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The Documents

The Development of the American Character Quotes

First Acts of Congress 1789:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Federalist on the Constitution:

Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.

John Locke, Essay on Humane Understanding:

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia:

Is uniformity [of opinion] attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.

Herman Mann, The Female Review/Memoirs of an American Young Lady:

Deborah was born to war. (Lucy Freeman and Alma Bond)

Deborah Sampson was a remarkable woman serving in the Continental Army in the Revolutionary war. She disguised herself as a man.

Benjamin Franklin, The Constitution of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery:

It having pleased the creator of the world, to make of one flesh, all the children of men, it becomes them to consult and promote each other’s happiness, as members of the same family, however diversified they may be, by color, situation, religion, or different states of society.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God.

Patrick Henry, speech at the First Continental Congress:

I am not a Virginian, but an American.

Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

...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...

That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

[We] solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Life of Frederick Douglass:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.

People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.

Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

…that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense:

...when the republican virtue fails, slavery ensues.

Alex de Tocqueville, Democracy in America:

...I know of no other country where love of money has such a grip on men’s hearts or where stronger scorn is expressed for the theory of permanent equality of property.

Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free...

And by virtue of the power...I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free...

Lincoln and Douglas Debates:

When that principle is recognized, you will have peace and harmony and fraternal feeling between all the States of this Union; until you do recognize that doctrine, there will be sectional warfare agitating and distracting the country. What does Mr. Lincoln propose? He says that the Union cannot exist divided into free and slave States. If it cannot endure thus divided, then he must strive to make them all free or all slave, which will inevitably bring about a dissolution of the Union. —Stephen A. Douglas

Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed. —Abraham Lincoln

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty:

Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history...

Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called...

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