American Minute with Bill Federer John Adams & sons: An Inheritance of American Liberty
John Adams wrote to his cousin, Rev. Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776:
“Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, bu t it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.
The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure, than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”
On July 1, 1776, John Adams wrote to Archibald Bullock:
“The object is great which we have in view, and we must expect a great expense of blood to obtain it.
But we should always remember that a free Constitution of civil Government cannot be purchased at too dear a rate as there is nothing, on this side (of) the New Jerusalem, of equal importance to Mankind.”
On July 1, 1776, John Adams spoke to the delegates of the Thirteen Colonies at the Continental Congress:
“Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it.
All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration.
It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence forever!”
The Continental Congress selected John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, Roger Sherman and Thomas Jefferson to be on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams personally urged Thomas Jefferson to write the draft.
In contemplating the effect that separation from England would mean to him personally, John Adams wrote:
“If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may.
But while I do live, let me have a country, and that a free country!”
On July 3, 1776, the day following Congress’ approval of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail Adams:
“It is the will of heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever.
It may be the will of heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distresses yet more dreadful … The furnace of affliction produces refinements, in states as well as individuals …
You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the causes, which have impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man …
The new governments we are assuming … will require a purification from our vices and an augmentation of our virtues or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power.
And the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. I am not without apprehensions from this quarter, but I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”
As the 2nd President, John Adams wrote, April 26, 1777:
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom!
I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”
John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, was the 6th U.S. President.
He stated, March 4, 1825:
“‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain,’ with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling Providence I commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future destinies of my country.”
John Quincy Adams’ son, Charles Francis Adams, was a Congressman from Massachusetts.
Lincoln appointed him U.S. Minister to Britain where he helped convince England to stay neutral during the Civil War.
He published the letters of his grandmother, Abigail Adams, and The Works of John Adams, Esq., Second President of the United States.
Charles Francis Adams wrote:
“In many things I defer more to the authority of my grandfather whose political sagacity appears to have been the most striking characteristic of his life.”
“The American experiment is the most tremendous and far reaching engine of social change which has ever either blessed or cursed mankind.”
“All equally see in the convulsion in America an era in the history of the world, out of which must come in the end a general recognition of the right of mankind to the produce of their labor and the pursuit of happiness.”
Charles Francis Adams warned of apathy, while industrialist corporations hire lobbyists to usurp power:
“In this country … men seemed to live for action as long as they can and sink into apathy when they retire.”
“We shall see these great corporations spanning the continent from ocean to ocean — single, consolidated lines … with termini at New York and San Francisco … These future leviathans have … chosen their attorneys Senators of the United States. Now their power is in its infancy; in a very few years they will re-enact, on a larger theatre and on a grander scale.”
“Public corruption is the foundation on which corporations always depend for their political power. There is a natural tendency to coalition between them and the lowest strata of political intelligence and morality … The lobby is their home, and the lobby thrives as political virtue decays. The ring is their symbol of power, and the ring is the natural enemy of political purity and independence.”
Charles Francis Adams’ son, Henry Adams, was a historian who wrote from his unique perspective of being related to some of America’s founders.
In his 9-volume work, History of the United States (C. Scribner’s Son, 1889), Henry Adams wrote:
“The Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Puritans of Boston, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, all avowed a moral purpose, and began by making institutions that consciously reflected a moral idea.”
Henry Adams recorded Thomas Jefferson’s attitude toward the Federal Government:
“Not three years had passed since Jefferson himself penned … the Kentucky Resolutions, in which he declared
‘that in cases of an abuse … where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy …
Each State has a natural right … to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits;
that without this right they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them.'”
Henry Adams wrote further regarding Jefferson:
“He went so far as to advise that every State should forbid, within its borders, the execution of any act of the general government ‘not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution’ …
Kentucky and Virginia … acted on the principle so far as to declare certain laws of the United States unconstitutional, with the additional understanding that whatever was unconstitutional was void …
Jefferson and his followers held that freedom could be maintained only by preserving inviolate the right of every State to judge for itself what was, or was not, lawful.”
Henry Adams stated:
“Power is poison. It’s effect on Presidents had always been tragic.”
Henry Adams became a professor at Harvard in 1870.
Henry Adams had tickets for the Titanic’s return voyage to Europe in 1912.
Upon hearing the Titanic sank, he suffered a stroke. He died March 27, 1918.
A student that Henry Adams taught at Harvard was Henry Cabot Lodge, who later edited Henry Adam’s autobiography.
Henry Cabot Lodge became U.S. Senator Majority Leader.
He was noted for keeping the United States out of the League of Nations, thereby thwarting Woodrow Wilson’s efforts toward internationalism.
Henry Cabot Lodge co-wrote with Theodore Roosevelt the book Hero Tales from American History, 1895, stating in the Preface:
“No people can be really great unless they possess … heroic virtues …
America will cease to be a great nation whenever her young men cease to possess energy, daring, and endurance, as well as the wish and the power to fight the nation’s foes …
He must also be able and willing to stand up for his own rights and those of his country against all comers … resisting either malice domestic or foreign levy.”
Lodge addressed the New England Society of Brooklyn, 1888:
“Let every man honor and love the land of his birth and the race from which he springs …
But let us have done with British-Americans and Irish-Americans and German-Americans, and so on, and all be Americans …
If a man is going to be an American at all let him be so without any qualifying adjectives; and if he is going to be something else, let him drop the word American from his personal description.”
Henry Cabot Lodge was quoted in the Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 8, 1891:
“Within the last decades the character of the immigration to this country has changed …
The immigration of the people who have settled and built up the nation during the last 250 years, and who have been, with trifling exceptions, kindred either in race or language or both is declining …
while the immigration of people who are not kindred … is increasing with frightful rapidity.
The great mass … come here at an age when education is unlikely if not impossible and when the work of Americanizing them is in consequence correspondingly difficult.
They also introduce an element of competition in the labor market which must have a disastrous effect upon the rate of American wages.”
After World War I, Henry Cabot Lodge warned the U.S. Senate, August 12, 1919, about the dangers of surrendering U.S. sovereignty to the international body – the League of Nations:
“Look at the United States today … We have had shortcomings … But none the less is there any country today on the face of the earth which can compare with this in ordered liberty, in peace, and in the largest freedom? …
It is well to remember that we are dealing with nations every one of which has a direct individual interest … There is grave danger in an unshared idealism …
… You may call me selfish if you will, conservative or reactionary … but an American I was born, an American I have remained all my life.
I can never be anything else but an American, and I must think of the United States first, and when I think of the United States first in an arrangement like this I am thinking of what is best for the world, for if the United States fails, the best hopes of mankind fail with it …”
“I have never had but one allegiance – I cannot divide it now.
I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league.
Internationalism, illustrated by the Bolshevik and by the men to whom all countries are alike provided they can make money out of them, is to me repulsive.
National I must remain, and in that way I like all other Americans can render the amplest service to the world.
The United States is the world’s best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her power for good and endanger her very existence.
Leave her to march freely through the centuries to come as in the years that have gone. Strong, generous, and confident, she has nobly served mankind.
Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance, this great land of ordered liberty, for if we stumble and fall freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.”
American Minute is a registered trademark of William J. Federer. Permission is granted to forward, reprint, or duplicate, with acknowledgment.