The Founders on debt

Our founding fathers had some pretty firm ideas on national debt. They considered it to be a “curse” and more threatening than the standing army of an enemy. Here are some selected quotes from a few of the founders on debt. Continue reading to see the quotes.

Thomas Jefferson

A departure from principle becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of society is reduced to mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering… And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

-Thomas Jefferson

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.

– Thomas Jefferson


Alexander Hamilton

Allow a government to decline paying its debts and you overthrow all public morality — you unhinge all the principles that preserve the limits of free constitutions.Nothing can more affect national prosperity than a constant and systematic attention to extinguish the present debt and to avoid as much as possibly the incurring of any new debt.

-Alexander Hamilton


George Washington

Avoid occasions of expense. . . and avoid likewise the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions to discharge the debts, not throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.

– George Washington


James Madison

I go on the principle that a public debt is a public curse, and in a Republican Government a greater curse than any other

– James Madison


Benjamin Franklin

When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty

– Benjamin Franklin


The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own.

– John Adams

Nothing is so well calculated to produce a death-like torpor in the country as an extended system of taxation and a great national debt.

– William Cobbett

Clearly, these quotes speak out against debt. I agree with this position, not because it comes from the lips of the founders, but because it simply complies with what has become less than common sense.

It is interesting to note that there were some founders who felt that debt was a good thing. Thomas Paine was one founder who felt that the  amount of the debt was of little consequence, so long as we had the revenue to cover the interest.

Thomas Paine

The burden of the national debt consists not in its being so many millions, or so many hundred millions, but in the quantity of taxes collected every year to pay the interest. If this quantity continue the same, the burden of the national debt is the same to all intents and purposes, be the capital more or less.

-Thomas Paine

No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance.

– Thomas Paine



Posted On
Feb 09, 2012
Posted By

Some great quotes here! I enjoyed reading them!

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