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Quote of the Day on an Adams Sunday

April 14, 2013

Today is Sunday, a day of rest, reflection and appreciation.  I read Adams’ words as they discuss civil society and honor.  Compare these statesmen to our modern politicians, if you can bear it.

john-adamsI start with a little John Adams-

“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.”

Except from a message addressed “to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts” dated October 11, 1798  after Adams left office.

Adams says our constitution alone is not a defense against corruption.  This is quite an admission coming from someone so involved in creating that same document.  John Adams sees honor as the greatest defender of liberty; honor in our citizens and honor in those they elect.

Samuel AdamsThen there is Samuel Adams, the second presidents second cousin.

[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man’s haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, —(and) to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves.  It is not, I say, unfrequent to see such instances, though at the same time I esteem it a justice due to my country to say that it is not without shining examples of the contrary kind; — examples of men of a distinguished attachment to this same liberty I have been describing; whom no hopes could draw, no terrors could drive, from steadily pursuing, in their sphere, the true interests of their country; whose fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.
The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.

Essay originally published in The Advertiser (1748) and later reprinted in The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams, Volume 1

These statesmen had in mind the modern citizen who asks what his government can do for him and the vain politician who buys votes with others liberty.  Exhibit A is a Howard Student To Rand Paul: “I Want A Government That Is Going To Help Me Fun d My Education”

help me

Government that is going to help me


Sigh.  To lift your spirits, I leave you with this poster.  Spend this Sunday wisely.


Reader response appreciated.



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