Wisdom from John Adams

“Be not intimidated… nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.”


  1. Scott Pennington :

    If you want to see something really interesting, copy the quote above, paste it onto Google, remove the elipses ( . . . ), and hit search. What you will see is that it is mentioned on many, many sites, quoted exactly as Fr Johannes quotes it (i.e., with part of the text removed and replaced with elipses). I went through twelve pages of it. It would be interesting to know what was left out of the quote.

    As far as “liberty” is concerned: To Adams and the other Founding Fathers, “liberty” meant that only white males who owned a certain minimum amount of property could vote. Moreoever, the only represenative body in the government they designed was the House of Representatives which could accomplish nothing on its own. The Senate was appointed by the states, the president was chosen by electors, the Court nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Slavery and indentured servitude were the law of the land. A child as young as seven could be hanged if he commited a capital offense. Married women could not own property or be sued because a married couple were considered one person – – the man.

    The quote really only has meaning in context. America had broken away from a monarchy. Liberty to those men did not mean licentiousness, perversion or the exorcism of Christianity from the public sphere. It meant freedom for the landed gentry to run things. They bet their lives on that wager and won.

    It is interesting that he suggests that decency as it is often used really means cowardice. I don’t think that statement holds water today. It kind of reminds me of the arguments that liberal Episcopalians use against those who oppose their creative moral adventures.

    FYI, he also wrote the following:

    “In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.”

    “The proposition that the people are the best keepers of their own liberties is not true. They are the worst conceivable, they are no keepers at all; they can neither judge, act, think, or will, as a political body.”

    “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 is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

    “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

    And finally,

    “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”


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