The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools for land for himself, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all--gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress to all.
Abraham Lincoln, Message to Congress, 1861

The office of government is not to confer happiness, but to give men opportunity to work out happiness for themselves.
William Ellery Channing (on the function of government)

To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.
Robert Louis Stevenson, An Island Voyage, 1878

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, 1850

Representative institutions are of little value, and may be a mere instrument of tyranny or intrigue, when the generality of electors are not sufficiently interested in their own government to give their vote, or, if they vote at all, do not bestow their suffrages on public grounds, but sell them for money, or vote at the beck of someone who has control over them, or whom for private reasons they desire to propitiate.
John Stuart Mill, Representative Government, 1861

The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas. The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.
Mr. Justice Holmes, Abrams vs. United States, 1919

Here is the beginning of philosophy:

a recognition of the conflicts between men,
a search for their cause,
a condemnation of mere opinion...
Epictetus, Discourses, 1st century A.D.

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person was of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

The history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it. When we resist...concentration of power, we are resisting the powers of death, because concentration of power is is what always precedes the destruction of human liberties.
Woodrow Wilson, Speech in New York, 1912

Nothing that is wrong in principal can be right in practice.
Carl Schurz, 1829-1906

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Convention, June 16, 1788

Everything that enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shows man he can do what he thought he could not do, is valuable.
Samual Johnson

No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.
Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life, 1900

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922

Political Liberty consists in the power of doing whatever does not injure another. The exercise of the natural rights of every man has no other limits than those which are necessary to secure to every other man the free exercise of the same rights; and these limits are determinable only by the law.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.
Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, 1748

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.
Abraham Lincoln, Letter to H.L. Pierce, April 6, 1859

The people are the only legitimate fountain of power.
James Madison, The Federalist Papers, 1788

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

It is impossible, if no more than one opinion is uttered, to make choice of the best: a man is forced then to follow whatever advice may have been given him; but if opposite speeches are delivered, then choice can be exercised. In like manner pure gold is not recognized by itself; but when we test it along with baser ore, we perceive which is the better.
Herodotus, on freedom of discussion

True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the inequality of success; the glorious inequality of talent, of genius; for inequality, not mediocrity, individual superiority, not standardization is the measure of the progress of the world.
Felix E. Schelling, Pedagogically Speaking, 1929

The perception of beauty is a moral test.
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, September, 1850

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and, if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

When you do a thing because you have determined that it ought to be done, never avoid being seen doing it, even if the opinion of the multitude is going to condemn you. For if your action is wrong, then avoid doing it altogether, but if it is right, why do you fear those who will rebuke you wrongly?
Epictetus, The Manual, circa 100 A.D.

Language is the armory of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, XVI, 1817

Necessity is the pleas for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants.
William Pitt, Speech, House of Commons, 1783

We both consider the people as our children
and love them with parental affection,
but you love them as infants
whom you are afraid to trust
without nurses
and I as adults
whom I freely leave to
Thomas Jefferson

Society exists for the benefit of its members; not the members for the benefit of society.
Herbert Spencer, Principles of Ethics, 1879

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded... I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.

To be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.
Justice William O. Douglas

By far the most numerous and most flagrant violations of personal liberty and individual rights are performed by governments ... The major crimes throughout history, the ones executed on the largest scale, have been committed not by individuals or bands of individuals but by governments, as a deliberate policy of those governments ...that is, by the official representatives of governments, acting in their official capacity.
John Hospers

Government is an evil; it is only the thoughtlessness and vices of men that make it a necessary evil. When all men are good and wise, government will of itself decay.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1776

Let justice be done, though the world perish.
Ferdinand I, Motto adopted in 1530s

We can have justice whenever those who have not been injured by injustice are as outraged by it as those who have been.
Solon, 594 BC

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C.S. Lewis

The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
Ayn Rand