John Adam's Quotes
1765 - 1775

These John Adams Quotes are taken from his own letters, diary entries and writings. John Adams was one of the great patriot leaders of the American Revolution and the second President of the United States. Our John Adams Quotes are listed chronologically and this page covers the period from 1765 to 1775 at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. They cover his refutations of the Stamp Act to the Boston Massacre trial to letters he wrote to the Boston Gazette to personal letters to his wife Abigail. Especially moving is his description of Congress praying for the nation. You can read further John Adams Quotes before and after this period by clicking on the links at the bottom.

John Adams Quotes

"Be not intimidated, therefore, by any terrors, from publishing with the utmost freedom, whatever can be warranted by the laws of your country; nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretenses of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice." - A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

"Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write." - A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

"Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood." - A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

"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." - A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

"I have accepted a seat in the [Massachusetts] House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and the ruin of our children. I give you this warning, that you may prepare your mind for your fate." - Letter to Abigail Adams, May, 1770

"Human government is more or less perfect as it approaches nearer or diverges farther from the imitation of this perfect plan of divine and moral government." - Draft of a Newspaper Communication, About August, 1770

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"The law... will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations and wanton tempers of men... On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder, to the clamors of the populace." - Argument in Defense of the British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, December 4, 1770

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - In Defense of the British Soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre, December 4, 1770

"He requires of me, such Complyances, such horrid Crimes, such a Sacrifice of my Honour, my Conscience, my Friends, my Country, my God, as the Scriptures inform us must be punished with nothing less than Hell Fire, eternal Torment. And this is so unequal a Price to pay for the Honours and Emoluments in the Power of a Minister or Governor, that I cannot prevail upon myself to think of it. The Duration of future Punishment terrifies me. If I could but deceive myself so far as to think Eternity a Moment only, I could comply, and be promoted." - Diary Entry, referring to the prospect of being tempted to promote a government official unjustly for personal gain, February 9, 1772

"If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave." - Rights of the Colonists, November 20, 1772

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." - Notes for an Oration at Braintree, Massachusetts, Spring, 1772

"The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right." - Diary Entry, March 5, 1773, 3rd anniversary of the Boston Massacre

"This is the most magnificent movement of all! There is a dignity, a majesty, a sublimity, in this last effort of the patriots that I greatly admire. The people should never rise without doing something to be remembered — something notable and striking. This destruction of the tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences, and so lasting, that I can't but consider it as an epocha in history!" - Diary entry, about the Boston Tea Party, December 17, 1773

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"We went to meeting at Wells and had the pleasure of hearing my friend upon "Be not partakers in other men's sins. Keep yourselves pure."... We... took our horses to the meeting in the afternoon and heard the minister again upon "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." There is great pleasure in hearing sermons so serious, so clear, so sensible and instructive as these..." - Letter to Abigail Adams, July 4, 1774

"When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with Prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments, some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians and some Congregationalists, that we could not join in the same act of worship. Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said, "that he was no bigot; and could hear a Prayer from any gentleman of Piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his Country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia, but had heard that Mr. Duché deserved that character and therefore he moved that Mr. Duché an Episcopal clergy man, might be desired to read Prayers to Congress tomorrow morning." The motion was seconded, and passed in the affirmative. Mr. Randolph, our president waited on Mr. Duché and received for answer, that if his health would permit, he certainly would. Accordingly next morning he appeared with his clerk and in his pontificals, and read several Prayers in the established form and then read the Psalter for the seventh day of September which was the 35th Psalm. You must remember this was the next morning after we had heard the rumor of the horrible cannonade of Boston, "it seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning." After this, Mr Duché unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into extemporary Prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. I must confess I never heard a better Prayer, one so well pronounced. Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervor, such order, such correctness, and pathos, and in language so elegant and sublime for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, especially the town of Boston. It had excellent effect upon every body here. I must beg you to read the Psalm. Here was a scene worthy of the printers art. It was in Carpenter's Hall, in Philadelphia, a building which still survives, that the devoted individuals met to whom this service was read. Washington was kneeling there, and Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood bowed in reverence, the Puritan Patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. It was believed that Boston had been bombarded and destroyed. They prayed fervently "for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston", and who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to Heaven for Divine interposition and aid. "It was enough", says Mr. Adams to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave Pacific Quakers of Philadelphia." - Letter to Abigail Adams, September 7, 1774

"This day I went to Dr. Allison's meeting in the afternoon, and heard the Dr. Francis Allison... give a good discourse upon the Lord's Supper... I had rather go to Church. We have better sermons, better prayers, better speakers, softer, sweeter music, and genteeler company. And I must confess that the Episcopal church is quite as agreeable to my taste as the Presbyterian... I like the Congregational way best, next to that the Independent..." - Letter to Abigail Adams, October, 1774

"It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted. For example, if exorbitant ambition against those vices? If public spirit is much wanted, should they not inculcate this great virtue? If the rights and duties of Christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain there. show their nature, ends, limitations, and restrictions, how much soever it may move the gall of Massachusetts." - Novanglus, A History of the Dispute with America, from its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time, 1774

"Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people." - The Novanglus Papers, No. 3, Boston Gazette, 1774-1775

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John Adams Birthplace

"Metaphysicians and politicians may dispute forever, but they will never find any other moral principle or foundation of rule or obedience, than the consent of governors and governed." - The Novanglus papers, No. 7, Boston Gazette, 1774-1775

"If Aristotle, lixiviate, 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." - As Novanglus, in Boston Gazette, March 6, 1775

"But America is a great, unwieldy Body. Its Progress must be slow. It is like a large Fleet sailing under Convoy. The fleetest Sailors must wait for the dullest and slowest. Like a Coach and six-the swiftest Horses must be slackened and the slowest quickened, that all may keep an even Pace." - Letter to Abigail Adams, June 11, 1775

"We have appointed a continental Fast. Millions will be upon their Knees at once before their great Creator, imploring his Forgiveness and Blessing, his Smiles on American Councils and Arms." - Letter to Abigail Adams, June 17, 1775

"A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever." - Letter to Abigail Adams, July 7, 1775

"Human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. There is also in human nature a resentment of injury, and indignation against wrong. A love of truth and a veneration of virtue. These amiable passions, are the "latent spark..." If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the differences between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply than to the sense of this difference?" - The Novanglus, 1775

Learn more about the Stamp Act here

If you liked our John Adams Quotes, you might like to check out our John Adams Facts page.

You can visit John and Abigail's home today. It is managed by the National Park Service and has lots of memorabilia and history to absorb. Visit the Adams' Home website here.

More John Adam's Quotes

  • Go to John Adams Quotations page 1
  • Go to John Adams Quotations page 3
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  • Go to John Adams Quotations page 5
  • Go to John Adams Quotations page 6
  • Go to John Adams Quotations page 7
  • Go to John Adams Quotations page 8

George Washington Quotes

Ben Franklin Quotes

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Thomas Paine Quotes

James Madison Quotes

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Samuel Adams Quotes

Revolutionary War and Beyond Home

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