VIII. Wealth, Corruption, Debt & Taxes
Economist Robert J. Samuelson, taking stock of U.S. economic distribution (Newsweek, October 2, 2006), points out that the median household income in real dollars was less in 2005 than it was in 1999, and these figures do not reflect the rise in assets and capital gains among the wealthy or the rising debt load of the average American. In 1995, it took $340 million to put one on Forbes’ list of 400 richest Americans; in 2005, all 400 on the Forbes’ list were billionaires.
Bush tax cuts have given hundreds of billions of dollars in tax relief to corporations and the wealthy few, moving the greatest tax burden to state taxes, regressive sales taxes and fees, and especially to future generations who will have to deal with the massive federal debts incurred by Bush’s largesse to the wealthy and treasury-draining foreign wars.
The founders battled over monetary policy, especially Jefferson and Madison against Hamilton. But all of the founders, including Hamilton, warned about the dangers of excessive wealth, unnecessary debt and unfair taxes. And to a man they feared public corruption as a great corrosive canker on dreams for the Republic.
Wealth & Property
GEORGE W. BUSH: "This is an impressive crowd -- the haves and the have- mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base."
---Speech at Al Smith $800-a-plate fund-raiser, October 20, 2000
GEORGE W. BUSH: “They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program.”
---Speech, St. Charles, Missouri, November 2, 2000
GEORGE W. BUSH: "And by the way, a free and peaceful Iraq is in our nation's interest. It's in our security interest -- that affected the economy. When you turned on your TV, it said, ‘America is marching to war.’ That's not very conducive for -- that's not a very positive statement. It doesn't build a lot of confidence -- people, you know, marching to war, why would I want to invest in my home? Or why would I want to come to Home Depot if we're fixing to go to war?”
---CNN, December 5, 2003
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.”
---Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1738
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.”
---Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1751
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “An empty bag cannot stand upright.”
---Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1740
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “If your riches are yours, why don't you take them with you to t'other world?”
---Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1751
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “So selfish is the human Mind! But 'tis well there is One above that rules these matters with a more equal hand. He that is pleas'd to feed the ravens will undoubtedly take care to prevent a monopoly of the carrion.”
---Letter to Peter Collinson, April 30. 1764
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “That an enormous proportion of property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the rights and destructive of the common happiness of mankind; and, therefore, every free state hath a right by its laws to discourage the possession of such property.”
---Provision of a Declaration of Rights supported by Franklin in 1776, quoted by Edmund S. Morgan, Benjamin Franklin, p. 307-308
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “Superfluous property is the creature of society. . . . By virtue of the first laws, part of the society accumulated wealth and grew powerful, [then] they enacted other [laws] more severe and would protect their property at the expense of humanity. This was abusing their powers and commencing a tyranny.”
---Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1785
“Ben liked to tell of the time a friend showed him through his new mansion. His friend took him into a living room big enough to house Congress. Why, asked Ben, would he want a room so big? ‘Because I can afford it,’ replied his friend. Next came a dining room large enough to seat fifty people. Again Ben wondered at the size, and again his friend said, ‘I can afford it.’ Ben at last turned to his friend. ‘Why are you wearing such a small hat? Why not get one ten times the size of your head? You can afford that too?’”
---Quoted by Candace Fleming, Ben Franklin’s Almanac, p. 41
JOHN ADAMS: “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions . . . shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power . . . we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.”
---Letter to Dr. Richard Price, April 8, 1785
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly. Do not be frightened into their surrender by the alarms of the timid, or the croakings of wealth against the ascendancy of the people.”
---Letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816
JAMES MADISON: “Besides the danger of a direct mixture of Religion & Civil Government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.”
----From Detached Memoranda, undated (c. 1819)
"A handful of well-connected corporations are making a killing off the devastation in Iraq. The politics and process behind these deals have always been questionable. Now we have first-hand evidence that they're not even doing their jobs.”
---Chris Kromm, publisher of “Southern Exposure,” magazine of Institute for Southern Studies, Winter Issue, 2003/2004
“It turns out that a money trail runs---albeit rather circuitously---from the lucrative business of rebuilding Iraq to the fortune behind Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden's estranged family, a sprawling, extraordinarily wealthy Saudi Arabian dynasty, is a substantial investor in a private equity firm founded by the Bechtel Group of San Francisco. Bechtel is also the global construction and engineering company to which the U.S. government recently awarded the first major multimillion-dollar contract to reconstruct war-ravaged Iraq. In a closed competitive bidding process, the United States Agency for International Development chose Bechtel to rebuild the major elements of Iraq's infrastructure, including its roads, railroads, airports, hospitals, and schools, and its water and electrical systems. In the first phase of the contract, the U.S. government will pay Bechtel nearly thirty-five million dollars, but experts say that the cost is likely to reach six hundred and eighty million during the next year and a half.
[. . .]
“When the contract was awarded two weeks ago, the Administration did not mention that the bin Laden family has an ongoing relationship with Bechtel. The bin Ladens have a ten-million-dollar stake in the Fremont Group, a San Francisco-based company formerly called Bechtel Investments, which was until 1986 a subsidiary of Bechtel. The Fremont Group's Web site, which makes no mention of the bin Ladens, notes that ‘though now independent, Fremont enjoys a close relationship with Bechtel.’ A spokeswoman for the company confirmed that Fremont's ‘majority ownership is the Bechtel family.’ And a list of the corporate board of directors shows substantial overlap. Five of Fremont's eight directors are also directors of Bechtel. One Fremont director, Riley Bechtel, is the chairman and chief executive officer of the Bechtel Group, and is a member of the Bush Administration: he was appointed this year to serve on the President's Export Council. In addition, George Schultz, the Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration, serves as a director both of Fremont and of the Bechtel Group, where he once was president and still is listed as senior counselor.”
---Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, May 5, 2004
“San Francisco-based Bechtel was one of a select handful of U.S. companies that received a quiet ‘request for proposals’ from the Bush administration more than a month before the invasion of Iraq. Thus, without any competition, on April 17, 2003, Bechtel was awarded a $680 million contract for work in Iraq. In September of that year, an additional $350 million was added to the first contract, and then, on Jan. 6, 2004, it received a second contract -- bringing Bechtel's combined total to more than $2.8 billion. . . .
“Bechtel received the contract to build the new hospital in Basra in mid-October 2004 to ‘improve the quality of care and life expectancy for both women and children.’ The original price tag was $50 million, and the due date was Dec. 31, 2005. The auditors now estimate that the project will be completed no earlier than July 31, 2007, and will cost as much as $169.5 million (including $30 million for equipment). However, the report cautions, ‘there is still an unclear picture of schedule control, security, construction quality, and the use of alternative contract management options that will impact the true cost to complete.’ Thus, the cost and time involved could be much greater.”
---Antonia Juhasz, AlterNet Posted August 4, 2006 (Juhasz is an analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies)
“SIGIR's [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction] exhaustive review in April of a $243 million contract held by the Parsons Corp. to construct primary health care centers across Iraq revealed that after more than two years and $186 million, only six of the planned 150 centers were complete. . . .
“Parsons and Bechtel were once partners. In 1938, Bechtel and Parsons merged with a third company to form the Bechtel-McCone-Parsons Corp. The three companies split amicably after World War II. Parsons is the second-largest recipient of reconstruction dollars in Iraq (after Halliburton) with $5.3 billion in contracts. . . .
“Rumsfeld visited Iraq in December 1983 with the help of Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz. Who is George Schultz? Before joining the Reagan administration, he was President and Director of the Bechtel Group for eight years. Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein discussed building the Aqaba oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan. Which company, might you guess, was pegged for construction? Why, Bechtel, of course. . . .
“When Reagan left office, Schultz returned to Bechtel. It was like he never left -- just working from a different office.”
---Antonia Juhasz, AlterNet Posted, August 4, 2006
"Lockheed rakes it in from the federal treasury at the rate of $65 million every single day of the year."
---Jeffrey St. Clair in CounterPunch, January 22, 2005
"Lockheed Martin will pay the US government 37.9 million dollars to settle accusations that it inflated the cost of contracts for the US air force, the justice department said."
---August 27, 2003, Washington (Agence France-Presse)
“Cheney, who served as CEO from 1995 to 2000, continues to receive as much as $1 million a year in deferred compensation as Halliburton executives enjoy a seat at the table during Administration discussions over how to handle post-war oil production in Iraq. . . .
“The Cheney-Halliburton story is the classic military-industrial revolving door tale. As Secretary of Defense under Bush I, Cheney paid Brown and Root services (now Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root) $3.9 million to report on how private companies could help the U.S. Army as Cheney cut hundreds of thousands of Army jobs. Then Brown and Root won a five-year contract to provide logistics for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers all over the globe. In 1995, Cheney became CEO and Halliburton jumped from 73rd to 18th on the Pentagon's list of top contractors, benefiting from at least $3.8 billion in federal contracts and taxpayer-insured loans, according to the Center for Public Integrity. . . .
“Questionable Accounting: The SEC recently formalized an investigation into whether Halliburton artificially inflated revenue by $234 million over four years. Halliburton switched to a more aggressive accounting method in 1998 under Cheney. [. . .]
“Access to Evil -- business dealings in Iraq, Iran, and Libya: News reports suggest that Pentagon is currently using the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) to draw up a blacklist of non-US companies that have done business in Iran. Yet, Halliburton has conducted business in Iran through subsidiaries. When Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, he inquired about an ILSA waiver to pursue oil field developments in Iran. In 1997, Halliburton subsidiary Halliburton Energy Services paid $15,000 to settle Department of Commerce allegations that the company had broken anti-boycott provisions of the U.S. Export Administration Act for an Iran-related transaction. . . .
“Tax Havens: Under Cheney's tenure, the number of Halliburton subsidiaries in offshore tax havens increased from 9 to 44. Meanwhile, Halliburton went from paying $302 million in company taxes in 1998 to getting an $85 million tax refund in 1999.”
---Lee Drutman and Charlie Cray, Citizen Work, April 4, 2003
“CONTRACT SPORT: What did the Vice-President do for Halliburton?”
”Last year . . . a secret task force in the Bush Administration picked Halliburton to receive a noncompetitive contract for up to seven billion dollars to rebuild Iraq’s oil operations. According to the Times, the decision was authorized at the ’highest levels of the Administration.’ . . .
“Halliburton, meanwhile, is contending with . . . scandals. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had overcharged the government by sixteen million dollars on a bill for the cost of feeding troops at a military base in Kuwait. . . . The day after this disclosure, the Pentagon awarded yet another contract to Halliburton, worth $1.2 billion, to rebuild the oil industry in southern Iraq. . . .
“Excess billing for postwar fuel imports to Iraq by the Halliburton Company totaled more than $108 million, according to a report by Pentagon auditors that was completed last fall but has never been officially released to the public or to Congress.
[. . . ]
“Lawrence Eagleburger, the Secretary of State in the first Bush Administration, became a Halliburton board member after Cheney joined the company. He told me that Cheney was the firm’s ‘outside man,’ the person who could best help the company expand its business around the globe. Cheney was close to many world leaders, particularly in the Persian Gulf, a region central to Halliburton’s oil-services business. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, were so friendly with Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., that the Prince had invited the Cheney family to his daughter’s wedding. (Cheney did not attend.) ‘Dick was good at opening doors,’ Eagleburger said. ‘I don’t mean that pejoratively. He had contacts from his former life, and he used them effectively.’”
---Jane Mayer, from “CONTRACT SPORT: What did the Vice-President do for Halliburton?,” The New Yorker, February 16, 2004 and February 23, 2004
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “It gives me very sincere pleasure . . . your endeavors in bringing those murderers of our cause (the monopolizers, forestallers, and engrossers) to condign punishment. It is much to be lamented that each state long ere this has not hunted them down as the pests of society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America. I would to God that one of the most atrocious of each state was hung in gibbets upon a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman. No punishment in my opinion is too great for the man who can build his greatness upon his country's ruin.”
---Letter to Joseph Reed, December 12, 1778
JAMES MADISON: "In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended.Its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people.The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both.”
---”Political Observations,” 1795
JAMES MADISON: “Undertakings by private companies carry with them a presumptive evidence of utility, and the private stakes in them some security of execution, the want of which is the bane of public undertakings. Still, the importunities of private companies cannot be listened to with more caution than prudence requires.”
---Letter to Martin Van Buren, July 5, 1830
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? . . . Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and enterprising a passion as that of power or glory? Have there not been as many wars founded upon commercial motives since that has become the prevailing system of nations, as were before occasioned by the cupidity of territory or dominion? Has not the spirit of commerce, in many instances, administered new incentives to the appetite, both for the one and for the other?
--- Federalist No. 1 (Introduction), 1787
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “The conduct of another class, equally criminal . . . have carried the spirit of monopoly and extortion to an extent which scarcely admits of a parallel. . . . When avarice takes takes the lead in a state, it is commonly the forerunner of its fall. How shocking is it to discover among ourselves, even at this early period, the strongest symptoms of this fatal disease.”
---“Publius I,” October 19, 1778
According to the National Debt Clock, when George W. Bush took office the National Debt stood at $5.6 trillion (down from a high of $5.8 under George Herbert Walker Bush). The Debt, after six years of George W. Bush is $8.5 trillion and has been increasing at a rate of $1.73 billion dollars per day since September 30, 2005. [In 2008, the National Debt Clock was stopped at $10 trillion.]
GEORGE W. BUSH: “Let me put it to you this way. I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.”
---News conference, November 4, 2004
GEORGE W. BUSH: “Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars.”
---2006 State Of The Union Address
DICK CHENEY: “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.We won the mid- term elections, this is our due”.
---Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, in The Price Of Loyalty
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “The king's cheese is half wasted in parings; but no matter, 'tis made of the people's milk.”
---Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1735
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “Lying rides upon Debt’s back.”
---Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1743
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “The second vice is Lying; the first is running a Debt.”
--- Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1749
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “That is simple. In the Colonies we issue our own money. It is called Colonial Scrip [in defiant substitution for British currency]. We issue it in proper proportion to the demands of trade and industry to make the products pass easily from the producers to the consumers. In this manner, creating for ourselves our own paper money, we control its purchasing power, and we have no interest to pay no one.”
---Explaining to Bank of England directors his ideas on why the colonies were so prosperous, 1763
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden, which we ourselves ought to bear.”
---Farewell Address, 1796
JOHN ADAMS: “No nation can raise within the year by taxes sufficient sums for its defense and military operations in time of war. . . . The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own. The national defense must be provided for as well as the support of Government; but both should be accomplished as much as possible by immediate taxes, and as little as possible by loans.”
---First Annual Message, 1797
JOHN ADAMS: “The preservation of public credit, the regular extinguishment of the public debt, and a provision of funds to defray any extraordinary expenses will of course call for your serious attention. Although the imposition of new burdens can not be in itself agreeable, yet there is no ground to doubt that the American people will expect from you such measures as their actual engagements, their present security, and future interests demand.”
---Special Message To Congress, 1797
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Not that the monocrats and paper men in Congress want war, but they want armies and debts.”
---Letter to Madsion, April 3, 1794
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.”
---Letter to John Taylor, November 26, 1798
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “I sincerely believe . . . that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
---Letter to John Taylor, May 28, 1816
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes---a principle which, if acted on, would save one-half the wars of the world.”
---Letter to M. Destutt De Tracy, December 26, 1820
JAMES MADISON: “War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”
---Political Observations, April 20, 1795
GEORGE W. BUSH: “We cut taxes, which basically meant people had more money in their pocket.”
---February 2004, Quoted by Sean Wilentz, Rolling Stone April 21, 2006
“Since 2001, President Bush’s tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found.”
---Washington Post, “Tax Burden Shifts to the Middle,” August 13, 2004
“Bush tax cuts are 70 times larger for top 1 percent of taxpayers than for middle-class families.”
---Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Newswire, August 23, 2004
“During the campaign, Bush claimed that the ‘vast majority’ of the tax cuts go the ‘those at the bottom end of the economic ladder.’ FACT: The bottom sixty percentile received only 12.6 percent of the proposed tax cut, while the top one percent would receive almost half.”
---David Corn, “The Nation,” October 13, 2003
“While Bush is cutting taxes for the rich he also is raising fees for government services ($5.9 billion in FYE 2004 alone) and states have been forced to increase taxes and fees as the impact of the tax cuts, cuts in aid to states and new unfunded mandates have added a $39 – 98 billion burden to the states.”
--- Washington Post, February 3, 2004
“The Bush administration categorized its 2004 tax cut as a ‘middle-class tax cut.’ The top 1/5th of earners receive 2/3rds of all benefits and the bill excluded extending the child tax credit to 4 million low income families who do not qualify. Middle class earners will receive an average cut of $162 in 2005.
“(1) Since Bush took office, states have raised taxes $20.2 billion annually (after 7 consecutive years of tax cuts)
“(2) Tuition at state colleges and universities have increased35% since 2001 while the administration is cutting education aid.
“(3) Property tax collections rose more than 10% last year alone to pay for under-funded schools and services.
“(4) Increased fees for a variety of programs from small business loans to national parks.Under Bush, veterans’ co-payments for prescription drugs are to rise from $2 in 2002 to $15 in 2005.”
---Center for American Progress, February 20, 2004
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “A wise and frugal government . . . 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.”
--- First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801
JAMES MADISON: ”The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice.”
--- Federalist No. 10, 1787
JAMES MADISON: ”It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.”
---Federalist No. 62, 1788
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “They [taxes] will in the end be borne by all classes; yet it is of the greatest importance that no one should sink under the immediate pressure. The great art is to distribute the public burdens well and not suffer them, either first, or last, to fall too heavily upon parts of the community; else distress and disorder must ensue. A shock given to any part of the political machine vibrates through the whole.”
--- The Continentalist VI, 1782
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “The public necessities must be satisfied; this can only be done by contributions of the whole society.”
---The Continentalist VI, 1782
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “Experience will teach us that no government costs so much as a bad one.”
---The Continentalist VI, 1782
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “Every proposal for a specific tax is sure to meet with opposition . . . It must be the province of the legislature to hold the scales with a judicious hand and balance one by another. The rich must be made to pay for their luxuries; which is the only proper way of taking their superior wealth.”
---The Continentalist VI, 1782
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “Taxes are never welcome to a community. They seldom fail to excite uneasy sensations more or less extensive. Hence a too strong propensity in the governments of nations to anticipate and mortgage the resources of posterity rather than encounter the inconveniences of a present increase in taxes. . . . when not dictated by very peculiar circumstances, is of the worst kind. Its obvious tendency is, by enhancing the permanent burdens of the people, to produce lasting distress, and its natural issue is in National Bankruptcy.”
---Report to the Speaker of the House, March 16-17, 1792
"No politician in America today is closer to Enron than George W. Bush. . . . Bush's top career patron was Enron. The company and its employees gave the governor of Texas $550,000 in the six years before the January 2000 Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses and primaries. Enron later gave $300,000 for the Bush inaugural celebration alone. . . . Enron chairman Ken Lay was co-chairman of the Bush re-election campaign and chairman of the host committee of the Republican National Convention in Houston in 1992."
---Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, February 25, 2002
GEORGE W. BUSH: "I have confidence in Tom DeLay's leadership and I have confidence in Tom DeLay."
---White House News Conference, March 16, 2005 (after disclosures of DeLay’s corrupt connection to money laundering and Abramoff scandal
“President George Bush is giving $8000 in political contributions from Abramoff, his wife and a client to charity, but will keep more than $100,000 that Abramoff collected for Mr. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, officials said. . . . Abramoff earned "pioneer" status in the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign by raising between $100,000 and $200,000.”
---Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2006
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion. “
---Farewell Address, 1796
JOHN ADAMS: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house [the White House] and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
---Letter to Abigail Adams, November 2, 1800
[Franklin D. Roosevelt had this inscribed on the mantelpiece of the State Dining Room.]
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Is this the kind of protection we receive in return for the rights we give up? The spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”
--- Notes of defects in the Virginia State Constitution, Query X, 1782
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”
---Speech to New London Methodists, 1809
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust.”
---Letter to M. van der Kemp, 1812; Writings (ME), vol. VI, p. 45
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “You may depend I shall always preserve the decency and respect due either to the Government of the United States . . . but I shall not conceive myself bound to use any extraordinary ceremony with the characters of corrupt individuals, however exalted their stations. . . .
“There are men in all countries the business of whose lives it is to raise themselves above indigence by every little art in their power. When these men are observed to be influenced by the spirit [of avarice] I have mentioned, it is nothing more than might be expected and can only excite contempt.
“When others who have characters to support and credit enough in the world to satisfy a moderate appetite for wealth in an honorable way are found to be actuated by the same spirit, our contempt is mixed with indignation.
“But when a man appointed to be the guardian of the state and the depository of the happiness and morals of the people, forgetful of the solemn relation in which he stands, descends to the dishonest artifices of a mercantile projector and sacrifices his conscience and his trust to pecuniary motives, there is no strain of abhorrence of which the human mind is capable, no punishment the vengeance of the people can inflict which may not be applied to him with justice.
“If it should have happened that a member of Congress has been this degenerate character and has been known to turn the knowledge of secrets to which his office gave him access to the purposes of private profit, by employing emissaries to engross an article of immediate necessity to the public service, he ought to feel the utmost rigor of public resentment and be detested as a traitor of the worst and most dangerous kind.”
--- “Publius I,” October 19, 1778