John Adams

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Young John Adams grew up on his father's farm. He liked to hunt and his favorite subject was math. After graduating from Harvard in 1755, he became a schoolmaster. He taught during the day and studied law at night, and three years later became a lawyer. In 1770 he defended the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre in court, because he detested unruly mobs. Only two, Matthew Kilroy and Hugh Montgomery, were found guilty. They were sentenced to have their thumbs branded and were sent back to their regiment. As the regiment was set to sail to New Jersey, Hugh Montgomery confessed to his lawyers that he had shouted on that fateful night, "Damn you, fire!"

On February 22, 1756, John Adams made the entry in his diary: "Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God...What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."

John Adams believed in miracles and was not a deist
In 1756, Adams made this diary entry: "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 Jesus Christ. Although some very thoughtful 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 into the grossest opinions and the grossest practices. These...could not be made to embrace the true religion till their attention was roused by some astonishing and miraculous appearances. The reasoning of philosophers...could not overcome the force of prejudice, custom, passion, and bigotry. But when wise and virtuous men commissioned from heaven, by miracles awakened men's attention to their reasonings, the force of truth made its way with ease to their minds."

John Adams wrote patriotic essay (1765)
In 1765, John Adams published his "Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law." It informed colonists of how their ancestors escaped persecution but retained their rights and privileges. In conclusion, He exclaims, "let the pulpit resound with the doctrines and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear the danger of thralldom to our consciences, from ignorance, extreme poverty and dependence, in short, from civil and political slavery. Let us see delineated before us, the true map of man -- let us hear the dignity of his nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God! that consenting to slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust, as offensive in the sight of God, as it is derogatory from our own honour, or interest, of happiness; and that God Almighty has promulgated from heaven, liberty, peace, and good will to man."

John Adams was a member of the First Continental Congress (1774)
John Adams wrote to his wife regarding the opening session of the First Congress: "When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with Prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York, and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments...that we could not join in the same act of worship. Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot, and could hear a Prayer from any gentleman of Piety and virtue, who was at the same time a friend to his Country. ...Accordingly, next morning \[Reverend Mr. Duche'\] several prayers...and read...the thirty-fifth Psalm. You must remember, this was the next morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston. ...After this, Mr. Duche', unexpectedly to every body, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. ...It has had an excellent effect upon everybody here. I must beg you to read that Psalm."

"Religion and Morality alone" establish and support freedom
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."

The day following Congressional approval of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote his wife: "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever. ...I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even though we \[may regret\] it, which I trust in God we shall not."

His close friend considered Adams to be a man of integrity
In 1777, Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote his comments regarding John Adams: "He was a stranger to dissimulation, and appeared to be more jealous of his reputation for integrity than for talents or knowledge. He was strictly moral, and at all times respectful to religion. In speaking of the probable issue of the war he said to me in Baltimore in the winter of 1777, 'We shall succeed in our struggle, provided we repent of our sins, and forsake them,' and then he added, 'I will see it out, or go to heaven in its ruins.'"

John Adams was an ambassador to France
On June 2, 1778, while in Paris, John Adams made the entry in his diary: "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, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?"

John Adams signed the Treaty of Paris
On September 3, 1783, John Adams, along with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, signed the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the War with the British: "In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith,...and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences....Done at Paris, this third day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three."

John Adams was the first Vice-President of the United States
John Adams was Vice-President under George Washington from 1789 to 1797. On August 14, 1796, he made this diary entry: "One great advantage of the Christian religion is that it brings the great principle of the law of nature and nations -- Love your neighbor 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. ...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 and political, as well as domestic and private duties. Prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, are thus taught to be the means and conditions of future as well as present happiness."

John Adams was the second President of the United States (1797-1801)
In John Adams' inaugural address, he stated: "...the representatives of this nation...not only broke to pieces the chains which were forging and the rod of iron that was lifted up, but frankly cut asunder the ties which had bound them... With humble reverence, I feel it to be my duty to add, if 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, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect. ...And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessings upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His Providence."

John Adams' wife quoted scripture to encourage him
John Adams married Abigail Smith in 1764. Abigail quoted Solomon's prayer upon his election as the 2nd President of the United States: "You have this day to declare yourself head of a nation. 'And now, O Lord, my God, Thou hast made thy servant ruler over the people. Give unto him an understanding heart, that he may know how to go out and come in before this great people; that he may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge this thy so great a people?' were the words of a royal Sovereign; and not less applicable to him who is invested with the Chief Magistracy of a nation, though he wear not a crown, nor robes of royalty. ...Though personally petitions to Heaven are that "the things which make for peace may not be hidden from your eyes."...That you may be enabled to discharge them with honor to yourself, with justice and impartiality to your country, and with satisfaction to this great people, shall be the daily prayer of your Abigail Adams."

History of tributes and treaties with Tripoli and other Muslim powers (1783-1817)
Muslim Barbary Powers (Tunis, Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli, and Turkey) were warring against the "Christian" nations (England, France, Spain, Denmark, and the US) in retaliation for Crusades of previous centuries. From about 1783 to 1817 these Barbary pirates attacked undefended American merchant ships and enslaved "Christian" seamen. In exchange for "tribute", American envoys negotiated numerous treaties with the Barbary nations to ensure "protection" of American merchant ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Upon receipt of such tribute, one Barbary ruler said, "To speak truly and candidly...we must acknowledge to you that we have never received articles of the kind of so excellent a quality from any Christian nation." The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli cost America "...forty thousand Spanish dollars, thirteen watches of gold, silver & pinsbach, five rings, of which three of diamonds, one of saphire and one with a watch in it, One hundred & forty piques of cloth, and four caftans of brocade."

The Muslims warred with the United States because we were a Christian nation, but to prevent escalation of a "Holy War", Article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli stated: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen (Muslims) and as the said States (America) have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." Article 11 was dropped eight years later when the treaty was renegotiated.

John Adams affirmed treaty was between American Christians and Barbary Muslims
While discussing the Barbary conflict with Thomas Jefferson, President John Adams declared: "The policy of Christendom has made cowards of all their sailors before the standard of Mahomet. It would be heroical and glorious in us to restore courage to ours." President John Adams, along with Congress, ratified the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797. The treaty of Tripoli remained on the books for eight years, at which time the treaty was renegotiated, and Article 11 was dropped.

General Eaton confirmed it was a battle between American Christians and Barbary Muslims
President John Adams appointed General William Eaton as "Consul to Tunis", and he later led military expeditions against Tripoli. Eaton's official correspondence during his service confirms that the conflict was a Muslim war against a Christian America. Eaton apprised the Secretary of State as to why the Muslims would be such fearsome foes: "Taught by revelation that war with the Christians will guarantee the salvation of their souls, and finding so great secular advantages in the observance of this religious duty \[the secular advantage of keeping captured cargoes\], their inducements to desperate fighting are very powerful." To a new Secretary of State, Eaton wrote: "It is a maxim of the Barbary States, that "The Christians who would be on good terms with them must fight well or pay well."

General Eaton found Muslims unaccepting of Christians in peace
When General Eaton ended his military action against Tripoli, he noted in his personal journal: "April 8th. We find it almost impossible to inspire these wild bigots with confidence in us or to persuade them that, being Christians, we can be otherwise than enemies to Musselmen. We have a difficult undertaking! ...May 23rd. Hassien Bey, the commander in chief of the enemy's forces, has offered by private insinuation for my head six thousand dollars and double the sum for me a prisoner; and $30 per head for Christians."

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813, John Adams wrote: "The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved 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 these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence. Now I will avow, that I then believe, 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."

Adams believed in the future judgment of God, so he was not an infidel
In a letter to Judge F.A. Van der Kemp on January 13, 1815, John Adams stated: "I have searched after truth by every means and by every opportunity in my power, and with a sincerity and impartiality, for which I can appeal to God, my adored Maker. My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; in the hope of pardon for my offenses; upon contrition; upon the duty as well as the necessity of supporting with patience the inevitable evils of life; in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation, of which I am but an infinitesimal part. I believe, too, in a future state of rewards and punishments..."


Term Definition
contrition deep sorrow for sin for having offended and infinitely holy and benevolent God. The word is usually understood to mean genuine penitence, accompanied with a deep sense of ingratitude in the sinner, and sincere resolution to live in obedience to the divine law
deist someone who believes God created the world but that it continues without His miraculous intervention
dissimulation hypocrisy or the act of hiding under a false appearance
enmity hatred
infidel someone who does not believe in a God who judges peoples' actions nor in the Bible that dictates which actions are good and bad
integrity adherence to moral and ethical principles
Loyalist a person who adheres to his sovereign; particularly, one who maintains his allegiance to his prince, and defends his cause in times of revolt or revolution
Muslim believer in Allah and his prophet Mohammed (Mahomet), and the Koran
promulgated openly declared