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John Adams Quotations

These John Adams Quotations are taken from his own letters and writings from the years 1811-1816. Many of them are from letters written to Thomas Jefferson. This was after the period when they were enemies and had restored their friendship. Much of their discussion centered on religion. Other topics covered in these John Adams Quotations include Adams' criticism for the abuses of Catholicism in Europe, his faith in the Bible and the futility of a government by the people without morality to guide their decisions. Each of these John Adams Quotations is listed chronologically and there are links to more before and after this period at the bottom of the page.

John Adams

John Adams

John Adams Quotations

"The Declaration of Independence I always considered as a Theatrical Show. Jefferson ran away with all the stage effect of that; i.e. all the Glory of it." - Letter to Benjamin Rush, June 21, 1811

"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society." - Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, August 28, 1811

"It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. Religion and virtue are the only foundations... of republicanism and all free governments." - Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, August 28, 1811

"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." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813

"Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants, and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists, and Protestants "qui ne croyent rien." Very few, however, of several of these species; nevertheless, all educated in the general principles of Christianity, and the general principles of English and American liberty.

Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now 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; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 9, 1813

"You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 13, 1813

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John Adams Presidential Coin

John Adams
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"You say that at the time of the Congress, in 1765, "The great mass of the people were zealous in the cause of America." "The great mass of the people" is an expression that deserves analysis. New York and Pennsylvania were so nearly divided, if their propensity was not against us, that if New England on one side and Virginia on the other had not kept them in awe, they would have joined the British. Marshall, in his life of Washington, tells us, that the southern States were nearly equally divided. Look into the Journals of Congress, and you will see how seditious, how near rebellion were several counties of New York, and how much trouble we had to compose them. The last contest, in the town of Boston, in 1775, between Whig and Tory, was decided by five against two. Upon the whole, if we allow two thirds of the people to have been with us in the revolution, is not the allowance ample? Are not two thirds of the nation now with the administration? Divided we ever have been, and ever must be. Two thirds always had and will have more difficulty to struggle with the one third than with all our foreign enemies." - Letter to Thomas McKean, August 21, 1813

"When I was in England from 1785 to 1788, I may say I was intimate with Dr. Price. I had much conversation with him at his own house, at my houses, and at the house and tables of many friends. In some of our most unreserved conversations when we have been alone, he has repeatedly said to me, "I am inclined to believe that the Universe is eternal and infinite. It seems to me that an eternal and infinite effect must necessarily flow from an eternal and infinite Cause; and an infinite Wisdom, Goodness, and Power that could have been induced to produce a Universe in time must have produced it from eternity. It seems to me, the effect must flow from the Cause.

Now, my friend Jefferson, suppose an eternal, self-existent being, existing from eternity, possessed of infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, in absolute, total solitude, six thousand years ago conceiving the benevolent project of creating a universe! I have no more to say at present. It has been long, very long, a settled opinion in my mind, that there is now, ever will be, and ever was, but one being who can understand the universe, and that it is not only vain but wicked for insects to pretend to comprehend it." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, September 14, 1818

"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." - Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, October 8, 1813

"Indeed, Mr. Jefferson, what could be invented to debase the ancient Christianism, which Greeks, Romans, Hebrews and Christian factions, above all the Catholics, have not fraudulently imposed upon the public? Miracles after miracles have rolled down in torrents, wave succeeding wave in the Catholic church, from the Council of Nice, and long before, to this day." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, December 3, 1813

"Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. ...What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be. I have examined all... and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813

"I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813

"Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." - Letter to John Taylor, April 15, 1814

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John Adams Quotations

"Liberty, according to my metaphysics, is an intellectual quality, an attribute that belongs not to fate nor chance. Neither possesses it, neither is capable of it. There is nothing moral or immoral in the idea of it. The definition of it is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power; it can elect between objects, indifferent in point of morality, neither morally good nor morally evil." - Letter to John Taylor, April 15, 1814

"If the Christian religion, as I understand it, or as you understand it, should maintain its ground, as I believe it will, yet Platonic, Pythagoric, Hindoo, and cabalistical Christianity, which is Catholic Christianity, and which has prevailed for 1500 years, has received a mortal wound, of which the monster must finally die. Yet so strong is his constitution, that he may endure for centuries before he expires." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 16, 1814

"As long as Property exists, it will accumulate in Individuals and Families. As long as Marriage exists, Knowledge, Property and Influence will accumulate in Families." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 16, 1814

"National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman." - Letter to James Lloyd, January, 1815

"If there is ever an amelioration of the condition of mankind, philosophers, theologians, legislators, politicians and moralists will find that the regulation of the press is the most difficult, dangerous and important problem they have to resolve. Mankind cannot now be governed without it, nor at present with it." - Letter to James Lord, February 11, 1815

"The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 20, 1815

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John Adams Quotations

"The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations." - Letter to F. A. Van der Kamp, July 13, 1815

"As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 - 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, August 24, 1815

"We may appeal to every page of history we have hitherto turned over, for proofs irrefragable, that 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... All projects of government, formed upon a supposition of continual vigilance, sagacity, and virtue, firmness of the people, when possessed of the exercise of supreme power, are cheats and delusions... The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. Equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1815

"You ask, how it has happened that all Europe has acted on the principle, "that Power was Right." I know not what answer to give you, but this, that Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de tres bon foi, believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul, and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God service, when it is violating all His laws. Our passions, ambition, avarice, love, resentment, etc., possess so much metaphysical subtlety, and so much overpowering eloquence, that they insinuate themselves into the understanding and the conscience, and convert both to their party; and I may be deceived as much as any of them, when I say, that Power must never be trusted without a check." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, February 2, 1816

"I do not like the late resurrection of the Jesuits... If ever any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth, and in hell, according to these historians, though, like Pascal, true Catholics, it is this company of Loyolas." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 5, 1816

"My history of the Jesuits is not elegantly written, but is supported by unquestionable authorities, is very particular and very horrible. Their restoration is indeed "a step toward darkness," cruelty, perfidy, despotism, death and I wish we were out of danger of bigotry and Jesuitism." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, August 9, 1816

"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved - the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history." - Letter to Thomas Jefferson, September 3, 1816

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