John Adams’ Thoughts on Government, Religion, and Freedom

 “And liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people who have a right from the frame of their nature to knowledge, as their great Creator who does nothing in vain has given them understandings and a desire to know.” ((The numbers document the page for the quote in John Adams by David McCullough, 2001. 60)

“Statesmen, my dear Sir, plan and speculate for Liberty but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom securely stand.” (Letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776)

“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.”  (Message to Massachusetts’ military officers, October 11, 1798)

“Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.”  (Article III of the Northwest Ordinance)

“The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved. . . .”

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”  (70)

“. . . that form of government with virtue as its foundation was more likely than any other to promote the general happiness.” (102)

In his Thoughts on Government, he called for a “government of laws, and not of men.”

Advocating the principle of separation and balance of powers, he wrote in A Constitution or Form of Government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “. . . the legislative, executive and judicial power shall be placed in separate departments, to the end that it might be a government of laws, and not of men.” (223)

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