George Nicholas

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George Nicholas (c. 1754 – July 25, 1799) was the first professor of law at Transylvania University in Kentucky. He was also briefly attorney general of Kentucky, and had been several times a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.


  • The liberty of the press ought to be left where the Constitution has placed it, without any power in Congress to abridge it; that if they abridge it, they will destroy it; and that whenever that falls, all our liberties must fall with it.
    • Letter to a friend in Virginia (1798); cited in The Great Quotations, compiled by George Seldes (1960)
  • Among those principles deemed sacred in America; among those sacred rights considered as forming the bulwark of their liberty, which the government contemplates with awful reverence, and would approach only with the most cautious circumspection, there is none of which the importance is more deeply impressed on the public mind than the liberty of the press. That this liberty is often carried to excess, that is has sometimes degenerated to licentiousness, is seen and is lamented; but the remedy has not yet been discovered. Perhaps it is an evil inseparable from the good with which it is allied; perhaps it is a shoot which cannot be stripped from the stalk without wounding vitally the plant from which it is torn.
    • Letter to a friend in Virginia (1798); cited in The Great Quotations, compiled by George Seldes (1960)
  • It is a principle universally agreed upon, that all powers not given are retained.
    • Speech given at the Virginia Ratifying Convention (6-10-1788); per Elliot, Jonathan; The Debates, Resolutions, and Other Proceedings, in Convention, Vol 2; Page 196

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