American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father
John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who was the second president of the United States, serving from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain, and he served as the first vice president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history, including his wife and adviser Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
A lawyer and political activist prior to the revolution, Adams was devoted to the right to counsel and presumption of innocence. He defied anti-British sentiment and successfully defended British soldiers against murder charges arising from the Boston Massacre. Adams was a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress and became a leader of the revolution. He assisted in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776. As a diplomat in Europe, he helped negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain and secured vital governmental loans. Adams was the primary author of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which influenced the United States constitution, as did his essay Thoughts on Government.
Adams was elected to two terms as vice president under President George Washington and was elected as the United States' second president in 1796. He was the only president elected under the banner of the Federalist Party. During his single term, Adams encountered fierce criticism from the Jeffersonian Republicans and from some in his own Federalist Party, led by his rival Alexander Hamilton. Adams signed the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts and built up the Army and Navy in the undeclared Quasi-War with France. During his term, he became the first president to reside in the executive mansion now known as the White House.
In his bid for reelection, opposition from Federalists and accusations of despotism from Jeffersonians led to Adams losing to his vice president and former friend Thomas Jefferson, and he retired to Massachusetts. He eventually resumed his friendship with Jefferson by initiating a correspondence that lasted fourteen years. He and his wife generated a family of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family, which includes their son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States. John Adams died on July 4, 1826 – the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – hours after Jefferson's death. Adams and his son are the only presidents of the first twelve that did not own slaves in their lives. Surveys of historians and scholars have favorably ranked his administration.
Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would.
Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.
The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations.
In politics the middle way is none at all.
The government of the United States of America has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, - and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence for ever!
There is but one element of government, and that is THE PEOPLE. From this element spring all governments. "For a nation to be free, it is only necessary that she wills it." For a nation to be slave, it is only necessary that she wills it.
It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship.
It would be an absurdity for jurors to be required to accept the judge's view of the law, against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience.
The way to secure liberty is to place it in the people's hands, that is, to give them the power at all times to defend it in the legislature and in the courts of justice.
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.
I shall have liberty to think for myself without molesting others or being molested myself.
The people, when they have been unchecked, have been as unjust, tyrannical, brutal, barbarous, and cruel, as any king or senate possessed of uncontrollable power. The majority has eternally, and without one exception, usurped over the rights of the minority.
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a Baptism, not a Marriage, not a Sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost... There is no Authority civil or religious: there can be no legitimate Government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All, without it is Rebellion and Perdition, or in more orthodox words Damnation.
The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families.
Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de très bon foi, believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.
This is a revolution, damn it! We're going to have to offend somebody!
There are persons whom in my heart I despise, others I abhor. Yet I am not obliged to inform the one of my contempt, nor the other of my detestation. This kind of dissimulation...is a necessary branch of wisdom, and so far from being immoral...that it is a duty and a virtue.
Everything in life should be done with reflection.
Thanks be to God, that he gave me Stubborness, when I know I am right.
Elections, especially of representatives and counselors, should be annual, there not being in the whole circle of the sciences a maxim more infallible than this, "where annual elections end, there slavery begins." These great men ... should be (chosen) once a year-Like bubbles on the sea of matter bourne, they rise, they break, and to the sea return. This will teach them the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.
Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees, for the people; and if the cause, the interest and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute abler and better agents, attorneys, and trustees.
The study and practice of law ... does not dissolve the obligations of morality or of religion.
The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.
It is folly to anticipate evils, and madness to create imaginary ones.
The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.
America is destined to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs.
Mystery is made a convenient Cover for absurdity.
There's no such thing as a free lunch, unless you have a coupon for a free lunch...or someone gives you a lunch...never mind.
Slavery is a foul contagion in the human character.
Before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of education...to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.
That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience.
The real fabric of American society is not all those flags you see on people's cars...it's in the Bill of Rights and in our constitutional form of government.
Tom, had you and I been 40 days with Moses, and beheld the great God, and even if God himself had tried to tell us that three was one ... and one equals three, you and I would never have believed it. We would never fall victims to such lies.
Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.
The people "have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge- I mean of the character and conduct of their rulers."
The Constitution is ...the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen
I am determined to control events, not be controlled by them.
It will be celebrated... with pomp and parade... bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.
The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.
I have long been settled in my own opinion that neither Philosophy, nor Religion, nor Morality, nor Wisdom, nor Interest, will ever govern nations or Parties, against their vanity, their Pride, their Resentment, or Revenge, or their Avarice, or Ambition. Nothing but Force and Power and Strength can restrain them.
The whole drama of the world is such tragedy that I am weary of the spectacle.
The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now. They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.
Where annual elections end, there slavery begins ... Humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.
Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart
The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many.
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.
A single assembly will never be a steady guardian of the laws, if Machiavel is right, when he says, Men are never good but through necessity: on the contrary, when good and evil are left to their choice, they will not fail to throw every thing into disorder and confusion. Hunger and poverty may make men industrious, but laws only can make them good; for, if men were so of themselves, there would be no occasion for laws; but, as the case is far otherwise, they are absolutely necessary.
I would quarrel with both parties, and with every individual of each, before I would subjugate my understanding, or prostitute my tongue or pen to either.
I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.
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.
Make Things rather than Persons the subjects of conversations.
It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, "whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection," and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.
Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.
The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries.
The dignity and stability of government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend so much upon an upright and skillful administration of justice, that the judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that.
We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.
Government has no Right to hurt a hair of the head of an Atheist, for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices.
We cannot insure success, but we can deserve it.
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.
I would define liberty to be a power to do as we would be done by. The definition of liberty to be the power of doing whatever the law permits, meaning the civil laws, does not seem satisfactory.
A taste for literature and a turn for business, united in the same person, never fails to make a great man.
I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.
A lawyer once told a jury that the person his client stood accused of having killed was about to walk through the courtroom door. When the jurors looked startled, the lawyer asserted that if those jurors had wondered, even for one second that the victim might appear, that belief constituted enough reasonable doubt for them to find his client innocent.
The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to prevent their growth in our own.
[J]udges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men.
Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws.
The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or limited sovereignty, or absolute power is the same [whether] in a majority of a popular assembly; an aristocratic council; or oligarchical junto and a single emperor - equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody and in every respect diabolical.
Power in any Form . . . when directed only by human Wisdom and Benevolence is dangerous.
Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.
As unbalanced parties of every description can never tolerate a free inquiry of any kind, when employed against themselves, the license, and even the most temperate freedom of the press, soon excite resentment and revenge.
But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?