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