John Adams, Expressions of Religious Belief,

and the Importance of Religion and Morality for America

 

Michael T. Griffith

2010

Second Edition

 

"Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell." (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817)

 

"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and all combinations of human society."  (Letter to Benjamin Rush, Auguest 28, 1811)

 

“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. . . . Now I will avow, that I then believed, 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.”  (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813)

 

“. . . 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. (“An Address to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts,” October 11, 1798)

 

“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.” (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1797)

 

“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 blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence.” (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1797)

 

“While with reverence and resignation we contemplate the dispensations of Divine Providence in the alarming and destructive pestilence with which several of our cities and towns have been visited, there is cause for gratitude and mutual congratulations that the malady has disappeared and that we are again permitted to assemble in safety at the seat of Government for the discharge of our important duties. . . .

 

“While we think on this calamity and sympathize with the immediate sufferers, we have abundant reason to present to the Supreme Being our annual oblations of gratitude for a liberal participation in the ordinary blessings of His providence.” (Second Annual Message, December 8, 1798)

 

“It would be unbecoming the representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and imploring His blessing.

 

“May this territory be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city may that piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government, which adorned the great character whose name it bears be forever held in veneration! Here and throughout our country may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion flourish forever!” (Fourth Annual Message, November 22, 1800)

 

“Saw Lawyer Thachers Father, at Mr. Niles's. He said old Coll. Thatcher of Barnstable was an excellent man. "He was a very holy man. I used to love to hear him pray. He was a Counsellor, and a Deacon. I have heard him say, that of all his Titles, that of a Deacon, he tho't the most honourable." Old Age has commonly a sense of the Importance and Dignity of Religion.” (Diary of John Adams, October 17, 1758)

 

“It grieves me to see any sect of Religion extinguished. I should be very sorry, to have the Quaker Society dissolved, so I should be sorry to have Condy's Anabaptist Society dissolved. I love to see a Variety. A Variety of Religions has the same Beauty in the Moral World, that a Variety of flowers has in a Garden, or a Variety of Trees in a forrest.” (Diary of John Adams, August 19, 1760)

 

“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 Concience to temperance and frugality and industry, to justice and kindness and Charity towards his fellow men, and to Piety and Love, and reverence towards almighty God. In this Commonwealth, no man would impair his health by Gluttony, drunkenness, or Lust-no man would sacrifice his most precious time to cards, or any other trifling and mean amusement-no man would steal or lie or any way defraud his neighbour, but would live in peace and good will with all men-no man would blaspheme his maker or prophane his Worship, but a rational and manly, a sincere and unaffected Piety and devotion, would reign in all hearts. What a Eutopa, what a Paradise would this region be.” (Diary of John Adams, February 22, 1756)

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Michael T. Griffith holds a Master’s degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force, and an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College.  He is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, in Arabic and Hebrew, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas, and has completed advanced Hebrew programs at Haifa University in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England.  He is also the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts and one book on the John F. Kennedy assassination.