in a state of nature, no man had any moral power to deprive another of his life, limbs, property, or liberty; nor the least authority to command or exact obedience from him, except that which arose from the ties of consanguinity.

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775


No person that has enjoyed the sweets of liberty can be insensible of its infinite value, or can reflect on its reverse without horror and detestation

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


The only distinction between freedom and slavery consists in this: In the former state a man is governed by the laws to which he has given his consent, either in person or by his representative; in the latter, he is governed by the will of another. In the one case, his life and property are his own; in the other, they depend upon the pleasure of his master. It is easy to discern which of these two states is preferable. 

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


That Americans are entitled to freedom is incontestable on every rational principle. All men have one common original: they participate in one common nature, and consequently have one common right. No reason can be assigned why one man should exercise any power or preeminence over his fellow-creatures more than another; unless they have voluntarily vested him with it.

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


Were not the disadvantages of slavery too obvious to stand in need of it, I might enumerate and describe the tedious train of calamities inseparable from it. I might show that it is fatal to religion and morality; that it tends to debase the mind, and corrupt its noblest springs of action. I might show that it relaxes the sinews of industry, clips the wings of commerce, and introduces misery and indigence in every shape.

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


 Liberty and Government


[Alexander Hamilton] concurred, also, in the general observations of Mr. Madison on the subject, which might be supported by others if it were necessary. It was certainly true, that nothing like an equality of property existed; that an inequality would exist as long as liberty existed, and that it would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself. This inequality of property constituted the great and fundamental distinction in society.

- Alexander Hamilton, as recorded in the Madison Papers from the Constitutional Convention, June 22nd, 1787. See Speeches in the Federal Convention – Alexander Hamilton


In a government framed for durable liberty, not less regard must be paid to giving the magistrate a proper degree of authority, to make and execute the laws with rigour, than to guarding against encroachments upon the rights of the community. As too much power leads to despotism, too little leads to anarchy, and both eventually to the ruin of the people.

- Alexander Hamilton, The Continentalist No. I, July 12, 1781.


If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the Legislature as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.

- Alexander Hamilton (or James Madison), Federalist No. 57, February 19, 1788


If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer, the genius of the whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it. If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the Legislature as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.

-Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 57, February 19, 1788.


But as States are collections of individual men, which ought we to respect most, the rights of the people composing them, or of the artificial beings resulting from the composition? Nothing could be more preposterous or absurd than to sacrifice the former to the latter. It has been said that if the smaller States renounce their equality, they renounce at the same time their liberty. The truth is, it is a contest for power, not for liberty. Will the men composing the small States be less free than those composing the larger? The State of Delaware, having forty thousand souls, will lose power if she has one tenth only of the votes allowed to Pennsylvania, having four hundred thousand; but will the people of Delaware be less free, if each citizen has an equal vote with each citizen of Pennsylvania? 

- Alexander Hamilton, as recorded in the Madison Papers from the Constitutional Convention, June 29th, 1787. See Speeches in the Federal Convention – Alexander Hamilton


Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70, "The Executive Department Further Considered," From the New York Packet, March 18, 1788.


It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the Executive. For I agree, that "there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers." And it proves, in the last place, that as liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have every thing to fear from its union with either of the other departments…

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78, "The Judiciary Department," McLean's Edition, New York.


The idea of restraining the legislative authority, in the means of providing for the national defense, is one of those refinements which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened.

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No 26, "The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered," Independent Journal, December 22, 1787


The citizens of America have too much discernment to be argued into anarchy. And I am much mistaken, if experience has not wrought a deep and solemn conviction in the public mind, that greater energy of government is essential to the welfare and prosperity of the community

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No 26, "The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered," Independent Journal, December 22, 1787


Were it not that it might require too long a discussion, it would not be difficult to demonstrate that a large and well-organized republic can scarcely lose its liberty from any other cause than that of anarchy, to which a contempt of the laws is the high-road.

-Alexander Hamilton, Tully III, August 28, 1794


Get the Context

The quotes below are longer citations of quotes already listed above, but are powerful in their own right.


Give me the steady, uniform, unshaken security of constitutional freedom. Give me the right to be tried by a jury of my own neighbors, and to be taxed by my own representatives only. What will become of the law and courts of justice without this? The shadow may remain, but the substance will be gone. I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed.”

-Alexander Hamilton, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," December 15, 1774


 Government is frequently and aptly classed under two descriptions—a government of force, and a government of laws; the first is the definition of despotism—the last, of liberty. But how can a government of laws exist when the laws are disrespected and disobeyed? Government supposes control. It is that power by which individuals in society are kept from doing injury to each other, and are brought to co-operate to a common end. The instruments by which it must act are either the authority of the laws or force. If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government, there is an end to liberty!

-Alexander Hamilton, Tully III, August 28, 1794


 The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasonings, is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that, and cannot be wrested from any people without the most manifest violation of justice. Civil liberty is only natural liberty, modified and secured by the sanctions of civil society. It is not a thing, in its own nature, precarious and dependent on human will and caprice, but it is conformable to the constitution of man, as well as necessary to the well-being of society.

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775


 On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, "General Introduction," Independent Journal, October 27, 1787


 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, Federalist No 8, "The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States," New York Packet, Tuesday, November 20, 1787


 *Though many of the quotes cited here were written specifically in reference to American liberty from the British, Alexander Hamilton was against slavery and worked towards its abolishment throughout his adult life. 

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