Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wisdom from John Adams

There is so little wisdom coming from today's political class, I thought we could all use a dose of wisdom from one of my favorite founders.

Here are a few quotes of Great Wisdom from one of the men who was most responsible for creating this Nation, and one of my favorite Presidents, John Adams.

“License of the press is no proof of liberty. When a people are corrupted, the press may be made an engine to complete their ruin; and it is now notorious, that the ministry are daily employing it, to increase and establish corruption, and to pluck up virtue by the roots. Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence, than the body can live and move without a soul.”

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which the beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that then I 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. I could, therefore, safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles. In favor of these general principles, in philosophy, religion, and government, I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederic of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke; not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.”

“Upon the whole, if we allow that two-thirds of the people to have been with us in the revolution, is not the allowance ample? Are not two-thirds of the nation now with the administration? Divided we ever have been, and ever must be. Two thirds always had and will have more difficulty to struggle with the one-third than with all our foreign enemies.”

“If I were to calculate the divisions among the people of America… I should say that full one-third were averse to the revolution. These, retaining that overweening fondness, in which they had been educated, for the English, could not cordially like the French; indeed, they most heartily detested them. An opposite third conceived a hatred for the English, and gave themselves up to an enthusiastic gratitude to France. The middle third, composed principally of the yeomanry, the soundest part of the nation, and always adverse to war, were rather lukewarm both to England and France; and sometimes stragglers from them, and sometimes the whole body, united with the first of the last third, according to circumstances.”

“As rest is rapture to the weary man, those who labor little will always be envied by those who labor much, though the latter in reality be probably the most enviable.”
“There are no people on earth so ambitious as the people of America. The reason is, because the lowest can aspire as freely as the highest.”

“That all men are born to equal rights is true. Every being has a right to his own, as clear, as moral, as sacred, as any other being has. This is indubitable as a moral government in the universe. But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in society, to equal prosperity and advantages through life, is a gross fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credulity of the people, as ever was practiced by the monks, by Druids, by Brahmins, by priests of the immortal Lama, or by self-styled philosophers of the French Revolution.”

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent it in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

“A popular government is the worst curse to which human nature can be devoted, when it is thoroughly corrupted. Despotism is better. A sober, conscientious habit of electing for the public good alone must be introduced, and every appearance of interest, favor, and partiality reprobated, or you will very soon make wise and honest men wish for monarchy again; nay, you will make them introduce it into America.”

“After a generous contest for liberty, of twenty years’ continuance, Americans forgot wherein liberty consisted. After a bloody war in defense of property, they forgot that property was sacred. After an arduous struggle for the freedom of commerce, they voluntarily shackled it with arbitrary trammels. After fighting for justice as the end of government, they seemed determined to banish that virtue from the earth.”

“The numbers of men in all ages have preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer to liberty, when they have been in competition. We must not then depend alone upon the love of liberty in the soul of man for its preservation. Some political institutions must be prepared, to assist this love against its enemies. Without these, the struggle will ever end only in a change of impostors.”

“Such is the nature of the people, and such the construction of our government, that about once in a dozen years there will be an entire change in the administration. I lived twelve years as President and Vice-President; Jefferson may possibly last sixteen; but New York and Pennsylvania cannot remain longer than that period in their present unnatural attachment to the Southern States, nor will the natural inconstancy of the people allow them to persevere longer in their present career. Our government will be a game of leap frog, of factions leaping over one another’s backs about once in twelve years, according to my calculations.”

“I hope it will be no offense to say, that public opinion is often formed upon imperfect, partial, and false information from the press.”

“We shall very soon have parties formed; a court and country party, and these parties will have names given them. One party in the House of Representatives will support the President and his measures and ministers; the other will oppose them. A similar party will be in the Senate; these parties will study with all their arts, perhaps with intrigue, perhaps with corruption, at every election to increase their own friends and diminish their opposers. Suppose such parties formed in the Senate, and then consider what factious divisions we shall have there upon every nomination.” July 1789

“Borrowed eloquence, if it contains as good stuff, is as good as own eloquence.”
“Can you account for the apathy, the antipathy of this nation to their own history? While thousands of frivolous novels are read with eagerness and got by heart, the history of our own native country is not only neglected, but despised and abhorred.”

Wasn't that refreshing for a change? Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did putting it together.

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