...Rights




Samuel Bryan

For universal experience demonstrates the necessity of the most express declarations and restrictions, to protect the rights and liberties of mankind, from the silent, powerful and ever active conspiracy of those who govern.

Centinel II
Freeman's Journal (Philadelphia),
October 24, 1787



Oliver Ellsworth

The business of civil government is to protect the citizens in his rights, to defend the community from hostile powers, and to promote the general welfare.

“A Landholder” VII
Connecticut Courant (Hartford)
December 17, 1787



John Leland

...whenever Number of men enter into a State of Socity, a Number of individual Rights must be given up to Socity, but there should always be a memorial of those not surrendered, otherwise every natural & domestic Right becomes alianable, which raises Tyranny at once...

Letter to James Madison
Orange County, Virginia
February 28, 1788



That the enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are essential rights which every government ought to respect and preserve.

Ratification of the Constitution by the
Convention of the State of New York
July 26, 1788



James Madison

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.

National Gazette,
March 29, 1792



...whenever the powers of a government extend to the lives, the persons, and properties of the subject, all their rights ought to be clearly and expressly defined – otherwise they have but a poor security for their liberties.

“A Democratic Federalist”
Pennsylvania Herald, Philadelphia,
October 17, 1787



James Wilson

If a legislature shall make a law contrary to the constitution, or oppressive to the people, they have it in their power, every second year, in one branch, and every sixth year in the other, to displace the men, who act thus inconsistent with their duty; and if this is not sufficient, they have still a further power; they may assume into their own hands, the alteration of the constitution itself – they may revoke the lease, when the conditions are broken by the tenant.

Reply to William Findley
December 1, 1787



Hugh Williamson

The citizens of the United States have no more occasion for a second Declaration of Rights, than they have for a section in favor of the press. Their rights, in the several States, have long since been explained and secured by particular declarations, which make a part of their several Constitutions. It is granted, and perfectly understood, that under the Government of the Assemblies of the States, and under the Government of the Congress, every right is reserved to the individual, which he has not expressly delegated to this, or that Legislature.

Speech at Edenton, North Carolina
November 8, 1787
Printed in the Daily Advertiser, New York,
February 25, 26, 27, 1788



Alexander Hamilton

Though I trust the friends of the proposed constitution will never concur with its enemies in questioning that fundamental principle of republican government, which admits the right of the people to alter or abolish the established constitution whenever they find it inconsistent with their happiness...

“Publius”
The Federalist LXXVIII
New York,
May 28, 1788



Simeon Baldwin

The laws of every nation will wear the complexion of the constitution, and in a good government, will uniformly promote the great objects of political society; the protection of the estates, families, persons, fame, and lives of the subjects.

New Haven Connecticut
July 4, 1788



James Wilson

That the supreme power therefore, should be vested in the people, is, in my judgment, the great panacea of human politics. It is a power paramount to every constitution, inalienable in its nature, and indefinite in its extent. For I insist, if there are errors in government the people have the right not only to correct and amend them, but likewise totally to change and reject its form; and under the operation of that right, the citizens of the United States can never be wrenched beyond retrieve, unless they are wanting to themselves.

Pennsylvania Ratifying
Convention Opening Address
November 24, 1787



George Bryan

Scarce any people ever deliberately gave up their liberties; but many instances occur in history of their losing them forever by a rash and sudden act, to avoid a pressing inconvenience or gratify some violent passion of revenge or fear.

“An Old Whig” I
Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia),
October 12, 1787



James Madison

...the powers granted under the constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression; and that every power not granted thereby, remains with them, and at their will.

Report on the Alien and Sedition Acts
January, 7, 1800


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