by Bill Federer
John Adams was born Oct. 30, 1735. A Harvard graduate, he was admitted to the bar and married Abigail Smith in 1764.
When the Revolution started, John Adams recommended that George Washington be the commander-in-chief and that Thomas Jefferson pen the Declaration. John Adams authored Massachusetts’ 1780 Constitution, and was U.S. minister to France, where he signed the Treaty of Paris officially ending the Revolutionary War. While U.S. minister to Britain, John Adams met with his former king, George III.
Adams helped ratify the Constitution by writing “Defense of the Constitution of the Government of the United States.”
In 1765, John Adams wrote “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law”: “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”
Initially, the president was the one who received the most votes and the vice president was the one who received the second most votes. John Adams was elected vice president twice, serving under George Washington.
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In 1796, John Adams was elected the second U.S. president. He established the Library of Congress and the Department of Navy. His son, John Quincy, became sixth president.
In his “Braintree Instructions,” John Adams wrote: “The late acts of Parliament … divest us of our most essential rights and liberties. … The Stamp Act … a very burdensome, and … unconstitutional tax, is to be laid upon us. … We are subjected to … penalties, to be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered, at the option of an informer, in a court of admiralty, without a jury. … Business … would be totally impossible. … That act … would drain the country of its cash, strip multitudes of all their property, and reduce them to absolute beggary. … No freeman should be subject to any tax to which he has not given his own consent.”
In 1819, John Adams wrote to Jefferson: “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. … Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminacy, intoxication, extravagance, vice and folly? … No effort in favor of virtue is lost.”
In Paris, John Adams wrote in his diary, June 2, 1778: “In vain are schools, academies, and universities instituted, if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years. … 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 … their fathers (are) in as constant infidelity to their mothers?”
In “Novanglus: A History of the Dispute with America, from its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time,” John Adams wrote: “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. …
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, how much soever it may move the gall of Massachusetts.”
On June 21, 1776, John Adams wrote: “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.”
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