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John Adams

Geburtstag: 30. Oktober 1735
Todesdatum: 4. Juli 1826

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John Adams war einer der Gründerväter der Vereinigten Staaten und von 1789 bis 1797 der erste Vizepräsident sowie nach George Washington von 1797 bis 1801 der zweite Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten.

Adams entstammte einem puritanischen Elternhaus und erlernte nach einem Studium am Harvard College den Anwaltsberuf. In Boston kam er in der frühen Amerikanischen Revolution in Kontakt mit Samuel Adams und den Sons of Liberty. Anfangs noch loyal zur britischen Verfassung stehend, näherte er sich den nach Loslösung vom Mutterland strebenden Kolonisten zunehmend an. Als Mitglied des Kontinentalkongresses von 1774 bis 1778 trieb er die Unabhängigkeit der Dreizehn Kolonien vom Königreich Großbritannien voran. Zusammen mit Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin und anderen war er an der Konzeption der Unabhängigkeitserklärung der Vereinigten Staaten beteiligt.

Zwischen zwei diplomatischen Missionen in das Königreich Frankreich arbeitete Adams in der Heimat die Verfassung von Massachusetts aus. Danach führte er in Europa Verhandlungen mit dem Königreich Großbritannien, die im Jahr 1783 in den Frieden von Paris mündeten. Anschließend war Adams als Repräsentant für die junge Republik in unterschiedlichen Staaten tätig und ab 1785 erster Botschafter Amerikas in London.

Bei der ersten amerikanischen Präsidentschaftswahl im Jahr 1789 wurde Adams als Zweitplatzierter im Electoral College Vizepräsident unter George Washington. Bei den Wahlen 1792 konnte er dieses Amt gegen George Clinton verteidigen. Im entstehenden First Party System gehörte Adams zu den wichtigsten Vertretern der Föderalistischen Partei. Als deren Kandidat besiegte er bei den Präsidentschaftswahlen im Jahr 1796 knapp Thomas Jefferson von der Demokratisch-Republikanischen Partei. Die Amtszeit von Adams wurde durch den Quasi-Krieg mit dem revolutionären Frankreich und die Intrigen von Jefferson und Alexander Hamilton gegen ihn überschattet. Die bedeutsamste Gesetzgebung seiner Präsidentschaft waren die Alien and Sedition Acts. In einem stark polarisierenden Wahlkampf unterlag Adams 1800 Jefferson. Er zog sich danach ins Privatleben zurück und erlebte noch kurz vor seinem Lebensende, wie der älteste Sohn John Quincy Adams im Jahr 1824 zum Präsidenten gewählt wurde.

Zitate John Adams

„Human nature with all its infirmities and depravation is still capable of great things.“

— John Adams
Context: Human nature with all its infirmities and depravation is still capable of great things. 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. Education makes a greater difference between man and man, than nature has made between man and brute. The virtues and powers to which men may be trained, by early education and constant discipline, are truly sublime and astonishing. Newton and Locke are examples of the deep sagacity which may be acquired by long habits of thinking and study. Letter to Abigail Adams (29 October 1775), published Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, Vol. 1 (1841), ed. Charles Francis Adams, p. 72

„There are two tyrants in human life who domineer in all nations, in Indians and Negroes, in Tartars and Arabs, in Hindoos and Chinese, in Greeks and Romans, in Britons and Gauls, as well as in our simple, youthful, and beloved United States of America. These two tyrants are fashion and party“

— John Adams
Context: There are two tyrants in human life who domineer in all nations, in Indians and Negroes, in Tartars and Arabs, in Hindoos and Chinese, in Greeks and Romans, in Britons and Gauls, as well as in our simple, youthful, and beloved United States of America. These two tyrants are fashion and party. They are sometimes at variance, and I know not whether their mutual hostility is not the only security of human happiness. But they are forever struggling for an alliance with each other; and, when they are united, truth, reason, honor, justice, gratitude, and humanity itself in combination are no match for the coalition. Upon the maturest reflection of a long experience, I am much inclined to believe that fashion is the worst of all tyrants, because he is the original source, cause, preserver, and supporter of all others. [http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2127#Adams_1431-10_87 Letter to Samuel B. Malcolm (6 August 1812), Quincy.]

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„I have long wondered that the original draught has not been published. I suppose the reason is, the vehement philippic against negro slavery“

— John Adams
Context: A meeting we accordingly had, and conned the paper over. I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning negro slavery, which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose. There were other expressions which I would not have inserted, if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal; for I never believed George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his official capacity only, cruel. I thought the expression too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a document; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect it afterwards, I thought it would not become me to strike it out. I consented to report it, and do not now remember that I made or suggested a single alteration. We reported it to the committee of five. It was read, and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticized any thing. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson’s handwriting, as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter of it, as I expected they would; but they obliterated some of the best of it, and left all that was exceptionable, if any thing in it was. I have long wondered that the original draught has not been published. I suppose the reason is, the vehement philippic against negro slavery. Regarding a draft of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, [http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2100#lf1431-02_head_061 Letter to Timothy Pickering (6 August 1822)] As quoted in [https://web.archive.org/web/20111029143754/http://home.nas.com/lopresti/ps2.htm The Founding Fathers: John Adams: A Biography in his own Words] (1973), by James Bishop Peabody, Newsweek, New York, p. 201.

„The judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that“

— John Adams
Context: The judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that.

„I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, — Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws — Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe.“

— John Adams
Context: The poor people, it is true, have been much less successful than the great. They have seldom found either leisure or opportunity to form a union and exert their strength; ignorant as they were of arts and letters, they have seldom been able to frame and support a regular opposition. This, however, has been known by the great to be the temper of mankind; and they have accordingly labored, in all ages, to wrest from the populace, as they are contemptuously called, the knowledge of their rights and wrongs, and the power to assert the former or redress the latter. I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, — Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws — Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe.

„Slavery is an evil of Colossal Magnitude.“

— John Adams
Context: I Shall not pause to consider whether my Opinion will be popular or unpopular with the Slave Holders, or Slave Traders, in the Northern the Middle, the Southern, or the Western, States—I respect all those who are necessarily subjected to this Evil.—But Negro Slavery is an evil of Colossal Magnitude. … I am therefore utterly averse to the admission of Slavery into the Missouri Territory, and heartily wish that every Constitutional measure may be adopted for the preservation of it. [http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-7261 Letter] to William Tudor, Jr., 20 November 1819. Partially quoted in Founding Brothers : The Revolutionary Generation (2000) by Joseph J. Ellis, p. 240

„I have not one drop of blood in my veins but what is American.“

— John Adams
Context: Neither my father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, great grandfather or great grandmother, nor any other relation that I know of, or care a farthing for, has been in England these one hundred and fifty years; so that you see I have not one drop of blood in my veins but what is American. To an ambassador (1785), as quoted in [http://books.google.com/books?id=lWcsAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA392 The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: Autobiography] (1851), by Charles F. Adams, p. 392.

„The American Revolution was not a common event.“

— John Adams
Context: The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to cease? But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

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„I have never sought popularity by any animated speeches or inflammatory publications against the slavery of the blacks, my opinion against it has always been known, and my practice has been so conformable to my sentiments that I have always employed freemen, both as domestics and laborers, and never in my life did I own a slave. The abolition of slavery must be gradual, and accomplished with much caution and circumspection. Violent means and measures would produce greater violations of justice and humanity than the continuance of the practice“

— John Adams
Context: Although I have never sought popularity by any animated speeches or inflammatory publications against the slavery of the blacks, my opinion against it has always been known, and my practice has been so conformable to my sentiments that I have always employed freemen, both as domestics and laborers, and never in my life did I own a slave. The abolition of slavery must be gradual, and accomplished with much caution and circumspection. Violent means and measures would produce greater violations of justice and humanity than the continuance of the practice. Neither Mr. Mifflin nor yourselves, I presume, would be willing to venture on exertions which would probably excite insurrections among the blacks to rise against their masters, and imbue their hands in innocent blood.

„It must be made a sacred maxim, that the militia obey the executive power, which represents the whole people in the execution of laws.“

— John Adams
Context: The militia and sovereignty are inseparable. In the English constitution, if the whole nation were a militia, there would be a militia to defend the crown, the lords, or the commons, if either were attacked. The crown, though it commands them, has no power to use them improperly, because it cannot pay or subsist them without the consent of the lords and commons; but if the militia are to obey a sovereignty in a single assembly, it is commanded, paid, and subsisted, and a standing army, too, may be raised, paid, and subsisted, by the vote of a majority; the militia, then, must all obey the sovereign majority, or divide, and part follow the majority, and part the minority. This last case is civil war; but, until it comes to this, the whole militia may be employed by the majority in any degree of tyranny and oppression over the minority. The constitution furnishes no resource or remedy; nothing affords a chance of relief but rebellion and civil war. If this terminates in favor of the minority, they will tyrannize in their turn, exasperated by revenge, in addition to ambition and avarice; if the majority prevail, their domination becomes more cruel, and soon ends in one despot. It must be made a sacred maxim, that the militia obey the executive power, which represents the whole people in the execution of laws. To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defence, or by partial orders of towns, counties, or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed, and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws. Ch. 3 Marchamont Nedham : Errors of Government and Rules of Policy" Sixth Rule <!-- The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States vol. VI (1851) p. 197 -->

„We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form.“

— John Adams
Context: We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all Divines and moral Philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.

„Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.“

— John Adams
Context: Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist. But if unlimited or unbalanced power of disposing property, be put into the hands of those who have no property, France will find, as we have found, the lamb committed to the custody of the wolf. In such a case, all the pathetic exhortations and addresses of the national assembly to the people, to respect property, will be regarded no more than the warbles of the songsters of the forest. The great art of law-giving consists in balancing the poor against the rich in the legislature, and in constituting the legislative a perfect balance against the executive power, at the same time that no individual or party can become its rival. The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries. The executive and the legislative powers are natural rivals; and if each has not an effectual control over the other, the weaker will ever be the lamb in the paws of the wolf. The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt a despotism. There is no other alternative. Rivalries must be controlled, or they will throw all things into confusion; and there is nothing but despotism or a balance of power which can control them. No. 13

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„I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning negro slavery, which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose“

— John Adams
Context: A meeting we accordingly had, and conned the paper over. I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning negro slavery, which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose. There were other expressions which I would not have inserted, if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal; for I never believed George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his official capacity only, cruel. I thought the expression too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a document; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect it afterwards, I thought it would not become me to strike it out. I consented to report it, and do not now remember that I made or suggested a single alteration. We reported it to the committee of five. It was read, and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticized any thing. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson’s handwriting, as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter of it, as I expected they would; but they obliterated some of the best of it, and left all that was exceptionable, if any thing in it was. I have long wondered that the original draught has not been published. I suppose the reason is, the vehement philippic against negro slavery. Regarding a draft of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, [http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2100#lf1431-02_head_061 Letter to Timothy Pickering (6 August 1822)] As quoted in [https://web.archive.org/web/20111029143754/http://home.nas.com/lopresti/ps2.htm The Founding Fathers: John Adams: A Biography in his own Words] (1973), by James Bishop Peabody, Newsweek, New York, p. 201.

„Remember the frank Veteran acknowledges, that "the word rebel is a convertible term."“

— John Adams
Context: We are told: "It is a universal truth, that he that would excite a rebellion, is at heart as great a tyrant as ever wielded the iron rod of oppression." Be it so. We are not exciting a rebellion. Opposition, nay, open, avowed resistance by arms, against usurpation and lawless violence, is not rebellion by the law of God or the land. Resistance to lawful authority makes rebellion. … Remember the frank Veteran acknowledges, that "the word rebel is a convertible term." No. 5

„The poor people, it is true, have been much less successful than the great.“

— John Adams
Context: The poor people, it is true, have been much less successful than the great. They have seldom found either leisure or opportunity to form a union and exert their strength; ignorant as they were of arts and letters, they have seldom been able to frame and support a regular opposition. This, however, has been known by the great to be the temper of mankind; and they have accordingly labored, in all ages, to wrest from the populace, as they are contemptuously called, the knowledge of their rights and wrongs, and the power to assert the former or redress the latter. I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, — Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws — Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe.

„The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.“

— John Adams
Context: The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to cease? But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

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