Founding Fathers on Voting

Quotes from the Founding Fathers:

John Adams

We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands; we have a check upon two branches of the legislature . . . the power I mean of electing at stated periods [each] branch. . . . It becomes necessary to every [citizen] then, to be in some degree a statesman, and to examine and judge for himself of the tendency of political principles and measures. Let us examine, then, with a sober, a manly . . . and a Christian spirit; let us neglect all party [loyalty] and advert to facts; let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government any more than in religion; take no man’s word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.

["'U' to the Boston Gazette" written on August 29, 1763.]

Samuel Adams

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

 [The Boston Gazette on April 16, 1781.]

Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men.

[Letter to James Warren on November 4, 1775.]

Charles Finney

[T]he time has come that Christians must vote for honest men and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them. . . . Christians have been exceedingly guilty in this matter. But the time has come when they must act differently. . . . Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you He does see it – and He will bless or curse this nation according to the course they [Christians] take [in politics].

[Lectures on Revivals of Religion, 1868, Lecture XV, pp. 281-282.]

John Jay

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

 [The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, 1890, Vol. IV, p. 365.]

The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of deliberating upon and choosing the forms of government under which they should live.

[The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, 1890, Vol. I, p. 161.]

Noah Webster

In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate – look to his character. . . . When a citizen gives his suffrage to a man of known immorality he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor, he betrays the interest of his country.

 [Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education to which is subjoined a Brief History of the United States , 1823)]

When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, “just men who will rule in the fear of God.” The preservation of government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be sqandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.

[History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), pp. 336-337]

John Witherspoon

Those who wish well to the State ought to choose to places of trust men of inward principle, justified by exemplary conversation. . . .[And t]he people in general ought to have regard to the moral character of those whom they invest with authority either in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches.

 [The Works of John Witherspoon Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. IV, pp. 266, 277.]


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