James MadisonJames Madison, (1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President

James Madison Quote

“... large and permanent military establishments ... are forbidden by the principles of free government, and against the necessity of which the militia were meant to be a constitutional bulwark.”

James MadisonJames Madison
~ James Madison

Fourth Annual Message, November 4, 1812

Ratings and Comments

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

A meaningless quote/sentance fragment... yet again... tossing words out on the site that are taken out of context is very disingenuous...

Rev. Bro Markus Adamus, Kakegawa City, Shizuoka, Japan

I agree... it is a meaningless sentence fragment of which the original context cannot be ascertained herein. What is the point of it all?

Bruce, 'Bama

I agree with the above comments but it would appear Madison was talking of the admirable Swiss model where all citizens are armed volunteers. Unfortunately such a system never worked in this country. Madison is only stating his opinion because the Constitution clearly states the right, power, and obligation of the United States to raise and maintain a military and to provide for defense.

A.Jurgensen, Stuart, FL

Yes, Madison had it right. The Army Reserves is a perfect example of what the military was supposed to look like. Instead we have huge military complexes throwing their considerable weight around at the behest of people like G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Way too dangerous.

Eric Engstrom, Wichita, KS

Look at the world we live in folks. Look at the size of our country in land and population. Look at our wealth. Now really look at the size of the military, counting The reserve forces, the Guard and Active military, we have something on the order of 3.2% of our population involved in the armed forces in any capacity. That is not a large military force. A large military force looks like Soviet Russia, 10-15% of it's population on Active duty at any given time, with mandatory, universal conscription. Huge wealthy countries like ours get to keep their wealth because of those 'large' military complexes.

Mike, Norwalk

The concept was, a large standing military was needed only if we became entangled in other's internal affairs. It was intended that we do not such. Eric, thank you for your comments today.

Sam, Alabama

Hello gentlemen, I think the quote even in it's fractured state would be obsolete today even by Madison's standards. In the early nineteenth century it was unimaginable to have such a global threat as we have today. The threat of world domination has been around for a long time now and the nuclear element makes it a "instant" threat. Persians, Greeks, Romans conquered their 'Known worlds" The Muslim's under Mohammad, English, Danes, Spaniards need I say more? Hitler? Unprovoked is my point. Our nation is rather large and to defend our boarders we need a ready and able military.

Editor, Liberty Quotes

The quote is an excerpt of a much longer quote in which Madison addresses Massachusetts' and Connecticut's refusal to send the state militia to defend the maritime border against the British (who did ultimately burn the capital and White House in 1814). Please see the link above to read the entire speech.

E Archer, NYC

It all comes back to the difference between a union of sovereign states made up of a union of soveriegn citizens and the other forms of government like those found in Europe and socialist/communist countries. The power of the military is to be in the hands of the People, both organized and unorganized in the form of state militias. Standing federal armies are a bane to individual liberty -- that includes the FBI, CIA, FEMA, IRS, and dozens of other policing offices under Executive control. The paramilitarization of America, if it must be, must be in the hands of the sovereign citizens, not in police powers with unconstitutional authority to ignore the Constitutional limitations imposed upon them. The suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless searches and seizures, and generally arbitrary power assumed by men/women in uniform is an assault on Liberty, and in direct contravention of the state and federal Constitutions. Madison has much to say on the subject, and with further research I believe you will understand that these principles are as true today as ever. Until you have been targeted by one of these alphabet soup monsters, you do not know the degree to which we have lost our freedoms -- and considering the purpose of all these military organizations is to protect and defend the Constitution and American freedom, we have every right to tell these folks to actually stay within their Constitutional limits -- backed by the weapons I have at my disposal. Who are the militia? All of us.

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  • Reply
    Bruce    9/17/07

    Archer the only weapon you have at your disposal is the vote, unless you wish to rely on some natural law of which I may not be aware. The current law of the land prohibits taking up arms against the government(s), local, state, or federal. The states are not soverign (do not have absolute power) they cannot prevent any US Citizen or legal US resident from entering or leaving them. Persons are not soverign (have absolute power) they cannot prevent the government(s) from taking from them what under law belongs to the government. The governments are soverign over that portion of a persons income that under law belongs to the governments. I think you are right Eric about our wealth and it is high time the government took possession of enough of it to balance the budget, pay for our military, pay off the national debt and stop borrowing the wealth of others and paying interest on it. We are a wealthy nation but we need a little bit more politcal will and fiscal discipline.

    Mike, Norwalk
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    Mike, Norwalk Bruce 3/14/19

    Bruce, what vote? ? ? In the last election when it was quickly becoming known that California's results did not equate to the legal vote, the State came down hard to prevent any further investigation. "A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.” (Lysander Spooner)Your concept of might makes right and sovereignty is an erroneous misdirection that all tyrannical governments would have their chattel believe. Government taking possession of another's wealth by force is criminal larceny.

    warren, olathe

    Is this quote supposed to mean anything?

    Dana, Lincoln

    yeah, it means we are all supposed to be armed and ready to defend ourselves. But Madison wasn't envisioning the kind of firepower we have today. And the need of more than all the farmers turning out with their muskets.

    Al, DC
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    Al, DC    3/14/19

    He asks: who shall be permanently armed?
    The People or the State?
    The latter ensures freedom; the former, perpetual slavery to whom ever controls it.
    Never forget that the 2nd Amendment requires all men between 17 and 45 to be armed and in a militia.

    Al, DC
    • Reply
    Al, DC    3/15/19

    He asks: who shall be permanently armed?
    The People or the State?
    The former ensures freedom; the latter perpetual slavery to whom ever controls it.
    Never forget that the 2nd Amendment requires all men between 17 and 45 to be armed and in a militia.


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