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A collection of notable quotations from a variety of Early Modern Era individuals. See the Guide for more details.
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Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both.— James Wilson
Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind.
— Lectures on Law, 1791
— James Wilson
I will confess, indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it which, if my wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation applies likewise to every State) has an equal pretension to assert his own, I am satisfied that anything nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished.
— 1787
— James Wilson
Illustrious examples are displayed to our view, that we may imitate as well as admire. Before we can be distinguished by the same honors, we must be distinguished by the same virtues. What are those virtues? They are chiefly the same virtues, which we have already seen to be descriptive of the American character — the love of liberty, and the love of law.
— Of the Study of the Law in the United States, Circa 1790
— James Wilson
In observations on this subject, we hear the legislature mentioned as the people's representatives. The distinction, intimated by concealed implication, through probably, not avowed upon reflection, is, that the executive and judicial powers are not connected with the people by a relation so strong or near or dear. But is high time that we should chastise our prejudices; and that we should look upon the different parts of government with a just and impartial eye.
— Lectures on Law, 1791
— James Wilson
In planning, forming, and arranging laws, deliberation is always becoming, and always useful.
— Lectures on Law, 1791
— James Wilson
It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness.
— Lectures on Law, 1791
— James Wilson
Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— Of the Study of the Law in the United States, Circa 1790
— James Wilson
Slavery, or an absolute and unlimited power in the master over the life and fortune of the slave, is unauthorized by the common law.... The reasons which we sometimes see assigned for the origin and the continuance of slavery appear, when examined to the bottom, to be built upon a false foundation. In the enjoyment of their persons and of their property, the common law protects all.
— The Natural Rights of Individuals, 1804
— James Wilson
The executive power is better to be trusted when it has no screen. Sir, we have a responsibility in the person of our President; he cannot act improperly, and hide either his negligence or inattention; he cannot roll upon any other person the weight of his criminality; no appointment can take place without his nomination; and he is responsible for every nomination he makes... far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment.
— Arguing for a single executive at the Philadelphia Convention (1787)
— James Wilson
The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.
— Of the Study of Law in the United States, Circa 1790
— James Wilson
The law of nature and the law of revelation are both Divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is indeed preposterous to separate them from each other.
— Of the Law of Nature, 1804
— James Wilson
The moral precepts delivered in the sacred oracles form a part of the law of nature, are of the same origin and of the same obligation, operating universally and perpetually.
— Of the Law of Nature, 1804
— James Wilson
The most important consequence of marriage is, that the husband and the wife become in law only one person... Upon this principle of union, almost all the other legal consequences of marriage depend. This principle, sublime and refined, deserves to be viewed and examined on every side.
— Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, 1792
— James Wilson
The pyramid of government-and a republican government may well receive that beautiful and solid form-should be raised to a dignified altitude: but its foundations must, of consequence, be broad, and strong, and deep. The authority, the interests, and the affections of the people at large are the only foundation, on which a superstructure proposed to be at once durable and magnificent, can be rationally erected.
— Legislative Department, 1804
— James Wilson
To prevent crimes, is the noblest end and aim of criminal jurisprudence. To punish them, is one of the means necessary for the accomplishment of this noble end and aim.
— Of the Study of the Law in the United States, Circa 1790
— James Wilson
When divorces can be summoned to the aid of levity, of vanity, or of avarice, a state of marriage frequently becomes a state of war or stratagem.
— Lectures on Law, 1791
— James Wilson
Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness.
— Of the Study of the Law in the United States, Circa 1790
— James Wilson
[The President] is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure of the noblest kind: by being the man of the people, he is invested; by continuing to be the man of the people, his investiture will be voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably renewed.
— Lectures on Law, 1791
— James Wilson

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