The founding fathers of the United States were the definition of preeminent badassery. This list of their most epic quotes is sure to inspire the hell out of you and send any redcoats packing!
#1. “The time is now near at hand, which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of a brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer, or to die." -George Washington[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="695"] Delaware Regiment at the Battle of Long Island[/caption]
Washington's epic speech here was given to his troops just before the Battle of Long Island, August 26th, 1776. Unfortunately, the Battle of Brooklyn as it came to be known was a defeat for America, giving the British control of New York. It was the largest battle in terms of troop sizes of the entire war.
#2. "What has been commonly called rebellion has more often been nothing but a manly and glorious struggle in opposition to the lawless power of rebellious kings and princes. If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not for your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen." -Samuel Adams
Oh man, that must be the most badass quote in American history. Adams' speech at the State House in Philadelphia on August 1st, 1776 has set the hairs on the back of patriot's necks up for centuries. Who among us here hasn't been tempted to yank the chain of our fellow countrymen who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous seas of liberty? Most people seem to enjoy their positions as serfs, because liberty requires responsibility. To self govern is to have to provide for yourself and your loved ones. Adams quote here reflects the spirit of American Independence in all its glory.
#3. "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." Thomas Paine[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="610"] The Battle of Trenton[/caption]
Paine's writing of The American Crisis on December 19th, 1776, was ordered by George Washington to be read to the troops prior to his famous crossing of the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton. Washington's victory against the Hessian mercenaries boosted the Continental Army's flagging morale, and helped to inspire reenlistments. The army had been on the verge of collapse, but the victory at Trenton gave new life to the cause of independence.
#4. "This constitution ... squints toward monarchy, and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American?" -Patrick Henry[caption id="attachment_8964" align="aligncenter" width="303"] “[g]uard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.” -Patrick Henry[/caption]
Some of the American rebels were rebelling against the rebellion! That's a good thing for freedom, because it means that we are allowed to question every decision made on our behalf of our representative government. Patrick Henry here expressed his concern for the potential abuses of power. Thomas Jefferson also expressed his misgivings when he said:
"The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please."
Jefferson also knew that some people revered the constitution too much, knowing that it was merely a piece of paper and that it was the duty of the people to defend their rights ultimately. The constitution is not a holy document.
"Some men look at the Constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant- too sacred to be touched." -Letter to Samuel Kerchevel July 12, 1816
#5. "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in the world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." -Benjamin Franklin[caption id="attachment_404" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Benjamin Franklin in Parliament[/caption]
Franklin's letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy on November 13th, 1789 would prove to be even more prophetic than it was humorous.
#6. "If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is, that we should have nothing to do with conquest." Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson's letter to William Short on July 28th, 1791 echoed the desire of America to be a peaceful nation, devoted to minding our own business and affairs. Indeed the very first cent created in the United States was the "Fugio Cent" which, instead of saying "In God We Trust," read: Mind Your Business.
#7. "Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one." Thomas Paine
Paine's Common Sense echoed the fears of Americans who desired a limited government, relegated only to certain small tasks. They knew that a big government was a bad government, and that the only reason governments are instituted among men are to protect our natural rights. Anything beyond that and government becomes tyrannical, eating out the substance of the people and depriving them of their prosperity.
#8. "A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government." -Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson's First Inaugural Address on March 4th, 1801, lays out the libertarian ideal of government perfectly. Don't hurt people, don't take their stuff. It's as simple as that. Government should have no say in commerce. Laissez-faire. Jefferson compacted this sentiment in the same speech, later saying:
"Agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are most thriving when left to individual enterprise."
#9. "We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed." Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson knew well that the fight for freedom would not be easy. Too many called for pacifism in the face of the British Empire, when people like Jefferson and Paine knew that it was the "seed time," and that there was indeed a time for making war on your enemies so that you could be free.
#10. "I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." James Madison
Madison's address to the Virginia convention on June 16th, 1788, showed his understanding of how those who wished to destroy liberty would do so gradually, rather than in one fell sweep. Indeed, the cause of the Fabian Socialists is to introduce socialism gradually, until nothing is left of human freedom.
#11. In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech; a terrible thing to publick traytors." -Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, writing in his Dogwood Papers in 1722 (while 16 years old), understood full well how important free speech was, and that subduing it was always the tool of tyrants.
#12. It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others." -Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson's letter to Benjamin Rush in 1803 sums up the understanding of how liberty works. It's not to be divided into pieces, just for one demographic group. It's for everyone, even those we hate. That's the beautiful thing about the American experiment, liberty is for everyone.
#13. Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature." -Benjamin Franklin
Franklin in his Maxims and Morals book written in 1807 explains that rights do not come from government. Freedom is part of our nature, and it belongs to us no matter what any government or document says. That's why it's referred to as "THE" freedom of speech, meaning that the right existed before the constitution was even written.
#14. The founders on slavery
"Slavery is an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils." -Benjamin Franklin, An Address to the Public from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, 1782
"It being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law." -George Washington, letter to John Mercer, September 9, 1786
"Negro slavery is an evil of colossal magnitude." -John Adams, 1819
Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven upon a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes the national sins, by national calamities." -George Mason August 22, 1787
Mason's prophecy would come true less than 100 years later.