Per Wikipedia, “John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States, from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain, and he served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history, including his wife and adviser Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson.”
Since he was prolific as a writer and thought leader, Adams left us with many quotes to demonstrate his thought process in context of such an important part of our history. Here are only a few courtesy of “The Quotable John Adams” edited by Randy Howe.
“I am a mortal and irreconcilable enemy to monarchy.”
“My fundamental maxim of government is never to trust the lamb to the wolf.”
“You ask, how has it happened that all Europe has acted on the principle, ‘that Power was Right’…..Power always sincerely, conscientiously….believes itself right. Power must never be trusted without a check.”
“The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, and they ought to be separated.”
“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”
“Is there no way for two friendly souls to converse together, although the bodies are 400 miles off. Yes, by letter. But, I want a better communication. I want to hear you think, or to see your thoughts.” (note from one of many letters to his wife and best friend Abigail).
“I cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you, an inactive spectator….We have too many high sounding words, and too fee actions that correspond with them.”
“I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature; and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and like the grave, cries ‘Give, give!'”
The above covers concern over power to a limited few, to the need for separation of church and state, to admonitions of the need to have a thirst for learning. HBO did an excellent mini-series on Adams derived from the many letters between John, played by Paul Giamatti, Abigail, played by Laura Linney.
The most impactful part of the mini-series is when John impressed his more rambunctious cousin Samuel Adams that the rule of law is important. This came to a head when John defended in court some British troops who had been unfairly accused of killing some rabble rousers before the American Revolution. Samuel wanted them to hang, but John said they must get a fair trial.
Doing things the right way matters. The rule of law matters. Even in times of strife.