120 John Adams Quotes

Are you on the hunt for some John Adams quotes? Then you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, we’re bringing you 120 quotes from the principal author of the oldest constitution still in use in the world today—the Massachusetts Constitution. Here, Adams put emphasis on individual liberties like freedom of the press and freedom of religion. So, be sure you don’t miss out!

Start reading the full list here.

Best John Adams Quotes

1. “Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.”

2. “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.”

3. “There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

4. “I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy.”

5. “I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough. The more one reads, the more one sees that we have to read.”

6. “When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation.”

7. “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and converting measures in opposition to each other.”

8. “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.”

9. “It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy.”

10. “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.”

11. “Think of no other greatness but that of the soul; no other riches but those of the heart.”

12. “Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”

13. “A constitution of government, once changed from freedom, can never be restored.”

14. “Democracy has never been and never can be as durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either.”

15. “If innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, ‘Whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,’ and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen, that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

16. “Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”

17. “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.”

18. “The longer I live, the more I read and the more patiently I think; and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know.”

19. “Regard the honor and moral character of the man more than all other circumstances.”

John Adams Quotes on Democracy and Politics

20. “The United States of America has exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature.”

21. “The government has no right to hurt a hair on the head of an Atheist for his opinions. Let him have a care of his practices.”

22. “The happiness of society is the end of government.”

23. “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

24. “When the people once surrendered their share in the legislature and their right of defending the limitations upon the government, and of resisting every encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.”

25. “Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net.”

26. “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.”

27. “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.”

28. “Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.”

29. “The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber or kill a flea.”

30. “We think ourselves possessed, or at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact!”

31. “No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.”

32. “I have accepted a seat in the House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and to the ruin of our children. I give you this warning that you may prepare your mind for your fate.”

33. “We shall convince France and the world, that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and a sense of inferiority, fitted to be the miserable instruments of foreign influence, and regardless of national honor, character, and interest.”

34. “A government of laws, and not of men.”

35. “The liberty, the unalienable, indefeasible rights of men, the honor and dignity of human nature, the grandeur and glory of the public, and the universal happiness of individuals, were never so skillfully and successfully consulted as in that most excellent monument of human art—the common law of England.”

36. “We hear very often declarations on the demoralizing tendency of war; but as much as I hate war, I cannot be of the opinion that frequent wars are so corrupting to human nature as long peace.”

37. “The national defense must be provided for as well as the support of the government, but both should be accomplished, as much as possible, by immediate taxes, and as little as possible by loans.”

38. “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country—one is by the sword, the other is by debt.”

39. “There is nothing in which mankind has been more unanimous; yet nothing can be inferred from it more than this—that the multitude have always been credulous, and the few artful.”

40. “Cities may be rebuilt, and a people reduced to poverty may acquire fresh property.”

41. “The whole drama of the world is such a tragedy that I am weary of the spectacle.”

42. “When the legislature is corrupted, the people are undone.”

43. “Property monopolized or in the possession of a few is a curse to mankind.”

44. “If the way to do good to my country were to render myself popular, I could easily do it. But extravagant popularity is not the road to public advantage.”

45. “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two become a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.”

46. “In general, our generals were out generalled.”

47. “This wasted time I have found by constant experience to be as indispensable as sleep.”

48. “Defeat appears to me preferable to total inaction.”

49. “Those who trade liberty for security have neither.”

John Adams Quotes on Religion and Faith

50. “There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny, or to doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations.”

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

52. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.”

53. “Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?”

54. “God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is gotten rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.”

55. “The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or Mohammedan Nation.”

56. “Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company—I mean Hell.”

57. “He wrote as a young man that God’s noblest gift was the gift of an inquiring mind.”

58. “Jesuits have been a greater calamity to mankind than the French Revolution or Napoleon’s despotism or ideology. It has obstructed the progress of reformation and the improvement of the human mind in society much longer and more fatally.”

59. “A man ought to avow his opinions and defend them with boldness.”

60. “You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.”

61. “The blood upon his soul and a few others of equal delicacy, had as much weight with the people as his arguments.”

62. “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved.”

63. “With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.”

64. “Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.”

John Adams Quotes on Commitment and Values

65. “All the perplexities, confusion, and distress in America arise, not from want of honor or virtue, but from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.”

66. “There are persons whom in my heart I despise, others I abhor. Yet I am not obliged to inform the one of my contempt, nor the other of my detestation. This kind of dissimulation is a necessary branch of wisdom, and so far from being immoral that it is a duty and a virtue.”

67. “The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties.”

68. “ Great necessities call out great virtues.”

69. “Now to what higher object, to what greater character, can any mortal aspire than to be possessed of all this knowledge, well digested and ready at command, to assist the feeble and friendless, to discountenance the haughty and lawless, to procure redress to wrongs, the advancement of rights, to assert and maintain liberty and virtue to discourage and abolish tyranny and vice.”

70. “Knowledge in the head and virtue in the heart, time devoted to study or business, instead of show and pleasure, are the way to be useful and consequently happy.”

71. “I cannot think of either vanity or virtue to acknowledge that the acquisition and communication of knowledge are the sole entertainment of my life.”

72. “When public virtue is gone, when the national spirit is fled, the republic is lost in essence, though it may still exist in form.”

73. “There are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth—those with commitment, and those who require the commitment of others.”

74. “Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

75. “You will ever remember that all the end of study is to make you a good man and a useful citizen.”

76. “To believe all men are honest is folly. To believe none is something worse.”

77. “Politeness, delicacy, and]decency are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.”

78. “If men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history.”

79. “Intimacy with most people will make you acquainted with vices, and errors, and follies enough to make you despise them.”

80. “The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families.”

81. “I wish I could lay down beside her and die too.”

82. “Human nature, with all its infirmities and deprivation, is still capable of great things.”

83. “It is capable of attaining to degrees of wisdom and goodness, which we have reason to believe, appear as respectable in the estimation of superior intelligences.”

84. “Among all the disappointments and perplexities which have fallen my share in life, nothing has contributed so much to support my mind as the choice blessing of a wife.”

John Adams Quotes on Rule and Power

85. “Power must never be trusted without a check.”

86. “Is the jealousy of power and the envy of superiority so strong in all men, that no considerations of public or private utility are sufficient to engage their submission to rules for their own happiness?”

87. “It was the general opinion of ancient nations, that the divinity alone was adequate to the important office of giving laws to men.”

88. “The way to secure liberty is to place it in the people’s hands. That is, to give them the power at all times to defend it in the legislature and in the courts of justice.”

89. “There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”

90. “The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”

91. “Admire and adore the author of the telescopic universe, love and esteem the work, do all in your power to lessen ill, and increase good, but never assume to comprehend.”

92. “The virtues and powers to which men may be trained, by early education and constant discipline, are truly sublime and astonishing.”

93. “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”

94. “I shall never shine ’til some animating occasion calls forth all my powers.”

95. “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.”

96. “An honest, sensible, humane man, above all the littlenesses of vanity and extravagances of imagination, labouring to do good rather than be rich, to be useful rather than make a show, living in a modest simplicity clearly within his means and free from debts or obligations, is really the most respectable man in society, makes himself and all about him the most happy.”

97. “Always stand on principle even if you stand alone.”

98. “The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt despotism. There is no other alternative.”

99. “Power always thinks that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

John Adams Quotes on Knowledge, Education, and Books

100. “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people who have a right from the frame of their nature to knowledge.”

101. “Make things, rather than persons, the subjects of conversations.”

102. “Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”

103. “They shall not be expected to acknowledge us until we have acknowledged ourselves.”

104. “It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.”

105. “I want to see my wife and children every day. I want to see my grass and blossoms and corn. But above all, except the wife and children, I want to see my books.”

106. “Education makes a greater difference between man and man, than nature has made between man and brute.”

107. “I discovered books and read forever.”

108. “Eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame and preferment, at least unless it be used with great caution, very rarely, and with great reserve.”

109. “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”

110. “I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.”

111. “You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.”

112. “Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”

113. “If worthless men are sometimes at the head of affairs, it is, I believe, because worthless men are at the tail and the middle.”

114. “Everything in life should be done with reflection.”

115. “The true source of our sufferings has been our timidity.”

116. “Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society.”

117. “When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”

118. “He is too illiterate, unread, and unlearned for his station and reputation.”

119. “A taste for literature and a turn for business, united in the same person, never fails to make a great man.”

120. “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.”

Did This Collection Give You a Glimpse of What’s It’s Like to Bear Heavy Responsibilities?

John Adams was the second President of the United States, and as president of a developing nation, he bore the weight of the country on his shoulders. During his time, he established radical reforms and focused his administration on advocating for education and fighting for his people’s freedom. To this day, John Adams is remembered as a leader with unwavering perseverance and integrity—fighting for what’s right and bringing America to success.

What do you think of John Adams’ principles? Which quotes are your favorites? Comment your thoughts below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

Leave a Comment