John Adams Quotes

About Religion

"The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning.... And, even since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes." John Adams Source: letter to John Taylor, 1814 "Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!" But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell." John Adams Source: letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813, quoted from Charles Francis Adams, ed., Works of John Adams (1856), vol. X, p. 254 "We think ourselves possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact! There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker. In America it is not better; even in our own Massachusetts, which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. But as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed. The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated. Adieu." John Adams Source: one of his last letters to Thomas Jefferson, January 23, 1825


I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth. John Adams Source:


Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion... in private self-defense. John Adams Source:


Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good." John Adams, 2nd US President Source:


All great changes are irksome to the human mind, especially those which are attended with great dangers and uncertain effects. John Adams Source:Letter to James Warren 4-22-1776


"We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." John Adams (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President Source: Oct. 11, 1798; Address to the military


"Corruption, like a cancer … eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, floppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole of society." John Adams


Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide. John Adams Source:

Does Not Exist

"When people talk of the freedom of writing, speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more." John Adams, Founding Father, 2nd US President Source: in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1818


"A native American who cannot read or write is as rare an appearance... as a comet or an earthquake." John Adams, 1765 Source: "It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives." John Adams Source: Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756 "Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom." John Adams Source: Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787


Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. John Adams Source:


Fear is the foundation of most governments. John Adams Source:


Genius is sorrow's child. John Adams Source:


The happiness of society is the end of government. John Adams Source:Thoughts on Government, 1776

Heart Of Man

A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man. John Adams Source:


"Be not intimidated... nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice." John Adams Source:Liberty Quotes Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people. John Adams Source: Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power. John Adams Source:

Madison and The War of 1812

'He may long continue to live and be well; and to see the good work of the War prospering in his hands; for a more necessary War, was never undertaken. It is necessary against England; necessary to convince France that we are something: and above all necessary to convince ourselves, that we are not, Nothing. John Adams Source: Letter to Rush, 10-08-1813


If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve? John Adams Source:


Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order. John Adams Source:


All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation. John Adams Source:

My Duty

"The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain." -- John Adams (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President Source: in a letter to Abigail Adams, 1780

Over Before It Started

"The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations ... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution." John Adams February 13, 1818

Politics and War

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. John Adams Source: In politics the middle way is none at all. John Adams Source:


"If a majority are capable of preferring their own private interest, or that of their families, counties, and party, to that of the nation collectively, some provision must be made in the constitution, in favor of justice, to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations... And that the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of history... To remedy the dangers attendant upon the arbitrary use of power, checks, however multiplied, will scarcely avail without an explicit admission some limitation of the right of the majority to excercise sovereign authority over the individual citizen... In popular governments [democracies], minorities [individuals] constantly run much greater risk of suffering from arbitrary power than in absolute monarchies..." John Adams Source: "On Government", (1778) Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak. John Adams Source: "Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people." John Adams Source: 'Novanglus', 'Boston Gazette' 06 Feb 1775


"If Aristotle, Livy, and Harrington knew what a republic was, the British constitution is much more like a republic than an empire. They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men. If this definition is just, the British constitution is nothing more or less than a republic, in which the king is first magistrate. This office being hereditary, and being possessed of such ample and splendid prerogatives, is no objection to the government's being a republic, as long as it is bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend." John Adams Source: Novanglus, in Boston Gazette, 6Mar1775, Adams Papers, V II, p. 314 "[I] never understood [what a republican government was and] I believe no other man ever did or ever will." John Adams Source: Adams to Mercy Warren, July 20, 1807, in MHS Collections 5th ser. IV, 1878 "No good government but what is republican... the very definition of a republic is 'an empire of laws, and not of men.'" John Adams (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President Source: "Thoughts on Government" January, 1776 "All good government is and must be republican. But at the same time, you can or will agree with me, that there is not in lexicography a more fraudulent word... Are we not, my friend, in danger of rendering the word republican unpopular in this country by an indiscreet, indeterminate, and equivocal use of it? [...] Whenever I use the word republic with approbation, I mean a government in which the people have collectively, or by representation, an essential share in the sovereignty... the republican forms in Poland and Venice are much worse, and those of Holland and Bern very little better, than the monarchical form in France before the late revolution." John Adams (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President Source: Adams to Samuel Adams, 18 Oct, 1789 in Works, VI:415,420-421

Right To Know

"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have... a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the characters and conduct of their rulers." -- John Adams (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President


The Europeans are all deeply tainted with prejudices, both ecclesiastical and temporal, which they can never get rid of. They are all infected with episcopal and presbyterian creeds, and confessions of faith. They all believe that great Principle which has produced this boundless universe, Newton’s universe and Herschell’s universe, came down to this little ball, to be spit upon by Jews. And until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world. John Adams (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President Source: Letter of 22 January 1825 to Thomas Jefferson, Adams expressed his dismay about Jefferson’s plan to staff his college with European scholars

Vice President

My country has contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived. John Adams Source:

White House Prayer

I pray Heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof. John Adams Source:Letter to Abigail Adams, 11-2-1800


As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children. John Adams Source:


Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society. John Adams Source: Back To US President's Web Ring Home Page Howie's Presidential and Political Page Presidential Trivia Back To Howie's Great Democratic Quote Page Howie's Stupid GOP Quote Page MidnightFlyer's Homepage Great Democratic Speeches

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