1 Reply Latest reply on May 2, 2022 10:50 AM by Jason Atkinson

    Seeking confirmation of James Madison quote

    Robert McInnes Newbie

      Greetings, I recently read a quote, attributed to James Madison, saying the following: "For the people to rule wisely, they must be able to think and speak freely without fear of reprisal." Can anyone confirm that it was James Madison who wrote this?

        • Re: Seeking confirmation of James Madison quote
          Jason Atkinson Guide

          Dear Mr. McInnes,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          We searched online and located both the phrase “For the people to rule wisely” and the word “Madison” in a September 4, 2017 article by Jay Cost entitled “James Madison’s Lesson on Free Speech,” published by The National Review.  The subtitle of the articles is “For the people to rule wisely, they must be free to think and speak without fear of reprisal” and the body of the article states “And for the people to rule wisely, they have to be able to communicate with one another — freely, without fear of reprisal.”

          While the article includes several direct quotes from Madison that cite the source of the quotes, neither version of the sentence is in quotation marks nor are they attributed to Madison.  Instead, these are presented as Jay Cost’s own words, providing his interpretation of James Madison’s beliefs.


          Next, we searched the National Archives website “Founders Online” and located 22 results in the Papers of James Madison for the word “wisely” but none for the alleged quote.


          You may wish to contact the Madison scholars working on the Papers of James Madison; James Madison’s Montpelier and the James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage for further assistance.

          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!