On this date in 1735, John Adams, who became second president of the United States, was born on a farm in Braintree (now Quincy) Massachusetts. Harvard-educated, he chucked ministerial studies for the law. In his Works, he wrote: "People are not disposed to inquire for piety, integrity, good sense or learning in a young preacher, but for stupidity (for so I must call the pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces), irresistible grace, and original sin" (vol. 1, p. 37). He married Abigail Smith (who later fruitlessly urged her husband to "remember the ladies" in the Constitution). Their son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth U.S. president. A revolutionary, John Adams wrote against the Stamp Act, was a delegate at the First and Second Continental Congresses, and proposed George Washington as commander of the military. Adams seconded the motion for the Declaration of Independence. He was also a diplomat. Adams carefully studied religion. According to the biography by his somewhat orthodox grandson, he was "very much in the mold accepted by the Unitarians of New England," while other historians put him squarely in the Deist camp. Adams wrote Thomas Jefferson: "Twenty times in the course of my late readings, I have been on the point of breaking out, 'This would be the best of all worlds if there were no religion in it!' " But Adams qualified by adding that, "Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company—I mean hell." (Works, vol. 10, p. 254). (Jefferson replied that if by religion Adams was referring to the orthodox type, he would agree with Adams' initial assessment.) Adams did not believe in miracles or prophecies, eternal damnation, or demonic possession, and wrote a History of the Jesuits as an expose. In the Massachusetts constitutional conventions of 1779 and 1820, he fought to separate church and that state. That reform was finally adopted after his death. He believed in an afterlife for emotional reasons. "If I did not believe in a future state, I should believe in no God," he wrote Jefferson (Works, vol. 10, pp. 362-363). Adams wrote a 3-volume treatise on the U.S. Constitution. He was Vice-President under George Washington from 1788 to 1796, and was elected president in 1796, serving one term. Although he and Jefferson died on the same day, July 4, 1826, Adams' dramatic dying words were: "Jefferson lives." D. 1826.
“Until this awful blasphemy [the Incarnation] is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.”
—John Adams, letter, Jan. 22, 1825, Works of J. Adams
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor, Image by John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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