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John Adams quotes (showing 1-30 of 113)

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write .”
John Adams, The Works Of John Adams, Second President Of The United States
“I read my eyes out and can't read half enough...the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.”
John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife
“While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice our local destination. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world.”
John Adams, Thoughts On Government Applicable To The Present State Of The American Colonies.: Philadelphia, Printed By John Dunlap, M,Dcc,Lxxxvi
“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, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
John Adams, The Portable John Adams
“A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife
“Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.”
John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife
“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 Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] 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.

[Adams submitted and signed the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797]”
John Adams, Thoughts On Government Applicable To The Present State Of The American Colonies.: Philadelphia, Printed By John Dunlap, M,Dcc,Lxxxvi
“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]”
John Adams, The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams
“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.”
John Adams, The Portable John Adams
“Daughter! Get you an honest Man for a Husband, and keep him honest. No matter whether he is rich, provided he be independent. Regard the Honour and moral Character of the Man more than all other Circumstances. Think of no other Greatness but that of the soul, no other Riches but those of the Heart. An honest, Sensible humane Man, above all the Littlenesses of Vanity, and Extravagances of Imagination, labouring to do good rather than be rich, to be usefull rather than make a show, living in a modest Simplicity clearly within his Means and free from Debts or Obligations, is really the most respectable Man in Society, makes himself and all about him the most happy.”
John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife
“I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”
John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know...Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.”
John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
John Adams, The Works Of John Adams, Second President Of The United States
“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom. Aristotle speaks plainly to this purpose, saying, 'that the institution of youth should be accommodated to that form of government under which they live; forasmuch as it makes exceedingly for the preservation of the present government, whatsoever it be.”
John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America
“...I say, that Power must never be trusted without a check.”
John Adams, Adams-Jefferson Letters
“Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.

{Letter to his son and 6th US president, John Quincy Adams, November 13 1816}”
John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
“You go on, I presume, with your latin Exercises: and I wish to hear of your beginning upon Sallust who is one of the most polished and perfect of the Roman Historians, every Period of whom, and I had almost said every Syllable and every Letter is worth Studying.

In Company with Sallust, Cicero, Tacitus and Livy, you will learn Wisdom and Virtue. You will see them represented, with all the Charms which Language and Imagination can exhibit, and Vice and Folly painted in all their Deformity and Horror.

You will ever remember that all the End of study is to make you a good Man and a useful Citizen.—This will ever be the Sum total of the Advice of your affectionate Father,

John Adams”
John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
“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.”
John Adams, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams: Volumes 1-4, Diary (1755-1804) and Autobiography
“...The Presidential election has given me less anxiety than I myself could have imagined. The next administration will be a troublesome one, to whomsoever it falls, and our John has been too much worn to contend much longer with conflicting factions. I call him our John, because, when you were at the Cul de sac at Paris, he appeared to me to be almost as much your boy as mine.

...As to the decision of your author, though I wish to see the book {Flourens’s Experiments on the functions of the nervous system in vertebrated animals}, I look upon it as a mere game at push-pin. Incision-knives will never discover the distinction between matter and spirit, or whether there is any or not. That there is an active principle of power in the universe, is apparent; but in what substance that active principle resides, is past our investigation. The faculties of our understanding are not adequate to penetrate the universe. Let us do our duty, which is to do as we would be done by; and that, one would think, could not be difficult, if we honestly aim at it.

Your university is a noble employment in your old age, and your ardor for its success does you honor; but I do not approve of your sending to Europe for tutors and professors. I do believe there are sufficient scholars in America, to fill your professorships and tutorships with more active ingenuity and independent minds than you can bring from Europe. 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 Herschel’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.

I salute your fireside with best wishes and best affections for their health, wealth and prosperity.

{Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 22 January, 1825}”
John Adams, Adams-Jefferson Letters
“A pleasant morning. Saw my classmates Gardner, and Wheeler. Wheeler dined, spent the afternoon, and drank Tea with me. Supped at Major Gardiners, and engag'd to keep School at Bristol, provided Worcester People, at their ensuing March meeting, should change this into a moving School, not otherwise. Major Greene this Evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and Satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the Argument he advanced was, 'that a mere creature, or finite Being, could not make Satisfaction to infinite justice, for any Crimes,' and that 'these things are very mysterious.'
(Thus mystery is made a convenient Cover for absurdity.)

[Diary entry, February 13 1756]”
John Adams, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams: Volumes 1-4, Diary (1755-1804) and Autobiography
“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 to 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 much better; even in our 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 blasphemies 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 arguments for investigation into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Volney's Recherches Nouvelles? 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... 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.

{Letter to Thomas Jefferson, January 23, 1825}”
John Adams, Adams-Jefferson Letters
“It was the general opinion of ancient nations, that the divinity alone was adequate to the important office of giving laws to men... and modern nations, in the consecrations of kings, and in several superstitious chimeras of divine rights in princes and nobles, are nearly unanimous in preserving remnants of it... Is the jealousy of power, and the envy of superiority, so strong in all men, that no considerations of public or private utility are sufficient to engage their submission to rules for their own happiness? Or is the disposition to imposture so prevalent in men of experience, that their private views of ambition and avarice can be accomplished only by artifice? — … There is nothing in which mankind have been more unanimous; yet nothing can be inferred from it more than this, that the multitude have always been credulous, and the few artful. The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature: and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had any interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of heaven, any more than those at work upon ships or houses, or labouring in merchandize or agriculture: it will for ever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. As Copley painted Chatham, West, Wolf, and Trumbull, Warren and Montgomery; as Dwight, Barlow, Trumbull, and Humphries composed their verse, and Belknap and Ramzay history; as Godfrey invented his quadrant, and Rittenhouse his planetarium; as Boylston practised inoculation, and Franklin electricity; as Paine exposed the mistakes of Raynal, and Jefferson those of Buffon, so unphilosophically borrowed from the Recherches Philosophiques sur les Américains those despicable dreams of de Pauw — neither the people, nor their conventions, committees, or sub-committees, considered legislation in any other light than ordinary arts and sciences, only as of more importance. Called without expectation, and compelled without previous inclination, though undoubtedly at the best period of time both for England and America, to erect suddenly new systems of laws for their future government, they adopted the method of a wise architect, in erecting a new palace for the residence of his sovereign. They determined to consult Vitruvius, Palladio, and all other writers of reputation in the art; to examine the most celebrated buildings, whether they remain entire or in ruins; compare these with the principles of writers; and enquire how far both the theories and models were founded in nature, or created by fancy: and, when this should be done, as far as their circumstances would allow, to adopt the advantages, and reject the inconveniences, of all. Unembarrassed by attachments to noble families, hereditary lines and successions, or any considerations of royal blood, even the pious mystery of holy oil had no more influence than that other of holy water: the people universally were too enlightened to be imposed on by artifice; and their leaders, or more properly followers, were men of too much honour to attempt it. Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favour of the rights of mankind.

[Preface to 'A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States of America', 1787]”
John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America
“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.”
John Adams
Tacitus appears to have been as great an enthusiast as Petrarch for the revival of the republic and universal empire. He has exerted the vengeance of history upon the emperors, but has veiled the conspiracies against them, and the incorrigible corruption of the people which probably provoked their most atrocious cruelties. Tyranny can scarcely be practised upon a virtuous and wise people.”
John Adams, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams: Volumes 1-4, Diary (1755-1804) and Autobiography
“You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.”
John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
“And liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people who have a right from the frame of their nature to knowledge...”
John Adams, The Works Of John Adams, Second President Of The United States
“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.”
John Adams
“...Turn our thoughts, in the next place, to the characters of learned men. The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. Read over again all the accounts we have of Hindoos, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Teutons, we shall find that priests had all the knowledge, and really governed all mankind. Examine Mahometanism, trace Christianity from its first promulgation; knowledge has been almost exclusively confined to the clergy. 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.

[Letters to John Taylor, 1814, XVIII, p. 484]”
John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
“...Cities may be rebuilt, and a People reduced to Poverty, may acquire fresh Property: But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the People once surrendered their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.”
John Adams

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