Notable Quotes

The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.

People can decide with as much propriety on the…amendment [of the Constitution]…as ourselves, for I do not conceive that we…have more wisdom or possess more virtue than those who will come after us.

—George Washington, 1787

The people were, in fact, the fountain of all power, and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over. They could alter constitutions as they pleased.

—James Madison, 1787

All power is originally in the People and should be exercised by them in person, if that could be done with convenience, or even little difficulty.

—James Wilson

Each generation has a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes is promotive of its happiness.

—Thomas Jefferson, 1812

In those words [the Preamble of the Constitution] it is agreed, and with every passing moment it is re-agreed, that the people of the United States shall be self governed. To that fundamental enactment, all other provisions of the Constitution, all statutes, all administrative decrees, are subsidiary and dependent. All other purposes, whether individual or social, can find their legitimate scope and meaning only as they conform to the one basic purpose—that the citizens of this nation shall make and shall obey their own laws, shall be at once their own subjects and masters.

—Alexander Meiklejohn, 1960*

The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it may have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and with present needs.

—Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., 1985

* The most quoted scholar in Supreme Court opinions in the 20th Century