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Government quote

To form a new government requires infinite care and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid, the superstructure must be bad.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to John Augustine Washington, May 31, 1776

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Declaration of Independence

We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all Divines and moral Philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.

JOHN ADAMS, Thoughts on Government

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

JAMES MADISON, Federalist No. 51, Feb. 6, 1788

Prudence ... will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Declaration of Independence

As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

Frankly, I'm fed up with politicians in Washington lecturing the rest of us about family values. Our families have values. But our government doesn’t.

BILL CLINTON, speech at Democratic National Convention, July 16, 1992

Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

RONALD REAGAN, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

Our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter -- that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

BARACK OBAMA, speech to joint session of Congress, sep. 9, 2009


I have nothing but contempt for the kind of governor who is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows is best for the State; and as for the man who sets private friendship above the public welfare -- I have no use for him either.


Mankind, when left to themselves, are unfit for their own government.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter, Oct. 31, 1786

Governments have a tendency not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.


If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

JAMES MADISON, The Federalist, Feb. 6, 1788

When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are something to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honors are something to be ashamed of.

CONFUCIUS, The Wisdom of Confucius

Ceremonies are the first thing to be attended to in the practice of government.

CONFUCIUS, The Wisdom of Confucius

The great fish swallow up the small; and he who is most strenuous for the rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the prerogatives of government.

ABIGAIL ADAMS, letter to John Adams, Nov. 27, 1775

All kings is mostly rapscallions.

MARK TWAIN, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

In all governments, there must of necessity be both the law and the sword; laws without arms would give us not liberty, but licentiousness; and arms without laws, would produce not subjection, but slavery. The law, therefore, should be unto the sword what the handle is to the hatchet; it should direct the stroke and temper the force.


We are not to expect perfection in this world; but mankind, in modern times, have apparently made some progress in the science of government.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, Feb. 7, 1788

A civil servant doesn't make jokes.


A government must govern, must prescribe and enforce laws within its sphere or cease to be a government. Moreover, the individual must be independent and free within his own sphere or cease to be an individual. The fundamental question ... is now, and always will be through what adjustments, by what actions, these principles may be applied.

CALVIN COOLIDGE, speech, May 30, 1924

That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.


While legislation can stimulate and encourage, the real creative ability which builds up and develops the country, and in general makes human existence more tolerable and life more complete, has to be supplied by the genius of the people themselves. The Government can supply no substitute for enterprise.

CALVIN COOLIDGE, speech, Jul. 4, 1924

Government quote

If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost.

BARACK OBAMA, speech, Aug. 28, 2006

There is good government when those who are near are made happy, and when those who are afar are attracted.

CONFUCIUS, The Wisdom of Confucius

A government of laws, and not of men.

JOHN ADAMS, Novanglus Essays, No. 7

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, attributed, Upton Sinclair's The Cry for Justice

Government is merely a servant – merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.

MARK TWAIN, The Bible According to Mark Twain

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.

JAMES MADISON, speech at Virginia State Convention, Dec. 2, 1829

It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, First Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1861

As individuals, as families, as neighbors, as members of one community, people of all races and political views are usually decent, kind, compassionate. But in large corporations or governments, when great power accumulates in their hands, some become monsters even with good intentions.

DEAN KOONTZ, Dark Rivers of the Heart

Most people want nothing to happen. That is the problem with governments these days. They want to do things all the time; they are always very busy thinking of what things they can do next. That is not what people want. People want to be left alone to look after their cattle.

ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The federal government has never been known for its sense of humor.

LAURELL K. HAMILTON, Obsidian Butterfly

The will of the people is the source and the happiness of the people the end of all legitimate government upon earth.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1825

Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

RONALD REAGAN, New York Times, Nov. 14, 1965

The government of a nation itself is usually found to be but the reflux of the individuals composing it. The government that is ahead of the people will be inevitably dragged down to their level, as the government that is behind them will in the long run be dragged up.


The grossest, the cruelest, the most selfish, the most easily pervertible and perverted thing in this world, is government.

HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

I see nothing quite conclusive in the art of temporal government,
But violence, duplicity and frequent malversation.
King rules or barons rule:
The strong man strongly and the weak man by caprice.
They have but one law, to seize the power and keep it.

T. S. ELIOT, Murder in the Cathedral


GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Political Trivia - a collection of trivia questions on politics and government.

Government - Wikipedia article. - The U.S. government's official web portal.


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