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John Adams Quotes

Here are quotes by one of America's greatest founding fathers, John Adams, and related quotations about America's founding. For more history, see Founding Fathers.

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

Founding Fathers Quotes

As good government is an empire of laws, how shall your laws be made? In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.

John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

Founding Fathers Quotes

As long as Property exists, it will accumulate in Individuals and Families. As long as Marriage exists, Knowledge, Property and Influence will accumulate in Families.

John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 16, 1814

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775

Founding Fathers Quotes

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations...This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.

John Adams, letter to H. Niles, February 13, 1818

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions, 1787

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, letter to Evans, June 8, 1819

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, in Defense of the British Soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre, December 4, 1770

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

Founding Fathers Quotes

His Example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read.

John Adams, message to the U.S. Senate, December 19, 1799

Founding Fathers Quotes

Human government is more or less perfect as it approaches nearer or diverges farther from the imitation of this perfect plan of divine and moral government.

John Adams, draft of a Newspaper Communication, Circa August 1770

Founding Fathers Quotes

Human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. There is also in human nature a resentment of injury, and indignation against wrong. A love of truth and a veneration of virtue. These amiable passions, are the "latent spark"... If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the differences between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply than to the sense of this difference?

John Adams, the Novanglus, 1775

Founding Fathers Quotes

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

John Adams, to Abigail Adams, May 1770

Founding Fathers Quotes

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, 1780

Founding Fathers Quotes

I Pray Heaven to Bestow The Best of Blessing on THIS HOUSE, and on ALL that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof!

John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, November 2, 1800

Founding Fathers Quotes

I think he [Jefferson] had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me second. The committee met, discussed the subject, [of the Declaration of Independence] and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draught, I suppose because we were the two first on the list. The subcommittee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught. Adams: I will not. Jefferson: You should do it. Adams: Oh! no. Jefferson Why will you not? You ought to do it. Adams: I will not. Jefferson: Why? Adams: Reasons enough. Jefferson: What can be your reasons? Adams:

John Adams, to Thomas Jefferson concerning the drafting of the Declaration, June 1775

Founding Fathers Quotes

If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.

John Adams, Rights of the Colonists, 1772

Founding Fathers Quotes

If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?

John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776



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