George Washington told the House of Representatives in 1793: “No pecuniary consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt; on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of the time more valuable.”
Washington also wrote in 1799 to James Welch, “To contract new debts is not the way to pay for old ones.”
John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson from Paris in 1780: “I think we shall do no great things in borrowing [money], unless that system or some other, calculated to bring things to some certain and steady standard, succeeds.”
Thomas Jefferson similarly admonished Samuel Kercheval in 1816, “To preserve [the] independence [of the people], we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”
Thomas Jefferson also wrote to Fulwar Skipwith in 1787, “the maxim of buying nothing but what we had money in our pockets to pay for … [is] a maxim, which, of all others, lays the broadest foundation for happiness.”
Despite that the national debt nearly doubled under President James Madison, largely due to the war of 1812, the so-called “Father of the Constitution” said in remorse, “I regret, as much as any member, the unavoidable weight and duration of the burdens to be imposed; having never been a proselyte to the doctrine, that public debts are public benefits. I consider them, on the contrary, as evils which ought to be removed as fast as honor and justice will permit.” He described national debts as “moral obligations” as far back in Federalist Paper No. 43.
President James Monroe, who shrank the national debt by one-third, said, “The vast amount of vacant lands, the value of which daily augments, forms an additional resource of great extent and duration. These resources, besides accomplishing every other necessary purpose, put it completely in the power of the United States to discharge the national debt at an early period.”
John Quincy Adams, who also shrank the national debt by another one-third, said, “The plain state of the fact appears to me to be that the load of taxation to pay the interest on the national debt is greater than the nation can bear, and that the only possible remedy will be a composition with the public creditors, or an authoritative reduction of the debt in one form or another.”