President John Adams (1735-1826)

“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.”

“There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, And the other how to live.”

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

“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.”

“I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough … the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.”

“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.”

“But a constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

“Thanks to God that he gave me stubborness when I know I am right.”

“Power must never be trusted without a check.”

“Always stand on principle….even if you stand alone.”

“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 [with your God]. This is enough.”

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”

“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”

“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.”

“To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.”

“Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.”

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”

“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.”

“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”

“Fear is the foundation of most governments.”

“The only think most people do better than anyone else is read their own handwriting.”

“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two become a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.”

“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.”

“We cannot insure success, but we can deserve it.”

“You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.”

“The whole drama of the world is such tragedy that I am weary of the spectacle.”

“…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.”

“The happiness of society is the end of government.”

“All the perplexities, confusion, and distress in America arise, not from want of honor or virtue, but from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.”

“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.”

“Human passions unbridled by morality and religion … would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”

“When legislature is corrupted, the people are undone.”

“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?”

“To believe all men honest is folly. To believe none is something worse.”

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.”

“I am determined to control events, not be controlled by them.”

“But I must submit all my hopes and fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”

“You will ever remember that all the end of study is to make you a good man and a useful citizen.”

“When writing the constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, John Adams wrote: 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.”

“They shall not be expected to acknowledge us until we have acknowledged ourselves.”

“I wish I could lay down beside her and die too.”

“The true source of our sufferings has been our timidity.”

“Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society. ”

“Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.”

“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”

“The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”

“We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls.”

“God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.”

“If worthless men are sometimes at the head of affairs, it is, I believe, because worthless men are at the tail and the middle”

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.”

“But all provisions that He (God) has made for the gratification of our senses…are much inferior to the provision, the wonderful provision that He has made for the gratification of our nobler powers of intelligence and reason. He has given us reason to find out the truth, and the real design and true end of our existence.”

“John Adams – “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”

“And liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people who have a right from the frame of their nature to knowledge, as their great Creator who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings and a desire to know. But besides this they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible divine right to the most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.”

“Everything in life should be done with reflection.”

“Admire and adore the author of the telescopic universe, love and esteem the work, do all in your power to lessen ill, and increase good, but never assume to comprehend.”

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

“I have accepted a seat in the House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and to the ruin of our children. I give you this warning that you may prepare your mind for your fate.”

“Ideology is the science of idiots.”

“I want to see my wife and children every day, I want to see my grass and blossoms and corn … But above all, except the wife and children, I want to see my books.”

“Facts … are stubborn things…”

“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.”

“If the way to do good to my country were to render myself popular, I could easily do it. But extravagant popularity is not the road to public advantage.”

“Power always thinks… that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

“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.”

“Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”

“The form of government, which you admire, when its Principles are pure is admirable, indeed, it is productive of every Thing, which is great and excellent among men. But its principles are as easily destroyed, as human Nature is corrupted. Such a government is only to be supported by pure religion or austere morals. Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private virtue….Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company:…I mean hell.”

“Make Things rather than Persons the subjects of conversations.”

“A man ought to avow his opinions and defend them with boldness.”

“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.”

“Now to what higher object, to what greater character, can any mortal aspire than to be possessed of all this knowledge, well digested and ready at command, to assist the feeble and friendless, to discountenance the haughty and lawless, to procure redress to wrongs, the advancement of rights, to assert and maintain liberty and virtue to discourage and abolish tyranny and vice.”

“Rejoice always in all events, be thankful always for all things is a hard precept for human nature, though in my philosophy and religion a perfect duty.”

“You and I ought not to die, before we have explained ourselves to each other.”

“Why have I not genius to start some new thought? Some thing that will surprise the world?”

“Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.”

“It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”

“Knowledge in the head and virtue in the heart, time devoted to study or business, instead of show and pleasure, are the way to be useful and consequently happy.”

“It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”

“I shall never shine ’til some animating occasion calls forth all my powers.”

“There is no greater guilt than the unnecessary war.”

“No posterity, you will never know how much it has cost us to preserve your freedom. My hope is that you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I have took half the pains to preserve it.”

“This country has done much, I wish it may do more, and annul every narrow idea in religion, government, and commerce.”

“Property monopolized or in the possession of a few is a curse to mankind.”

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