John Adams Quotes

Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power.

John Adams (Letter to John Taylor)

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

John Adams (Quoted by Josiah Quincy)

While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill - little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago. 

John Adams

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

John Adams (Letter to John Quincy Adams, 1781)

A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal.

John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

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

John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

Men must be ready, they must pride themselves and be happy to sacrifice their private pleasures, passions and interests, nay, their private friendships and dearest connections, when they stand in competition with the rights of society.

John Adams (Letter to Mercy Warren, 1776)

Virtue is not always amiable.

John Adams (Diaries, 1779)

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.

John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1814)

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 (Notes for an oration at Braintree, 1772) 

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

John Adams (A Defence of the Constitutions of Government, 1787)

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?

John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1814)

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.

John Adams

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?

John Adams (Novanglus Essays, 1774 - 1775)

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

John Adams (Letter to John Taylor, 1814)

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

John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates... to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them.

John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

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

John Adams (Letter to his son John Quincy Adams, 1816)

I shall have liberty to think for myself without molesting others or being molested myself.

John Adams (Letter to Richard Cranch, 1756)

The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country.

John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man.

John Adams (Discourses on Davila, 1790)

Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.

John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

Liberty must at all hazards be supported.

John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

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.

John Adams (Letter to Dr. Price, 1785)

Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.

John Adams (Letter to Benjamin Rush, 1808)

But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

John Adams (Letter to Abigail Adams, 1775)

The happiness of society is the end of government. 

John Adams

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams (Defense of the British Soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre, 1770)

When philosophic reason is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it.

John Adams

A government of laws, and not of men.

John Adams (Novanglus Essays, 1774 - 1775)

The world grows more enlightened. Knowledge is more equally diffused. 

John Adams (Discourses on Davila, 1790)

Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.

John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1816) 

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

John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1813) 

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.

John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

That the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of the history of the whole world.

John Adams (Quoted in The Works of John Adams, 1851)

As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. 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?

John Adams (Letter to F. A. Van der Kamp, 1816)

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. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; and to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary. But no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent.

John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.

John Adams (Discourses on Davila, 1790)

Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.

John Adams (Letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1777)

Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases. 

John Adams

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.

John Adams (A Defence of the Constitutions of Government, 1787)

Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States."

John Adams (Letter to Abigail Adams, 1776) 

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.

John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

All the perplexities, confusions, and distress in America arise, not from defects in their constitution or confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.

John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1787)

Let every sluice of knowledge be opened and set a-flowing.

John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.

John Adams (Letter to Abigail Adams, 1780) 

Independence forever.

John Adams

I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.

John Adams (Letter to Abigail Adams, 1776) 

The revolution was effected before the war commenced. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.

John Adams

Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States.... I have, throughout my whole life, held the practice of slavery in... abhorrence.

John Adams (Letter to Evans, 1819)

When people talk of the freedom of writing, speaking or thinking I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.

John Adams

Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.

John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish with my country.

John Adams (Statement made to Jonathan Sewall, 1774)

My country has contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.

John Adams (Letter to Abigail Adams, 1793)

Thomas Jefferson survi....

John Adams (Last words of John Adams as quoted by Eliza Quincy)

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 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 better; even in our own 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 blasphemers 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 argument for investigating into the divine authority of those books? 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. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. 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. The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated. Adieu.

John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1825 - This was one of Adams last letters to Jefferson before their death)

John Adams Biography

Born: October 30, 1735
Died: July 4, 1826

John Adams was the second President of the United States. He is known for being a statesman and diplomat. He was also the father of the future president John Quincy Adams.

Notable Works

A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765)
Novanglus essays (1774 - 1775)
A Defence of the Constitutions of Government
Discourses on Davila (1790)