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150+ Inspirational George Washington Quotes on Liberty, Life, and Freedom

George Washington was the first President of the United States of America and a Founding Father of the country. He was a leader in the Continental Army, a general, a commander-in-chief during the American Revolution, and a pivotal figure in history. Keep reading for some interesting George Washington quotes about life and liberty.

The Early Days

Washington was born in 1732 in Virginia to a decently wealthy family. His father had land, owned slaves, built mills, and grew tobacco. There is little information about his childhood. We know he was homeschooled and when he got older, he mastered the crafts of growing tobaccos, stock raising, and surveying. He learned geography, Latin, and about colonial culture after his half-brother, Lawrence married the daughter of Colonel William Fairfax.

When he was 11, his father died and left Lawrence the family’s plantation. However, Washington became the heir of the lands after Lawrence died. At age 20, Washington became the head of Virginia’s most prominent estates, Mount Vernon. Farming was one of his proudest professions, especially with Mount Vernon’s 8,000-acre of land. He enjoyed working in the land, alongside those he enslaved.

By the 1790s, Washington had enslaved over 300 people at Mount Vernon. Interestingly enough, he was against the institution of slavery but accepted it while it was legal. He even had a set of false teeth. Although the legend suggests that the teeth were made of wood, they were actually pulled from the mouths of those he enslaved.

When he married Martha, she brought a large fortune of an 18,000-acre estate with her. They had two kids, John (age 6) and Martha (age 4). Just before the start of the Revolution, his daughter Martha died unexpectedly. During the Revolution, his son John died as well. He and Martha (his wife) then adopted two children. 

Washington’s Leadership

Washington had several rankings under his belt. He was a Major in the Virginia militia and the Commander of all Virginia troops. He was also a Colonel in British General Edward Braddock’s army and Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces against Britain. Washington led his army into Pennslyvania across the Delaware River, and he fought the darkest battle in the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge.

Washington retired from all army regiments and went into politics in 1758. He opposed the Stamp Act of 1765 and passed the Coercive Acts of 1774. He also called for the Continental Congress’s convening to amend the Articles of Confederation and develop the U.S. Constitution. During this time, he was also chosen to be the President.

In 1783, after years of fighting, Washington surrendered and resigned from being the Commander-in-Chief. He retired from all power and returned home to Mount Vernon. In 1799, he died from an unexpected illness.

There is so much more to know about this man and his power within the government. He is a seemingly controversial figure of history, developing the 3 government branches and checks and balances, and was considered a military hero. However, his intentions for the liberty and freedom of the nation’s people are still in discussion. Nonetheless, here are some quotes by President George Washington about life, liberty, government, war, and a nation’s happiness. These quotes will give more of an insight into who he was as a leader of a country.

George Washington Quotes
Gilbert Stuart – http://www.clarkart.edu/Collection/7577

George Washington Quotes About Government, Power, and Leadership

“The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.” -George Washington

“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” -George Washington

“It is absolutely necessary… for me to have persons that can think for me, as well as execute orders.” -George Washington

“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government.” -George Washington

“The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.” -George Washington

“In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” -George Washington

“Government is not reason, and it is not eloquence. It is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” -George Washington

“Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by individuals.” -George Washington

“The Constitution, which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all.” -George Washington

“If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease, and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks, and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.” -George Washington

“Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” -George Washington

“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government.” -George Washington

“The due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government; I have considered the first arrangement of the judicial department as essential to the happiness of the country, and to the stability of its political system.” -George Washington

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?” -George Washington

“The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.” -George Washington

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George Washington Quotes About War and Peace

“The nation which indulges toward another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or two its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.” -George Washington

“There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.” -George Washington

“Unhappy it is, though, to reflect that a brother’s sword has been sheathed in a brother’s breast and that the once-happy plains of America are either to be drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative!” -George Washington

“War – An act of violence whose object is to constrain the enemy, to accomplish our will.” -George Washington

“[T]he gradual extension of our settlements will as certainly cause the savage, as the wolf, to retire; both being beasts of prey, though they differ in shape.” -George Washington

“If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for War.” -George Washington

“Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession.” -George Washington

“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” -George Washington

“Real men despise battle but will never run from it.” -George Washington

“[Death] … the abyss from where no traveler is permitted to return.” -George Washington

“A bad war is fought with a good mind.” -George Washington

“The reflection upon my situation and that of this army produce many an uneasy hour when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in.” -George Washington

“To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” -George Washington

President George WashingtonGeorge Washington Quotes About Liberty and Justice

“Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.” -George Washington

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” -George Washington

“It will be found unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.” -George Washington

“Let us, therefore, animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.” -George Washington

“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.” -George Washington

“Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest.” -George Washington

“We began a contest for liberty ill provided with the means for the war, relying on our patriotism to supply the deficiency. We expected to encounter many wants and distressed… we must bear the present evils and fortitude…” -George Washington

“In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.” -George Washington

“Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest.” -George Washington

“The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of Liberty — that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.” -George Washington

“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” -George Washington

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George Washington Quotes About Life and Man

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.” -George Washington

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.” -George Washington

“Those who have committed no faults want no pardon. We are only defending what we deem our indisputable rights.” -George Washington

“Where are our Men of abilities? Why do they not come forth to save their Country?” -George Washington

“Men may speculate as they will. They may talk of patriotism, they may draw a few examples from the ancient story, of great achievements performed by its influence. But whoever builds upon it, as a sufficient basis for conducting a long and bloody war will find themselves deceived in the end. We must take the passions of Men as Nature has given them and those principles as a guide, which are generally the rule of Action. I do not mean to exclude altogether the Idea of Patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present Contest. But I will venture to assert that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of Interest or some reward. For a time, it may, of itself, push Men to Action; to bear much, to encounter difficulties; but it will not endure unassisted by Interest.” -George Washington

“No punishment, in my opinion, is too great for the man who can build his greatness upon his country’s ruin.” -George Washington

“No people can be bound to acknowledge the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” -George Washington

“The great mass of our Citizens require only to understand matters rightly, to form right decisions.” -George Washington

“Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” -George Washington

“Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.” -George Washington

“Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power.” -George Washington

“Every day, the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome.” -George Washington

George Washington Quotes About Freedom

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” -George Washington

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.” -George Washington

“The United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.” -George Washington

“The time is near at hand, which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves.” -George Washington

“A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.” -George Washington

George Washington Quotes on Religion

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” -George Washington

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” -George Washington

“Divine providence, to whom we are infinitely more indebted than we are to our own wisdom, or our own exertions, has always displayed its power and goodness when clouds and thick darkness seemed ready to overwhelm us.” -George Washington

“To give opinions unsupported by reasons might appear dogmatic.” -George Washington

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.” -George Washington

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions. Whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges if, by decency and propriety of conduct, they appear to merit the enjoyment.” -George Washington

“You are to protect and support the free exercise of religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious matters, with your utmost influence and authority.” -George Washington

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants-while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.” -George Washington

“We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart.” -George Washington

“The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.” -George Washington

“I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution.” -George Washington 

“Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.” -George Washington

“If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The rest is in the hands of God.” -George Washington

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” -George Washington

“Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do—then do it with all your strength.” -George Washington

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated.” -George Washington

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George Washington Quotes on Happiness and Suffering

“Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.” -George Washington

“Happiness depends more on the internal frame of a person’s own mind than on the externals in the world.” -George Washington

“I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or misery.” -George Washington

“Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone.” -George Washington

“We must consult our means rather than our wishes.” -George Washington

George Washington Quotes on Love and Friendship

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am, I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” -George Washington

“True friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to appellation.” -George Washington

“A sensible woman can never be happy with a fool.” -George Washington

“A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends.” -George Washington

“Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut, they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people, they give up their secrets also—if you love them enough.” -George Washington

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” -George Washington

George Washington Quotes On Strength and Courage

“Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.” -George Washington

“The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.” -George Washington

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” -George Washington

“The turning points of lives are not the great moments. The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.” -George Washington

“A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities of wit, much less of his riches, virtue, or kindred.” -George Washington

George Washington Quotes on Knowledge and Learning

“There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.” -George Washington

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” -George Washington

“I conceive a knowledge of books is the basis upon which other knowledge is to be built.” -George Washington

“To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country.” -George Washington

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Other George Washington Quotes To Inspire Good Character

“Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than precepts.” -George Washington

“99% of failures come from people who make excuses.” -George Washington

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” -George Washington

“Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for it is a sign of a tractable and commendable nature; and in all cases of passion admit reason to govern.” -George Washington

“Much was to be done by prudence, much by conciliation, much by firmness.” -George Washington

“Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.” -George Washington

“Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for your pocket-book not only suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved.” -George Washington

“Be not glad at the misfortune of another, though he may be your enemy.” -George Washington

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.” -George Washington

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” -George Washington

“A man’s intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions.” -George Washington

“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” -George Washington

“To persevere in one’s duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny.” -George Washington

“I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.” -George Washington

More Quotes:

About the author
January Nelson is a writer, editor, and dreamer. She writes about astrology, games, love, relationships, and entertainment. January graduated with an English and Literature degree from Columbia University. Read more articles from January on Thought Catalog.

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