A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 08, 2009
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people”

American Revolution orator Patrick Henry (1736-1799) is often credited for having said:

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

There is no evidence that Patrick Henry ever said this. The line has appeared in print since at least 1997.


Wikiquote: Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry (29 May 1736 – 6 June 1799) was a prominent figure in the American Revolution, known and remembered primarily for his stirring oratory.

Misattributed
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
. As quoted in The Best Liberal Quotes Ever : Why the Left is Right (2004) by William P. Martin. Though widely attributed to Henry, this statement has not been sourced to any document before the 1990s and appears to be at odds with his beliefs as a strong opponent of the adoption of the US Constitution.

Google Books
Freedom’s End:
Conspiracy in Oklahoma

By James D. Nichols and Robert S. Papovich
Decker, MI: Freedom’s End
1997
Pg. 55:
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” — Patrick Henry

Google Groups: alt.online-services.roadrunner
Newsgroups: alt.online-services.roadrunner
From: (Dr. Bob)
Date: Mon, 08 Oct 2001 14:54:33 GMT
Local: Mon, Oct 8 2001 8:54 am
Subject: Re: Router or hub for home PC’s?

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
- Patrick Henry

Washington (DC) Business Journal
Oct 28, 2002, 12:00am EST
On the Contrary
Liberty in exchange for the sniper?

Eric Winig
(...)
As Patrick Henry so eloquently put it: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

2 November 2002, Rocky Mount (NC) Telegram:
Jones, 59, said he believes in the politics of Patrick Henry, who said, “The Constitution should not be an instrument to restrain the people, but an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

Google Books
Worth Repeating:
More Than 5,000 Classic and Contemporary Quotes

By Bob Kelly
Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel
2003
Pg. 65:
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests. — Patrick Henry

The Daily News (Bogalusa, LA)
Middleton is candidate for Dist. 12 Senate seat
Published/Last Modified on Monday, July 14, 2003 10:48 AM CDT
FOLSOM—Stanley Middleton, a retired contractor, a resident of Folsom for 37 years and a democrat, announces his entrance into the race for Senator of District 12.
(...)
Middleton said the following statement made by Patrick Henry is what pushes him to enter this race, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people. It is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—less it comes to dominate our lives and interests.”

Jewish World Review
Nov. 18, 2008 / 20 Mar-Cheshvan 5769
The truth about government
By Tom Purcell
(...)
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” — Patrick Henry

Baylor University—Institute for Studies of Religion
MISQUOTING PATRICK HENRY: THE INTERNET AND BOGUS SAYINGS OF THE FOUNDERS BY THOMAS S. KIDD
Date: February 2, 2012
(...)
Another widely cited “Henry” quotation is: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” This is a more complex misquotation, because it sounds like something Henry might have said — maybe during the 1790s, after he opposed the Constitution’s adoption, when he was hoping to restrict the new government’s powers? The problem is that this quotation seems to have been entirely fabricated, and quite recently at that. The earliest reference I have found to this quotation is in two books published in 2003. But why create a bogus quotation when Henry actually said similar things about the need to restrain government? In any case, this is also frequently cited on social media sites and in political books. On Facebook the quotation has its own “common interest” page.

Breitbart.com
‘HOMICIDE’ CREATOR USES SLAVERY TO TRASH CONSTITUTION, FOUNDING FATHERS
by LAWRENCE MEYERS 5 Nov 2013
(...)
However, if you ask most conservatives and libertarians what “original intent” means to them in just a few words, they repeat the words of Patrick Henry: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Tuesday, December 08, 2009 • Permalink


I’m a fan of Patrick Henry and of the Constitution for the United States of America. Sadly, this would actually put me at odds with Patrick Henry. To the extent that anyone takes this quotation as reflecting Patrick Henry’s sincere sentiments with respect to the Constitution for the United States of America they would be very badly mistaken in doing so. Perhaps Patrick Henry would have made such a comment with respect to the Constitution for the State of Virginia - but I seriously doubt that he ever said any such think about the Constitution for the United States of America. The fact is that Patrick Henry refused an invitation to represent Virginia as a delegate at the Federal Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia and, when that Convention was over and submitted its proposal for a new constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation, no one opposed it more vehemently in Virginia (nor, I believe, in any other state) than did Patrick Henry.

Posted by James Hines  on  03/02  at  08:32 PM

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