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date: 28 September 2021

John Adams 1735–1826
American Federalist statesman, 2nd President 1797–1801 

  1. The law, in all vicissitudes of government…will preserve a steady undeviating course…On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamours of the populace.
    argument in defence of the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, 4 December 1770; see Sidney
  2. 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.
    Notes for an Oration at Braintree (Spring 1772), in Diary and Autobiography of John Adams vol. 2 (1960)
  3. A government of laws, and not of men.
    in Boston Gazette (1774) no. 7; later incorporated in the Massachusetts Constitution (1780); see Ford
  4. I agree with you that in politics the middle way is none at all.
    letter to Horatio Gates, 23 March 1776
  5. You bid me burn your letters. But I must forget you first.
    letter to Abigail Adams, 28 April 1776
  6. 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.
    letter to Abigail Adams, 12 May 1780
  7. My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.
    of the vice-presidency
    letter to Abigail Adams, 19 December 1793
  8. You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.
    letter to Thomas Jefferson, 15 July 1813
  9. Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right…and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.
    A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765)
  10. The jaws of power are always opened to devour.
    A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law (1765)
  11. The happiness of society is the end of government.
    Thoughts on Government (1776)
  12. Fear is the foundation of most governments.
    Thoughts on Government (1776)