"Every Week Day is Sacrificed to [missing] Sunday, to the Frigid performances [missing] Frigid John Calvin." --John Adams to Nathan Webb on 1 September 1755 *
"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 misterious." Thus mystery is made a convenient Cover for absurdity." --John Adams in his diary on 13 February 1756 *
"The Church of Rome has made it an Article of Faith t't no man can be saved out of their Chh, and all other Religious Sects, approach to this dreadfull opinion in proportion to their Ignorance, & the Influence of ignorant or wicked Priests." --John Adams in his diary on 16 February 1756 *
"Where do we find a praecept in the Gospell, requiring Ecclesiastical Synods, Convocations, Councils, Decrees, Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Subscriptions and whole Cartloads of other trumpery, that we find Religion incumbered with in these Days?" --John Adams in his diary on 18 February 1756 *
"Suppos a nation in some distant Region, should take the Bible for their only law Book, & every member sh'd regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. every member would be obliged in Concience to to temperance & frugality & industry, to justice & kindness & Charity towards his fellow men, ___ and to Piety & Love, & reverence towards almighty God. In that Commonwealth, no man would impair his health by Gluttony, drunkenness, or Lust, __ no man would Sacrifice his most precious time to cards, or any other trifling and mean amusement,__ no man would Steal or lie or any way defraud his neighbour, but would live in peace & good will with all men __ no man would blaspheme his maker, or prophane his Worship __ but a rational & manly, a sincere & unaffected Piety & devotion, would reign in all hearts. What a Eutopa, what a Paradise would this region be." --John Adams in his diary on 22 February 1756 *
"The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J.C. Altho' some very thoughtfull, and contemplative men among the heathen, attained a strong persuasion of the great Principles of Religion, yet the far greater number having little time for speculation, gradually sunk in to the grossest Opinions and the grossest Practices. These therefore could not be made to embrace the true religion, till their attention was roused by some astonishing and miraculous appearances. The reasonings of Phylosophers having nothing surprizing in them, could not overcome the force of Prejudice, Custom, Passion, and Bigotry. But when wise and virtuous men, commisioned from heaven, by miracles awakened mens attention to their Reasonings the force of Truth made its way, with ease to their minds." --John Adams in his diary on 2 March 1756 *
"... Honesty, Sincerity, and openness I esteem essential marks of a good mind. I am, therefore, of opinion that men ought (after they have examined with unbiased Judgments every System of Religion, and chosen one System, on their own Authority, for themselves), to avow their Opinions, and defend them with boldness." --John Adams in his diary on 7 March 1756 *
"... Thus we are equally obliged to the Supream Being for the Information he has given us of our Duty, whether by the Constitution of our Minds and Bodies or by a supernatural Revelation. For an instance of the latter let us take original sin. Some say that Adams sin was enough to damn the whole human Race, without any actual Crimes committed by any of them..." --John Adams in his diary on 15 August 1756 *
"... I am not without apprehensions concerning the Success of this resolution [to study law]. but I am under much fewer apprehensions [illegible] I was when I thought of preaching. the frightful engines of Ecclesiastical Co[u]ncils, of diabolical Malice & Calvinistical
goodness good nature never failed to terrify me exceedingly whenever I thought of preaching. but the Point is now determined, & I shall have Liberty myself to think for my Self without molesting others or being molested my Self."
--John Adams in letter to Richard Cranch on 29 August 1756
"... People are not disposed to inquire for piety, integrity, good sense or learning in a young preacher, but for stupidity (for so I must call the pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces), irresistible grace, and original sin...
The students on law are very numerous and some of them, youths of which no country, no age, would need to be ashamed_ and if I can gain ye honour of treading in ye rear and silently admiring ye noble air and gallant achievements of ye foremost rank, I shall think myself worthy of a louder triumph, than if I had headed ye whole army of orthodox preachers..." --John Adams to Charles Cushing on 19 October 1756 * *
"... The Same vanity which gave rise to that Strange religious Dogma, that God elected a precious few (of which few however every Man who believes the doctrine is always one) to Life eternal without regard to any foreseen Virtue, and reprobated all the Rest, without regard to any forseen Vice_ A doctrine which with Serious gravity, represents the world, as under the government of Humour & Caprice, and which Hottentots and Mohawks would reject with horror.
If the orthodox doctrine of Genius is not so detestable as that of unconditional Election, it is not much less invidious, nor much less hurtful. One represents eternal life, as an unattainable thing without the Special favor of the Father - and even with that attainable by very few, one of a Tribe, or two of a Nation, and so tends to discourage the practice of virtue. The other, represents the talents to excel as extremely scarce, indulged by Nature to very few, and unattainable by all the Rest, and therefore tends to discourage Industry..." --John Adams to Samuel Quincy on 22 April 1761
By the former of these, the most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy that ever was conceived by the mind of man was framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandizement of their own order... All these opinions they were enabled to spread and rivet among the people by reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity, and by infusing into them a religious horror of letters and knowledge...
Thus, as long as this confederacy lasted, and the people were held in ignorance, liberty, and with her, knowledge and virtue too, seem to have deserted the earth, and one age of darkness succeeded another, till God in his benign providence raised up the champions who began and conducted the Reformation.
We have been afraid to think. We have felt a reluctance to examining into the grounds of our privileges, and the extent in which we have an indisputable right to demand them, against all the power and authority on earth. And many who have not scrupled to examine for themselves, have yet for certain prudent reasons been cautious and diffident of declaring the result of their inquiries.
"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' summation in the Rex v. Wemms (Boston Massacre) trial in December 1770 * [Legal Papers of John Adams #64 SJ=K19.A3A3]
"We went to Meeting at Wells and had the Pleasure of hearing My Friend, upon "Be not Partaker's in other Mens Sins: Keep yourselves pure." -- Mr. Hemenway came and kindly invited us to dine, but we had engaged a Dinner at Littlefields, so we returned there, dined and took our Horses to 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 a great Pleasure in Hearing Sermons so serious, so clear, so sensible, and instructive as these..." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 4 July 1774 *
"I went to Dr. Allisons Meeting in the Forenoon and heard the Dr.-- a good Discourse upon the Lords Supper__ This is a Presbyterian Meeting__ I confess I am not fond of the Presbyterian Meetings in this Town__ I had rather go to Church__ We have better Sermons, better Prayers, better Speakers, softer, sweeter Musick, and genteeler Company__ And I must confess, that the Episcopal Church is quite as agreable to my Taste as the Presbyterian.__ They are both Slaves to the Domination of the Priesthood.__ I like the Congregational Way best__ next to that the Independant.
This afternoon, led by Curiosity and good Company I strolled away to
the Ro Mother Church, or rather Grandmother Church, I mean the Romish Chappell.__ heard a good, short, moral Essay upon the Duty of Parents to their Children..."
--John Adams to Abigail Adams on 9 October 1774
"... the Laws of Massachusetts, were the most mild and equitable Establishment of Religion that was known in the World, if indeed they could be called an Establishment..." --John Adams in his autobiography of 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 and venality are predominant, ought they not to warn their hearers 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 them, show their nature, ends, limitations, and restrictions..." --John Adams in Novanglus 4 on 13 February 1775
"... our Prospect of a Union of the Colonies, is promising indeed._ Never was there such a Spirit... My Love to all._ I pray for you all __ and hope to be prayed for__ certainly, There is a Providence__ certainly, We must depend upon Providence or We fail.__ certainly the Sincere Prayers of good Men, avail much [James 5:16]. But Resignation, is our Duty in all Events..." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 8 May 1775 *
"There is, in the human Breast, a Social Affection, which extends to our whole Species. faintly indeed; but in Some degree. -- the Nation, Kingdom, or Community to which We belong is embraced by it more vigorously. It is Stronger Still towards the Province to which we belong, and in which We had our Birth. It is Stronger and Stronger, as We descend to the County, Town, Parish, Neighbourhood, and Family, which We call our own...
It is to this Infirmity, in my own Heart, that I must perhaps attribute that local Attachment, that partial Fondness, that overweening Prejudice in favour of New England, which I feel very often and which I fear Sometimes, leads me to expose my Self to just Ridicule...
1. The People are purer English Blood, less mixed with Scotch, Irish, Dutch, French, Danish, Sweedish &c...
2. The Institutions in New England for the Support of Religion, Morals and Decency, exceed any other, obliging every Parish to have a Minister, and every Person to go to Meeting &c.
3. The public Institutions in New England for the Education of Youth, _ Supporting Colledges at the public Expence and obliging Towns to maintain Grammar Schools, is not equalled and never was in any Part of the World..." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 29 October 1775 * *
"Let them [John Quincy Adams and Charles Adams] revere nothing but Religion, Morality & Liberty." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 15 April 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. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies. You cannot, therefore, be more pleasantly or usefully employed than in the way of your profession [preacher], pulling down the strong-holds of Satan. This is not cant, but the real sentiment of my heart." --John Adams to Zabdiel Adams on 21 June 1776
July 1, 1776 "Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgement 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 for ever!"
"I must submit, all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 3 July 1776 *
"The Jews the Greeks the Romans, the Swiss, the Dutch, all lost their public Spirit, their Republican Principles and habits, and their Republican Forms of Government, when they lost the Modesty and Domestic Virtues of their Women...
The foundations of national Morality must be laid in private Families. In vain are Schools, Accademies and universities instituted, if loose Principles and licentious habits are impressed upon Children in their earliest years. The Mothers are the earliest and most important Instructors of youth. _ _ _ The Vices and Examples of the Parents cannot be concealed from the Children. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn that their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers. Besides the Catholic Doctrine is, that the Contract of marriage is not only a civil and moral Engagement, but a Sacrament, one of the most solemn Vows and Oaths of Religious devotion. Can they then believe Religion and Morality too any thing more than a Veil a Cloak, an hypocritical Pretext, for political purposes of decency and Conveniency?" --John Adams in his diary on 2 June 1778 * *
"... The Second Day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be Solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 3 July 1776 * *
"Your Conscience is the Minister Plenipotentiary of God Almighty in your Breast. See to it, that this Minister never negotiates in vain. Attend to him, in Opposition to all the Courts in the World." --John Adams to John Quincy Adams
"... Nothing has given me more joy than the universal disdain that is expressed both in public and private letters at the idea of departing from the treaty and violating the public faith... The idea of infidelity [to the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France] can not be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor at heart and ought to be execrated as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason.
Is there a sensible hypocrite in America who can start a jealousy that religion may be in danger? From whence can this danger arise? Not from France; she claims no inch of ground upon your continent. She claims no legislative authority over you, no negative upon your laws, no right of appointing you bishops, nor of sending you missionaries... The longer I live in Europe, and the more I consider our affairs, the more important our alliance with France appears to me. It is a rock upon which we may safely build..." --John Adams to James Warren on 4 August 1778 * *
"... Virtue is not always amiable. __ Integrity is sometimes ruined by Prejudices and by Passions. __ There are two Men in the World who are Men of Honour and Integrity I believe, but whose Prejudices and violent Tempers would raise Quarrells in the Elisian Fields if not in Heaven. On the other Hand there is another, whose Love of Ease, and Dissipation, will prevent any thorough Reformation of any Thing. __ and his Cunning & Silence and Reserve, render it very difficult to do any Thing with him. __ one of the other, whom I have allowed to be honest, has Such a bitter, Such a Sour in him, and so few of the nice feelings, t't G. knows w't will be the Consequence to himself and t. others. Besides he has as much Cunning, and as much Secrecy." --John Adams in his diary on 9 February 1779 *
"... the English society for propogating religion in foreign parts has, in fact, for a century sent large sums of money to America to support their religion there, which really operated as a bribe upon many minds and was the principal source of toryism..." --John Adams in a diplomatic letter to Edmond-Charles (?) Genet on 17 May 1780 *
"As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community, but by the institution of the public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality: Therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.
And the people of this commonwealth have also a right to, and do, invest their legislature with authority to enjoin upon all the subjects an attendance upon the instructions of the public teachers aforesaid, at stated times and seasons, if there be any on whose instructions they can conscientiously and conveniently attend.
Provided, notwithstanding, that the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, shall, at all times, have the exclusive right of electing their public teachers, and of contracting with them for their support and maintenance.
And all moneys paid by the subject to the support of public worship, and of the public teachers aforesaid, shall, if he require it, be uniformly applied to the support of the public teacher or teachers of his own religious sect or denomination, provided there be any on whose instructions he attends; otherwise it may be paid towards the support of the teacher or teachers of the parish or precinct in which the said moneys are raised.
Any every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law." --Declaration of Rights article 3 (later replaced by amendment 11)
"As the public worship of God and instructions in piety, religion and morality, promote the happiness and prosperity of a people and the security of a republican government; -- therefore, the several religious societies of this commonwealth, whether corporate or unincorporate, at any meeting legally warned and holden for that purpose, shall ever have the right to elect their pastors or religious teachers, to contract with them for their support, to raise money for erecting and repairing houses for public worship, for the maintenance of religious instruction, and for the payment of necessary expenses: and all persons belonging to any religious society shall be taken and held to be members, until they shall file with the clerk of such society, a written notice, declaring the dissolution of their membership, and thenceforth shall not be liable for any grant or contract which may be thereafter made, or entered into by such society: -- and all religious sects and denominations, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good citizens of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law." --Amendment 11 (later limited by amendment 46)
"All moneys raised by taxation... shall never be appropriated to any religious sect for the maintenance exclusively of its own schools." --Amendment 18 (9 April 1821; later superceded by amendment 46)
"... no grant, appropriation or use of public money or property or loan of public credit shall be made or authorized by the commonwealth or any political division thereof for the purpose of founding, maintaining or aiding any other school or institution of learning, whether under public control or otherwise, wherein any denominational doctrine is inculcated..." --Amendment 46 (6 November 1917)
(Note: Thomas Jefferson's 1779 draft of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom endorsed complete separation of church and state. John Adams' letter to Thomas Jefferson on 9 April 1817 seems to show that Adams eventually agreed with Jefferson.)
"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 to Dr. Price on 8 April 1785 (unverified)
"It was the general opinion of ancient nations, that the divinity alone was adequate to the important office of giving laws to men. The Greeks entertained this prejudice throughout all their dispersions; the Romans cultivated the same popular delusion... It was a tradition in antiquity that the laws of Crete were dictated to Minos by the inspiration of Jupiter. This legislator, and his brother Rhadamanthus, were both his sons: once in nine years they went to converse with their father, to propose questions concerning the wants of the people; and his answers were recorded as laws for their government. The laws of Lacedaemon were communicated by Apollo to Lycurgus; and, lest the meaning of the deity should not have been perfectly comprehended, or correctly expressed, were afterwards confirmed by his oracle at Delphos... Woden and Thor were divinities too; and their posterity ruled a thousand years in the north by the strength of a like credulity. Manco Capac was the child of the sun, the visible deity of the Peruvians; and transmitted his divinity, as well as his earthly dignity and authority, through a line of incas... There is nothing in which mankind have been more unanimous [that laws come from God]; 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 aera 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... Thirteen governments [the original 13 United States] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery... it can no longer be called in question, whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests, or the knavery of politicians. As the writer was personally acquainted with most of the gentlemen in each of the states, who had the principal share in the first draughts, the following letters were really written to lay before the gentleman to whom they are addressed, a specimen of that kind of reading and reasoning which produced the American constitutions..." --John Adams in the preface of A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America in 1787
"A single assembly will never be a steady guardian of the laws, if Machiavel is right, when he says, Men are never good but through necessity..." --John Adams in Defense of the Constitutions 1:26 (sometimes quoted out of context as "Men are never good but through necessity" without mentioning Machiavel)
"'The Science of the Rights of Man is a new science. The Americans have invented it.' ... The Americans did not invent this foundation of Society. They found it in their religion." --John Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams on 19 March 1794 [Hutson; reel 377]
"The Christian Religion is, above all the Religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern Times, The Religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity & Humanity, let the Blackguard [Thomas] Paine say what he will. It is Resignation to God __ it is Goodness itself to Man." --John Adams in his diary on 26 July 1796 *
"One great Advantage of the Christian Religion is that it brings the great Principle of the Law of Nature and Nations, Love your Neighbour as yourself, and do to others as you would that others Should do to you, to the Knowledge, Belief and Veneration of the whole People. Children, Servants, Women and Men are all Professors in the science of public as well as private Morality. No other Institution for Education, no kind of political Discipline, could diffuse this kind of necessary Information, so universally among all Ranks and Descriptions of Citizens. The Duties and Rights of The Man and the Citizen are thus taught, from early Infancy to every Creature. The Sanctions of a future Life are thus added to the Observance of civil & political as well as domestic and private Duties. Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude, are thus taught to be the means & Conditions of future as well as present Happiness." --John Adams in his diary on 14 August 1796 *
"... a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service..." --John Adams in his Inaugural Address on 4 March 1797 *
"This constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." --United States Constitution 6:2 * *
"Now, be it known, that I, John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said treaty, do, by and within the consent of the Senate, accept, ratify and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof."
The Treaty of Tripoli was signed on 4 November 1796 (during George Washington's presidency), "read" (aloud) to the Senate on 29 May 1797 (during John Adams' presidency), ordered to be "printed for the use of the Senate" on 30 May 1797 *, and ratified by the US Senate on 7 June 1797 *. Ed Buckner said "This was the 339th time... that a recorded vote was required. It was only the third time that a vote was recorded when the vote was unanimous!" *
Article 11's Arabic/English mistranslation and legal status:
"As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed...
I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer... incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation...
And Finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift..." --John Adams' Thanksgiving proclamation on 23 March 1798
"If a new order of things has commenced, it behooves us to be cautious, that it may not be for the worse. If the abuse of Christianity can be annihilated or diminished, and a more equitable enjoyment of the right of conscience introduced, it will be well; but this will not be accomplished by the abolition of Christianity and the introduction of the Grecian mythology, or the worship of modern heroes or heroines, by erecting statues of idolatry to reason or virtue, to beauty or to taste. It is a serious problem to resolve, whether all the abuses of Christianity even in the darkest ages, when the Pope deposed princes and laid nations under his interdict, were ever so bloody and cruel, ever bore down the independence of the human mind with such terror and intolerance, or taught doctrines which required such implicit credulity to believe, as the present reign of pretended philosophy in France [French Revolution]." --John Adams to the Grand Jurors of the Hampshire County Massachusetts on 3 October 1798 [MICROFILM]
"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 was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --John Adams to the officers of the First Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Massachusetts Militia on 11 October 1798 [partly Hutson; reel 119]
"My Religion you know is not, exactly conformable to that of the greatest Part of the Christian World. It excludes Superstition. But with all the Superstition that attends it, I think the Christian the best that is or has been. I would join with those who wish ecclesiastical Tyranny abolished, and the frauds of the Priesthood detested: But in this Country We have little of this." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 28 January 1799 *
"As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being... principles, subversive of the foundations of all religious, moral, and social obligations, that have produced incalculable mischief and misery in other countries [French Revolution?]...
For these reasons I have thought proper to recommend, and I do hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the 25th day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer... through the grace of His Holy Spirit... "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people;" [Proverbs 14:34]... And I do also recommend that with these acts of humiliation, penitence, and prayer fervent thanksgiving to the Author of All Good be united for the countless favors which He is still continuing to the people of the United States, and which render their condition as a nation eminently happy when compared with the lot of others." --John Adams' Thanksgiving proclamation on 7 March 1799
"I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House [the White House] and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof." --John Adams to Abigail Adams on 2 November 1800 * (Franklin D. Roosevelt had this inscribed on the mantlepiece of the State Dining Room.)
"... I saw such a Spirit of Dogmatism and Bigotry in Clergy and Laity, that if I should be a Priest I must take my side, and pronounce as positively as any of them, or never get a Parish, or getting it must soon leave it. Very strong doubts arose in my mind, whether I was made for a Pulpit in such times, and I began to think of other Professions. I perceived very clearly, as I thought, that by the Study of Theology and the pursuit of it as a Profession would involve me in endless Altercations and make my Life miserable, without any prospect of doing any good to my fellow Men." --John Adams in his autobiography on 30 November 1804 *
"... the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations..." --John Adams to F.A. Van der Kemp in 1806 Pennsylvania Historical Society
"The Bible contains the most profound Philosophy, the most perfect Morality, and the most refined Policy, that ever was conceived upon earth. It is the most Republican Book in the World, and therefore I will still revere it. The Curses against Fornication and Adultery, and the prohibition of every wanton glance or libidinous ogle at a woman, I believe to be the only system that ever did or will preserve a Republick in the World. There is a Paradox for you. But if I don't make it out you may say if you please that I am an enthusiast. I say then that without the utmost purity and chastity in women: and without national Morality a Republican Government cannot be maintained. Therefor my dear Fellow Citizens of America, you must ask leave of your wives and daughters to preserve your Republick..." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 2 February 1807 [Hutson]
"Religion I hold to be essential to morals. I never read of an irreligious character in Greek or Roman history, nor in any other history, nor have I known one in life, who was not a rascal. Name one if you can, living or dead." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 18 April 1808 [Hutson]
"And what has not been misunderstood or misrepresented? The spirit of God could not or would not dictate words that could not be misrepresented or perverted. Misinterpretations of the Scriptures of the old and new Testaments have founded Mosques and Cathedrals, have made saints Cardinals and Popes, Tyrants and Despots without Number, and deluged three quarters of the Globe I mean all Christian and Mahometan Countries at times in blood." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 23 March 1809 [Hutson]
"My Friend, the Clergy have been in all ages and Countries as dangerous to Liberty as the Army. Yet I love the Clergy and the Army. What can we do without them in this wicked world." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 1 September 1809 [Hutson]
"[Thomas Paine's] political writings, I am singular enough to believe, have done more harm than his irreligious ones. He understood neither government nor religion. From a malignant heart he wrote virulent declamations, which the enthusiastic fury of the times intimidated all men, even Mr. Burke, from answering as he ought. His deism, as it appears to me, has promoted rather than retarded the cause of revolution in America, and indeed in Europe. His billingsgate, stolen from Blount's Oracles of Reason, from Bolingbroke., Voltaire, Berenger, &c., will never discredit Christianity, which will hold its ground in some degree as long as human nature shall have any thing moral or intellectual left in it. The Christian religion, as I understand it, is the brightness of the glory and the express portrait of the character of the eternal, self-existent, independent, benevolent, all powerful and all merciful creator, preserver, and father of the universe, the first good, first perfect, and first fair. It will last as long as the world. Neither savage nor civilized man, without a revelation, could ever have discovered or invented it. Ask me not, then, whether I am a Catholic or Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian. As far as they are Christians, I wish to be a fellow-disciple with them all." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 21 January 1810
"I agree with you in sentiment, that Religion and Virtue are the only Foundations, not only of Republicanism and of all free Government, but of social felicity under all Governments and in all the combinations of human Society... I have been a church-going animal for 76 years..." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 28 August 1811 [Hutson]
"I am weary of I could express my Faith in shorter terms. He who loves the Workman and his Work, and does what he can to preserve and improve it, shall be accepted of him." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 18 June 1812 (not found)
"I had forgotten the custom of putting Prophets in the Stocks....It may be thought impiety by many, but I could not help wishing that the ancient practice had been continued down to more modern times and that all the Prophets at least from Peter the hermit, to Nimrod Hews inclusively, had been confined in the Stocks and prevented from Spreading So many delusions and Shedding so much blood. Could you believe that the mad rant of Nimrod... Spread a great deal of terror and a Serious Apprehension that one third of the human race would be destroyed on the fourth day of the next month?
As my neighbors are far from being remarkably Superstitious I could not have believed what has appeared in experience. The transition from one set of crazy people to another is not unnatural." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 3 May 1812 * *
"The National Fast [actually two: 9 May 1798 and 25 April 1799], recommended by me turned me out of office. It was connected with the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which I had no concern in. That assembly has allarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Catholicks, protestant Episcopalians, Arians, Socinians, Armenians, & & &, Atheists and Deists might be added. A general Suspicon prevailed that the Presbyterian Church was ambitious and aimed at an Establishment of a National Church. I was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical Project. The secret whisper ran through them "Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, any body, whether they be Philosophers, Deists, or even Atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President." This principle is at the bottom of the unpopularity of national Fasts and Thanksgivings. Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion.
The Trinity was carried in a general council by one vote against a quaternity; the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son, and Spirit only by a single suffrage." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 12 June 1812 [Hutson; sequence?]
"The Christian Religion was intended to give Peace of Mind to its Disciples in all cases whatsoever: but not to send civil or political Peace upon earth but a sword, and a sword it has sent: and peace of Mind too to Millions, by conquering death and taking away his sting [1 Corinthians 15:55]." --John Adams to Benjamin Rush on 29 November 1812 [Hutson]
"Must a man possess a Library equal to that mentioned by St. Luke [actually John 21:25] which he says the whole world would not contain and live to the age of Methusalah before he could read half of it before he can work out his salvation with fear and trembling? I find in the old Testament and especially the new internal evidence of a philosophy a morality and a Polity which my head and heart embraces for its equity humanity and benevolence. This is my religion." --John Adams to Adrian van der Kemp on 23 January 1813 [Hutson; reel 121]
"I wish You could live a Year in Boston, hear their Divines; read their publications, especially the osituru[?] Repository. You would See how spiritual Tyranny, and ecclesiastical Domination are beginning in our Country: at least Struggling for birth... Checks and Ballances, Jefferson, however you and your Party may have ridiculed them, are our only Security, for the progress of Mind, as well as the Security of Body. ___ Every Species of these Christians would persecute Deists, as soon as either Sect would persecute another, if it had unchecked and unballanced Power. Nay, the Deists would persecute Christians, and Atheists would persecute Deists, with as unrelenting Cruelty, as any Christians would persecute them or one another. Know thyself, human Nature!" --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 25 June 1813 * *
"I am weary of Philosophers, Theologians, Politicians; and Historians. They are an immense mass of absurdities, vices, and lies. Montesquieu had sense enough to say in jest, that all our knowledge might be comprehended in twelve pages in duodecimo, and I believe him in earnest. I could express my faith in shorter terms. He who loves the workman and his work, and does what he can to preserve and im prove it, shall be accepted of him." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 28 June 1813 [NOT IN LOC; MICROFILM]
"It is very true, that "the denunciations of the Priesthood are fulminated against every Advocate for a compleat freedom of religion. Comminations, I believe, would be plenteously pronounced by even the most liberal of them, against Atheism, Deism; against every Man who disbelieved or doubted the Resurrection of Jesus, or the Miracles of the New Testament. Priestley himself would denounce the man who Should deny the Apocalypse, or the Prophecies of Daniel. Priestley and Lindsay both have denounced as Idolaters and Blasphemers all the Trinitarians, and even the Arrians...
The general Principles, on which the Fathers Atchieved Independence, were the only Principles in which, that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite... And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty... Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God: and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System..." --John Adams in another letter to Thomas Jefferson on 28 June 1813 * * (Note: This is very frequently quoted out of context to include "general Principles of Christianity" without including "general Principles of English and American Liberty".)
"... While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a Stand; little better understood; little better practiced now than 3 or 4 thousand Years ago. What is the Reason? I say Parties and Factions will not Suffer, or permit Improvements to be made. As Soon as one Man hints at an improvement his Rival opposes it. No Sooner has one party discovered or invented an Amelioration of the condition of Man or the order of Society, than the opposite Party, belies it, misconstrues it, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it. Records are destroyed. Histories are annihilated or interpolated, or prohibited Sometimes by Popes, Sometimes by Emperors, Sometimes by Aristocratical and Sometimes by democratic Assemblies and Sometimes by Mobs.
Aristotle wrote the History and description of Eighteen hundred Republicks, which existed before his time. Cicero wrote two Volumes of discour[s]es on Government, which, perhaps were worth all the rest of his Works. The works of Livy and Tacitus &c that are lost, would be more interesting than all that remain. Fifty Gospells have been destroyed, and where are St. Lukes World of Books [confused with John 21:25?] that had been written? If you ask my Opinion, who has committed all the havoc? I will answer you candidly; Ecclesiastical and Imperial despotism has done it, to conceal their Frauds.
Why are the Histories of all Nations, more ancient than the Christian Era, lost? Who destroyed the Alexandrian Library? I believe that Christian Priests, Jewish Rabbies, Grecian Sages and Roman Emperors has as great a hand in it as Turks and Mahomitans.
Democrats, Rebells, and Jacobins, when they possessed a momentary Power, have Shewn a disposition, both to destroy and to forge Records as vandalical, as Priests and Despots. Such has been and Such is the World We live in... Xenophon Says that the ecclesia, always choose the worst Men they can find, because none others will do their dirty work..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 9 July 1813 * * *
"I have more to Say, on Religion. For more than Sixty Years I have been attentive to this great Subject... I think I can now Say I have read away: Bigotry, if not Enthusiasm.
What does Priestley mean, by an Unbeliever? When he applies it to you? How much did he "unbelieve," himself? Gibbon had him right, when he denominated his Creed "Scanty." ..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 18 July 1813 *
"The human Understanding is a revelation from its Maker which can never be disputed or doubted. There can be no scepticism, Pyrrhonism or Incredulity or Infidelity, here. No prophecies, no Miracles are necessary to prove the celestial communication. This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three, and that one is not three nor can three be one. We can never be so certain of any Prophecy, or the fulfilment of any Prophecy; or of any miracle, or the design of any miracle, as We are, from the revelation of nature i.e. Nature’s God that two and two are equal to four. Miracles or Prophecies might frighten Us out of our Witts; might Scare us to death; might induce us to lie; to say that We believe that 2 and 2 make 5. But We Should not believe it. We Should know the contrary...
can Prophecies, or miracles convince You, or me, that infinite Benevolence, Wisdom, and Power, created and preserves, for a time, innumerable millions to make them miserable, forever, for his own Glory? Wretch! What is his Glory? Is he ambitious? does he want promotion? Is he vain? tickled with Adulation? Exulting and triumphing in his Power and the Sweetness of his Vengeance? Pardon me, my Maker, for these Awful Questions. My answer to them is always ready: I believe no such Things. My Adoration of the Author of the Universe is too profound and too sincere. The Love of God and his Creation; delight, Joy, triumph, Exultation in my own existance, 'tho but an Atom, a Molecule organique, in the universe; are my religion. Howl, Snarl, bite, Ye Calvinistik. Ye Athanasian Divines, if You will. Ye will Say, I am no Christian: I Say Ye are no Christians: and there the Account is ballanced. Yet I believe all the honest men among you, are Christians in my Sense of the Word." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 14 September 1813 * * * *
"Father of all, in every Age,
In every clime ador'd
By Saint by Savage and by Sage
Jehovah, Jove [Jupiter/Zeus], or Lord." --John Adams' paraphrase of Cleanthes' Hymn to Zeus, to Thomas Jefferson on 22 September 1813 *
"... I believe Cleanthes [a pagan Stoic philosopher] to be as good a Christian as [Joseph] Priestley..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson in September 1813 *
"... I admire your employment in selecting the philosophy and divinity of Jesus [the Jefferson Bible], and separating it from all mixtures... The Daemon of Hierarchical despotism... The Pope Sent 35 Articles of Error, to the Archbishops of France, requiring them to Seize the books of the Jews, and burn all that contained any Errors. He wrote in the same terms to the Kings of France, England, Aragon, Castile, Leon, Navarre and Portugal. In consequence of this Order 20 Cartloads of Hebrew Books were burnt in France; and how many times 20 cartloads were destroyed in the other Kingdoms? ..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 14 November 1813 * *
"In the heavenly doctrines of Christianity, reduced to its primitive simplicity, you and I agree as well, I believe, as any two christians in the world." --John Adams to Francis van der Kemp on 4 October 1813 [Hutson; reel 95]
"Indeed, Mr. Jefferson, what could be invented to debase the ancient Christianism, which Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, and Christian factions, above all the Catholics, have not fraudulently imposed upon the public? Miracles after Miracles have rolled down in Torrents, Wave Succeeding Wave, in the Catholic church, from the Council of Nice, and long before, to this day..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 3 December 1813 *
"I have examined all [religions], as well as my narrow Sphere, my Straightened means, and my busy life would allow me; and the result is, that the Bible is the best Book in the World. It contains more of my little Phylosophy than all the Libraries I have Seen: and Such Parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little Phylosophy I postpone for future Investigation." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 25 December 1813 *
"Your research in the Laws of England establishing Christianity as the Law of the land, and part of the common Law, are curious and very important... In what Sense, and to what extent the Bible is Law, may give rise to as many doubts and quarrels as any of our civil, political, military, or maritime Laws..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson in February 1814 * *
"If the Christian Religion as I understand it, or as you understand it, Should maintain its ground as I believe it will; Yet Platonick, Pythagoric, Hindoo, and caballistical Christianity which is Catholic Christianity, and which has prevailed for 1500 years, has rec. a mortal wound, of which the Monster must finally die; Yet So Strong is his constitution, that he may endure for Centuries before he expires...
Napoleon is a military fanatic like Achilles, Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, Zingis, Kouli, Charles 12th &c. The maxim and principle of all of them was the same 'Jura negat sibi lata, nihil non arrogat armis [Law not for him, arrogate by arms].'..." --John Adams in letter to Thomas Jefferson on 16 July 1814 * * *
"What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because suspected of heresy? Remember the index expurgatorius, the inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter and the guillotine; and, oh! horrible, the rack! This is as bad, if not worse, than a slow fire. Nor should the Lion's Mouth be forgotten. Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years... His [John Adams'] maxim is, study government as you do astronomy, by facts, observations, and experiments; not by the dogmas of lying priests and knavish politicians... That gaping, timid animal, man, dares not read or think..." --apparently by John Adams in 1814 letter #16 to John Taylor [MICROFILM]
"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, and we shall find that priests had all the knowledge, and, really governed all mankind. Examine Mahometanism, trace Christianity from its promulgation. Knowledge has been almost exclusively confined to 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...
among Greek or Roman philosophers, Hindoos, Brahmins, Chinese mandarins, Chaldean magi, British druids, Indian prophets, or Christian monks? Has it not been the invariable maxium of them all to deceive the people by any lies, however gross? "Bonus populus vult decipi; ergo decipiatur. [The common people like to be deceived; therefore deceive them.]"" --John Adams in 1814 letter #31 to John Taylor (not found)
"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? Or, in other Words, whether Authority is originally in the People? or whether it has descended for 1800 years in a succession of Popes and Bishops, or brought down from Heaven by the holy Ghost in the form of a Dove, in a Phyal of holy Oil?" --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 20 June 1815 * *
"the question before mankind is... whether Authority is from Nature & reason, or from miraculous revelation? From the revelation from God, by human understanding, or from the revelation to Moses & to Constantine, & the council of Nice...
I believe, too, in a future state of rewards, & punishments too, but not Eternal." --John Adams to F. A. Van Der Kemp on 13 July 1815 *
"he [John Adams] expresses himself in terms of contempt, in regard to the French revolution; and after asking rather too Severely what good was to be expected from a Nation of Atheists, he concludes with foretelling the destruction of a million of human Beings as the probable consequence of it." --John Adams quoting William Morgan's paraphrase of John Adams, to Thomas Jefferson on 13 November 1815 *
"The Christian is the religion of the heart: but the heart is deceitful above all things [Jeremiah 17:9]; and unless controuled by the dominion of the head will lead us into Salt Ponds." --John Adams to Benjamin Waterhouse on 19 December 1815 [Hutson; reel 122]
"We Unitarians, one of whom I have had the Honour to be, for more than sixty Years, do not indulge our Malignity in profane Cursing and Swearing, against you Calvinists; one of whom I know not how long you have been. You and I, once saw Calvin and Arius, on the Plafond of the Cathedral of St. John the Second in Spain roasting in the Flames of Hell. We Unitarians do not delight in thinking that Plato and Cicero, Tacitus Quintilian Plyny and even Diderot, are sweltering under the scalding drops of divine Vengeance, for all Eternity." --John Adams to John Quincy Adams on 28 March 1816 [Hutson; reel 430]
"... That Stupendous Monument of human Hypocrisy and Fanaticism the church of St. Peter at Rome, which was a Century and a Half in Building; excited the Ambition of Leo the tenth, who believed no more of the Christian Religion than Diderot, to finish it; and finding St. Peters Pence insufficient, he deluged all Europe with Indulgences for Sale, and excited Luther to controvert his Authority to grant them. Luther and his Associates and Followers, went less than half way in detecting the Corruptions of Christianity; but they acquired Reverence and Authority among their Followers almost as absolute as that of the Popes had been. To enter into details would be endless. But I agree with you, that the natural Effect of Science and Arts is to erect public opinion into a Censor, which must in Some degree be respected by all...
the Priests of all Nations imagined they felt approaching Such Flames as they had so often kindled about the Bodies of honest Men. Priests and politicians, never before, So Suddenly and So unanimously concurred in Reestablishing Darkness and Ignorance Superstition and Despotism.
The morality of Tacitus is the Morality of Patriotism, and Britain & France have adopted his Creed; i. e. that all things were made for Rome. Fura negat sibi lata, nihil non arrogat armis [Law not for him, arrogate by arms], said Achilles. Laws were not made for me, Said the Regent of France, and his Cardinal Minister Du Bois. The Universe was made for me, Says Man. Jesus despised and condemned this Patriotism: but what Nation or What Christian, has adopted His System? He was, as you Say, 'the most benevolent Being, that ever appeared on Earth.' ...
Truth, must be more respected than it has ever been, before any great Improvement can be expected in the Condition of Mankind..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 2 February 1816 * * *
"An incarnate God!!! An eternal, self-existent, omnipresent omniscient Author of this stupendous Universe, suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has stupified the Christian World. It has been the Source of almost all the Corruptions of Christianity...
What do you call the "Bible?" The translation by King James the first. More than half a Catholick... "The Bible a Rule of Faith"! What Bible? King James's? The Hebrew? The Septuagint? The Vulgate? The Bible now translated or translating into Chinese, Indian, Negro and all the other Languages of Europe, Asia and Africa? Which of the thirty thousand variantia are the Rule of Faith?" --John Adams to John Quincy Adams on 28 March 1816 [Hutson; reel 430; sequence?]
"... what is human Life? A Vapour [James 4:14], a Fog, a Dew, a Cloud, a Blossom, a Flower, a Rose, a blade of Grass, a glass Bubble, a Tale told by an Idiot [Macbeth 5:5], a Boule de Savon [soap bubble], Vanity of Vanities [Ecclesiastes 1:2]...
All Nations, known in history or in Travels have hoped, believed and expected a future and a better State. The Maker of the Universe, the Cause of all Things, whether We call it, Fate or Chance or God has inspired this hope. If it is a Fraud, We Shall never know it. We Shall never resent the Imposition, be grateful for the Illusion, nor grieve for the disappointment. We Shall be no more..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 3 May 1816 * * *
"I do not like the late Resurrection of the Jesuits. They have a general, now in Russia, in correspondence with the Jesuits in the U.S., who are more numerous than every body knows. Shall we not have Swarms of them here? In as many Shapes and disguises as ever a King of the Gypsies, Bamfield More Carew himself, assumed? In the shape of Printers, Editors, Writers, Schoolmasters etc. I have lately read Pascalls letters over again, and four volumes of the History of the Jesuits. If ever any Congregation of men could merit, eternal Perdition on Earth and in Hell, according to these Historians, though like Pascal true Catholicks, it is this company Loiola [Loyola]. Our System however of religious Liberty must afford them an Assylum. But if they do not put the Purity of our Elections to a Severe Tryal, it will be a Wonder." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 6 May 1816 * *
"There is in human Nature a solid, unchangeable and eternal Foundation of Religion. There is also a germ of superstition, seemingly a fungeous growth or a spurious sprout, which the grossest Blockheads and the most atrocious Villains are able to cultivate into Systems and Sects to deceive millions and cheat and pillage hundreds and thousands of their fellow Creatures.
All religions have something good in them: but the Ambition and Avarice of Priests and Politicians have introduced into all of them, monstrous Corruptions and Abuses, and none more cruel bloody and horrible than into the Christian." --John Adams to John Quincy Adams on 10 May 1816 [Hutson; reel 431; sequence?]
"Government has no Right to hurt a hair of the head of an Atheist for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices." --John Adams to John Quincy Adams on 16 June 1816 [Hutson; reel 432]
"... We have now, it Seems a National Bible Society [American Bible Society], to propagate King James's Bible, through all Nations. Would it not be better to apply these pious SubScriptions, to purify Christendom from the Corruptions of Christianity; than to propagate those Corruptions in Europe Asia, Africa and America!
Suppose We Should project a Society to translate [Charles Francois] Dupuis [who said that Christianity is corrupted sun worship] into all Languages and offer a Reward in Medals and Diamonds to any Man or Body of Men who would produce the best answer to it... Conclude not from all this, that I have renounced the Christian Religion, or that I agree with Dupuis in all his Sentiments. Far from it. I see in every Page, Something to recommend Christianity in its Purity, and Something to discredit its Corruptions... The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my Religion..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 4 November 1816 * * (Note: John Quincy Adams (John Adams' son) was a vice president of American Bible Society from 1818-48.)
"Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it." --John Adams to John Quincy Adams on 13 November 1816 (unverified)
"... no change in my moral or religious creed, which has for 50 or 60 years been contained in four Short Words, "Be Just and good." ...
Is there any Work extant so well calculated to discredit Corruptions and Impostures in Religion as Dupuis." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 12 December 1816 *
"Jesus is benevolence personified. An example for all men. Dupuis has made no alteration in my opinions of the christian religion, in its primitive purity, and simplicity, which I have entertained for more than sixty years. it is the religion of reason, Equity and Love. It is the religion of the head and of the heart...
I cannot say with Dupuis that a revelation is impossible or improbable...
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? How has it happened that all of the fine arts, architecture, painting, sculpture, statuary, music, poetry, and oratory, have been prostituted, from the creation of the world, to the sordid and detestable purposes of superstition and fraud?
... Let it once be revealed or demonstrated that there is no future state, and my advice to every man, woman, and child, would be, as our existence would be in our own power, to take opium. For, I am certain, there is nothing in this world worth living for but hope, and every hope will fail us, if the last hope, that of a future state, is extinguished." --John Adams in a lettter to F. A. Van Der Kemp on 27 December 1816
"... [John Chetwode] Eustace is a Supplement to Dupuis; and both together contain a complete draught of the Superstition Credulity and Despotism of our terrestrial Universe. They show how Science Litteratur, Mechanic Arts, and those fine Arts of Architecture, Painting, Statuary, Poetry, Musick and Eloquence: which you Love so well, and taste So equisitely; have been Subservient to Priests and Kings Nobles and common Monarchies and Republics..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 2 February 1817 *
"... Your communications ... make us acquainted with what there is of excellent in our ancient sister state of Massachusetts, once venerated and beloved, and still hanging on our hopes, for what need we despair of after the resurrection of Connecticut to light and liberality. I had believed that, the last retreat of monkish darkness, bigotry, and abhorrence of those advances of the mind which had carried the other States a century ahead of them. they seemed still to be exactly where their forefathers were when they schismatised from the Covenant of works, and to consider, as dangerous heretics, all innovations good or bad. I join you therefore in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character. if, by religion, we are to understand Sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, 'that this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it'. but if the moral precepts, innate in man, and made a part of his physical constitution, as necessary for a social being, if the sublime doctrines of philanthropism and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth in which all agree, constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be, as you again say, 'something not fit to be named even, indeed a Hell'..." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams on 5 May 1817 * *
"Oh! Lord! Do you think a Protestant Popedom is annihilated in America? Do you recollect, or have you ever attended to the ecclesiastical Strifes in Maryland Pensilvania, New York, and every part of New England? What a mercy it is that these People cannot whip and crop, and pillory and roast, as yet in the U.S.? If they could they would..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 18 May 1817 * *
"radical change" in people's "religious sentiments of their duties and obligations" --13 Feb 1818 letter to Hezekiah Niles (unverified)
"I will not condescend to employ the word Toleration. I assert that unlimited freedom of religion, consistent with morals and property, is essential to the progress of society and the amelioration of the condition of mankind." --John Adams to Francis van der Kemp on 2 October 1818 [Hutson; reel 123]
"Religion always has and always will govern mankind. Man is constitutionally, essentially and unchangeably a religious animal. Neither philosophers or politicians can ever govern him in any other way." --John Adams to Francis van der Kemp on 2 October 1818 [Hutson; reel 123]
"I know not how to prove physically that We shall meet and know each other in a future State; Nor does Revelation, as I can find give Us any positive Assurance of Such a felicity. My reasons for believing, it, as I do, most undoubtedly, are all moral and divine.
I believe in God and in his Wisdom and Benevolence; and I cannot conceive that Such a Being could make Such a Species as the human merely to live and die on this Earth. If I did not believe in a future State I should believe in no God..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 8 December 1818 *
"You have construed the word Logos to signify Power but Pythagoras has employed it to signify the Ideas, the Intellect and the Intelligence of God or the reason of God. However he taught that these ideas, this intellect, this intelligence of God, had Power over the forms inherent in Matter sufficient to arrange it into this grand and beautiful Universe. Plato took his Philosophy from Timeus so that I consider Pythagorus as the most ancient Greek Philosopher from whom we can trace the Athanasian Creed... When the Pythagorean and Platonician Philonician Philosophers has once got the Word Logos into the Christian Religion they thought they might consistently or at least plausibly be converted to it and bring with them as many as they pleased of their own Philosophical or Sophistical notions." --John Adams to Andrew Norton on 13 December 1819 [Hutson; reel 124]
"have you ever found in history one single example of a Nation thoroughly Corrupted that was afterwards restored to Virtue __ and without Virtue, there can be no political Liberty.
If I were a Calvinist, I might pray that God by a Miracle of Divine grace would instantaneously convert a whole Contaminated Nation from turpitude to purity-- but even in this I should be inconsistent, for the fatalism of Mahometanism, Materialists, Atheists, Pantheists, and Calvinists __ and church of England Articles, appear to me to render all prayer futile and absurd __ the French and the Dutch in our day have attempted reforms and revolutions__ We know the results__ and I fear the English reformers will have no better success.__
Will you tell me how to prevent riches from becoming the effects of temperance and industry__ Will you tell me how to prevent riches from producing luxury__ Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminacy intoxication extravagance Vice and folly?__ ..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 21 December 1819 * * *
"When we say God is a Spirit... Let us be content therefore to believe Him to be a Spirit, that is, an Essence we know nothing of, in which originally and necessarily reside all energy- all Power, all Capacity, all Activity_ all Wisdom, all Goodness_" --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 20 January 1820 *
"This Year compleats a Century since my Uncle [Zabdiel] Boylston introduced the practice of Inoculation into the English Dominions; but what improvements have been made since 1720, partly by experience, but much more by the accidental discovery of Dr. [Edward] Jenner. The history of this Distemper is enough to humble human pride! Enough to demonstrate what ignorant Puppets we are! How we grope in the Dark! And what empty Phantoms we chase! You are not singular in your suspicions that you know but little. 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. Why should the "Vaccine" have been concealed from all Eternity and then instantaneously revealed? Why should the material World have slept in Non Entity from Eternity, then then created or awakened into Existence. Worm! Ask no such question! Do justly: Love Mercy Walk humbly: This is enough for you to know and to do. The World is a better one than you deserve; strive to make yourself more worthy of it." --John Adams to his granddaughter Caroline de Windt on 24 January 1820 [Hutson; reel 124]
"You know not the gratification you have given me by your kind, frank, and candid letter. I must be a very unnatural son to entertain any prejudices against the Calvinists, or Calvinism, according to your confession of faith; for my father and mother, my uncles and aunts, and all my predecessors, from our common ancestor, who landed in this country two hundred years ago, wanting five months, were of that persuasion. Indeed, I have never known any better people than the Calvinists. Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that I cannot class myself under that denomination. My opinions, indeed, on religious subjects ought not to be of any consequence to any but myself. To develop them, and the reasons for them, would require a folio larger than Willard's Body of Divinity, and, after all, I might scatter darkness rather than light.
Before I was twelve years of age, I necessarily became a reader of polemical writings of religion, as well as politics, and for more than seventy years I have indulged myself in that kind of reading, as far as the wandering, anxious, and perplexed kind of life, which Providence has compelled me to pursue, would admit. I have endeavored to obtain as much information as I could of all the religions which have ever existed in the world. Mankind are by nature religious creatures. I have found no nation without a religion, nor any people without the belief of a supreme Being. I have been overwhelmed with sorrow to see the natural love and fear of that Being wrought upon by politicians to produce the most horrid cruelties, superstitions, and hypocrisy, from the sacrifices to Moloch down to those of juggernaut, and the sacrifices of the kings of Whidah and Ashantee. The great result of all my researches has been a most diffusive and comprehensive charity. I believe with Justin Martyr, that all good men are Christians, and I believe there have been, and are, good men in all nations, sincere and conscientious. That you and I shall meet in a better world, I have no more doubt than I have that we now exist on the same globe. If my natural reason did not convince me of this, Cicero's dream of Scipio, and his essays on friendship and old age, would have been sufficient for the purpose. But Jesus has taught us, that a future state is a social state, when he promised to prepare places in his Father's house of many mansions for his disciples." --John Adams to Samuel Miller on 8 July 1820
"I have long been decided in opinion that a free government and the Roman Catholick religion can never exist together in any nation or Country..." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 3 February 1821 *
"Liberty and Popery cannot live together." --John Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams on 17 May 1821 [Hutson; reel 451]
"... It [the world] is better than we found it. Superstition, persecution, and bigotry are somewhat abated; governments are a little ameliorated; science and literature are greatly improved, and more widely spread. Our country has brilliant and exhilarating prospects before it..." --John Adams to David Sewall on 22 May 1821 (unverified)
"... these Bible Societies have been invented by deeper politicians still to divert mankind from the study and pursuit of their natural rights. I wish Societies were formed in India, China, and Turkey to send us gratis translations of their Sacred Books. One good turn deserves another." --John Adams to Stephen Sewall on 30 May 1821 (unverified, but JA knew Sewall. John Quincy Adams (John Adams' son) was a vice president of American Bible Society from 1818-48.)
"Question 1. Is this stupendous and immeasurable universe governed by eternal fate? 2. Is it governed by chance? 3. Is it governed by caprice anger resentment and vengeance? 4. Is it governed by intelligence wisdom and benevolence? The three first of these questions I have examined with as close attention as I am capable of & have decided them all forever in the negative. The 4th I have meditated with much more satisfaction & comfort to myself & decided unequivocally in the affirmative & from this last decision I have derived all my system of divinity." --John Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams on 11 November 1821 [Hutson; reel 124]
"I love and revere the memories of [Jan/John] Huss [John Wycliff] Wickliff [Martin] Luther [John] Calvin [Huldrych Zwingli] Zwinglius [Philipp Melanchthon] Melancton and all the other reformers how muchsoever I may differ from them in many theological metaphysical & philosophical points. As you justly observe, without their great exertions & severe sufferings the USA had never existed." --John Adams to F. C. Schaeffer on 25 November 1821 * [Hutson; reel 124; not in LoC TJ papers]
"I set at defiance all ecclesiastical authority--all their creeds, confessions & excommunications; they have no authority over me more than I have over them..." --John Adams to Alexander Johnson on 22 April 1823 [Hutson; reel 124]
"If I understand the Doctrine, it is, that if God the first second or third or all three together are united with or in a Man, the whole Animal becomes a God and his Mother is the Mother of God.
It grieves me: it shocks me to write in this stile upon a subject the most adorable that any finite Intelligence can contemplate or embrace: but if ever Mankind are to be superior to the Brutes, sacerdotal Impostures must be exposed." --John Adams to Francis van der Kemp on 23 October 1816 [Hutson; reel 122]
"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 Hershell's universe, came down to this little Ball to be spit upon by Jews; and untill this awful blasphemy [Jesus] is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 22 January 1825 *
"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. 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." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 23 January 1825 * * *
"I am certainly very near the end of my life. I am far from trifling with the idea of Death which is a great and solemn event. But I contemplate it without terror or dismay, "aut transit, aut finit", if finit, which I cannot believe, there is then an end of all but I shall never know it, and why should I dread it, which I do not; if transit I shall ever be under the same constitution and administration of Government in the Universe, and I am not afraid to trust and confide in it." --John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on 14 January 1826 [Hutson]
"You know the opinion I formerly entertained of my friend Mr. Adams. Yourself & the governor were the first who shook that opinion. I afterwards saw proofs which convicted him of a degree of vanity, and of a blindness to it, of which no germ had appeared in Congress. A 7-month's intimacy with him here and as many weeks in London have given me opportunities of studying him closely. He is vain, irritable and a bad calculator of the force & probable effect of the motives which govern men. This is all the ill which can possibly be said of him. He is as disinterested as the being which made him: he is profound in his views: and accurate in his judgment except where knowledge of the world is necessary to form a judgment. He is so amiable, that I pronounce you will love him, if ever you become acquainted with him. He would be, as he was, a great man in Congress." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison on 30 January 1787 * (cipher) *
"the President's title [His Highness the President of the United States of America, and Protector of their Liberties *], as proposed by the Senate, was the most superlatively ridiculous thing I ever heard of. it is a proof the more of the justice of the character given by Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin of my friend [John Adams]. Always an honest man, often a great one, but sometimes absolutely mad." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison on 29 July 1789 * (cipher) *
"Every tyro knows that heathen philosophy and Jewish ceremonies have been intermixed with Christianity. But what then? ... If Christianity has been corrupted? What then? What has not?" --John Adams in a marginal note in Bolingbroke's essay Concerning Authority in Matters of Religion [Haraszti 70]
"... 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." --John Adams in a marginal note in Joseph Priestley's Early Opinions Concerning Jesus Christ [Haraszti 288]
"There is no such thing [morality] without a supposition of a God. There is no right or wrong in the universe without the supposition of a moral government and an intellectual and moral governor." --John Adams in a marginal note in Condorcet's Outlines of a Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind * [Haraszti 252]