John Adams Quotes

John Adams (1735-1826) was an American lawyer, diplomat, statesman, political theorist, one of the Founding Fathers, and the second U.S. President.

Adams assisted Jefferson in creating the Declaration of Independence and had an important role in convincing the Congress to declare independence. Adams was also responsible for peace negotiations with Great Britain. His son, John Quincy Adams, was also involved in politics, and became the sixth U.S. President in 1825.

John Adams Quotes

I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, two men are called a Law Firm, and three or more are called a Congress.

— John Adams

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, February 13, 1818

It [is] more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer. The reason is, because it is of more importance to the community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in the world, that all of them cannot be punished; and many times they happen in such a manner, that it is not of much consequence to the public, whether they are punished or not. But when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security. And if such a sentiment as this should take place in the mind of the subject, there would be an end to all security whatsoever.

— John Adams

Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.

— John Adams

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.

— John Adams

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, 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

It would be an absurdity for jurors to be required to accept the judge’s view of the law, against their own opinion, judgment, and conscience.

— John Adams

Arms in the hands of citizens (may) be used at individual discretion…in private self defense…

— John Adams

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

— John Adams, In a letter to John Taylor on 15 April, 1814.

Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.

— John Adams

Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.

— John Adams

The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.

— John Adams, Quoted in Hunter Miller’s Treaties 2:365