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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.

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Zitate John Adams

„Major Greene this evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ.“

— John Adams
Context: Major Greene this evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the argument he advanced was, "that a mere creature or finite being could not make satisfaction to infinite justice for any crimes," and that "these things are very mysterious." Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Entry of 13 February 1756 in Charles Francis Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author, Notes, and Illustrations vol. 2 (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850) 4, Google Books, 13 December 2010, web http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=BGYFAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA5&dq=%2215+sunday+staid+at+home%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YJlsU4u-FsPBOKu3gaAI&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%2215%20sunday%20staid%20at%20home%22&f=false

„Slavery in this Country I have seen hanging over it like a black cloud for half a century“

— John Adams
Context: Slavery in this Country I have seen hanging over it like a black cloud for half a century… 1821, as quoted in Passionate Sage https://web.archive.org/web/20111029143754/http://home.nas.com/lopresti/ps2.htm (1993), Joseph J. Ellis, Norton, New York, p. 138

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„I am surprised at the suddenness as well as the greatness of this revolution... It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever.“

— John Adams
Context: I am surprised at the suddenness as well as the greatness of this revolution... It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power, and the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe. Letter to Abigail Adams (3 July 1776)

„What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.“

— John Adams
Context: As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington. Letter to Thomas Jefferson (24 August 1815), The Works of John Adams; he later expressed similar sentiments in a letter to Hezekiah Niles (13 February 1818)

„The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.“

— John Adams
Context: The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shall not covet," and "Thou shall not steal," are not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free. Ch. 1 Marchamont Nedham : The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth Examined http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/print_documents/v1ch16s15.html <!-- The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States vol. VI (1851) p. 9 -->

„There is something very unnatural and odious in a government a thousand leagues off.“

— John Adams
Context: There is something very unnatural and odious in a government a thousand leagues off. A whole government of our own choice, managed by persons whom we love, revere, and can confide in, has charms in it for which men will fight. Letter to Abigail Adams (17 May 1776)

„Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.“

— John Adams
Context: Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies. Letter http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(dg004210)) to Zabdiel Adams (21 June 1776)

„The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings.“

— John Adams
Context: I am surprised at the suddenness as well as the greatness of this revolution... It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power, and the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe. Letter to Abigail Adams (3 July 1776)

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„I am therefore utterly averse to the admission of Slavery into the Missouri Territory,“

— 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. Letter http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-7261 to William Tudor, Jr., 20 November 1819. Partially quoted in Founding Brothers : The Revolutionary Generation (2000) by Joseph J. Ellis, p. 240

„The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.“

— John Adams
Context: The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain. Letter to Abigail Adams (12 May 1780)

„The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. Equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical.“

— John Adams
Context: We may appeal to every page of history we have hitherto turned over, for proofs irrefragable, that the people, when they have been unchecked, have been as unjust, tyrannical, brutal, barbarous and cruel as any king or senate possessed of uncontrollable power … All projects of government, formed upon a supposition of continual vigilance, sagacity, and virtue, firmness of the people, when possessed of the exercise of supreme power, are cheats and delusions … The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. Equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical. Letter to Thomas Jefferson (13 November 1815)

„But what do we mean by the 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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„Tis impossible to judge with much Præcision of the true Motives and Qualities of human Actions, or of the Propriety of Rules contrived to govern them, without considering with like Attention, all the Passions, Appetites, Affections in Nature from which they flow.“

— John Adams
Context: Tis impossible to judge with much Præcision of the true Motives and Qualities of human Actions, or of the Propriety of Rules contrived to govern them, without considering with like Attention, all the Passions, Appetites, Affections in Nature from which they flow. An intimate Knowledge therefore of the intellectual and moral World is the sole foundation on which a stable structure of Knowledge can be erected. Letter to Jonathan Sewall (October 1759)

„The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were … 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.“

— John Adams
Context: The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were … 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 I then 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. Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 28 June 1813. Often misquoted as "The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity"

„Opposition, nay, open, avowed resistance by arms, against usurpation and lawless violence, is not rebellion by the law of God or the land.“

— 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

„I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.“

— John Adams
Context: I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. Letter to Abigail Adams (3 July 1776), published in The Adams Papers: Adams Family Correspondence (2007) edited by Margaret A. Hogan

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