John Adams

John Adams

John Adams wrote to his cousin, Rev. Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776: “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but 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, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure, than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”

On July 1, 1776, John Adams wrote to Archibald Bullock: “The object is great which we have in view, and we must expect a great expense of blood to obtain it. But we should always remember that a free Constitution of civil Government cannot be purchased at too dear a rate as there is nothing, on this side (of) the New Jerusalem, of equal importance to Mankind.”

On July 1, 1776, John Adams spoke to the delegates of the Thirteen Colonies at the Continental Congress: “Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence forever!”

The Continental Congress selected John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, Roger Sherman and Thomas Jefferson to be on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. John Adams personally urged Thomas Jefferson to write the draft.

In contemplating the effect that separation from England would mean to him personally, John Adams wrote: “If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, and that a free country!”

On July 3, 1776, the day following Congress’ approval of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail Adams: “It is the will of heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distresses yet more dreadful. … The furnace of affliction produces refinements, in states as well as individuals. … You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the causes, which have impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man. … The new governments we are assuming … will require a purification from our vices and an augmentation of our virtues or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power. And the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. I am not without apprehensions from this quarter, but I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”

As the second president, John Adams wrote, April 26, 1777: “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. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, was the sixth U.S. president. He stated, March 4, 1825: “‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain,’ with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future destinies of my country.”

John Quincy Adams’ son, Charles Francis Adams, was a Congressman from Massachusetts. Lincoln appointed him U.S. Minister to Britain where he helped convince England to stay neutral during the Civil War. Charles Francis Adams published the letters of his grandmother, Abigail Adams, and “The Works of John Adams, Esq., Second President of the United States.”

Charles Francis Adams’ son, Henry Adams, was a historian who wrote from his unique perspective of being related to some of America’s founders. In his nine-volume work, “History of the United States” (C. Scribner’s Son, 1889), Henry Adams wrote: “The Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Puritans of Boston, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, all avowed a moral purpose, and began by making institutions that consciously reflected a moral idea.”

Henry Adams recorded Thomas Jefferson’s attitude toward the federal government: “Not three years had passed since Jefferson himself penned … the Kentucky Resolutions, in which he declared ‘that in cases of an abuse … where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy. … Each State has a natural right … to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits; that without this right they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them.'”

Henry Adams wrote further regarding Thomas Jefferson: “He went so far as to advise that every State should forbid, within its borders, the execution of any act of the general government ‘not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution.’ … Kentucky and Virginia … acted on the principle so far as to declare certain laws of the United States unconstitutional, with the additional understanding that whatever was unconstitutional was void. … Jefferson and his followers held that freedom could be maintained only by preserving inviolate the right of every State to judge for itself what was, or was not, lawful.”

Henry Adams stated: “Power is poison. It’s effect on Presidents had always been tragic.”

Henry Adams became a professor at Harvard in 1870. He had tickets for the Titanic’s return voyage to Europe in 1912. Upon hearing the Titanic sank, he suffered a stroke. He died March 27, 1918.

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Henry Adams taught a student at Harvard named Henry Cabot Lodge, who later edited Henry Adam’s autobiography. Henry Cabot Lodge became U.S. Senator Majority Leader, being noted for thwarting Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to have the United States submit to the League of Nations.

Lodge co-wrote with Theodore Roosevelt “Hero Tales from American History,” 1895, stating in the preface: “No people can be really great unless they possess … heroic virtues. … America will cease to be a great nation whenever her young men cease to possess energy, daring, and endurance, as well as the wish and the power to fight the nation’s foes. … He must also be able and willing to stand up for his own rights and those of his country against all comers … resisting either malice domestic or foreign levy.”

Henry Cabot Lodge addressed the New England Society of Brooklyn, 1888: “Let every man honor and love the land of his birth and the race from which he springs. … But let us have done with British-Americans and Irish-Americans and German-Americans, and so on, and all be Americans. … If a man is going to be an American at all let him be so without any qualifying adjectives; and if he is going to be something else, let him drop the word American from his personal description.”

Lodge was quoted in the Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 8, 1891: “Within the last decades the character of the immigration to this country has changed. … The immigration of the people who have settled and built up the nation during the last 250 years, and who have been, with trifling exceptions, kindred either in race or language or both is declining. … while the immigration of people who are not kindred … is increasing with frightful rapidity. The great mass … come here at an age when education is unlikely if not impossible and when the work of Americanizing them is in consequence correspondingly difficult. They also introduce an element of competition in the labor market which must have a disastrous effect upon the rate of American wages.”

Henry Cabot Lodge warned the U.S. Senate, Aug. 12, 1919, in a speech regarding the Treaty of peace with Germany: “The United States is the world’s best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations … you will … endanger her very existence. Leave her to march freely through the centuries to come … strong, generous, and confident. … Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance; this great land of ordered liberty. For if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.”

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