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John Adams’ Letter to Us

Posted on Monday, September 11, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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21 Comments
John Adams portrait with quote liberty once lost is lost forever

You think I am kidding, but I am not. It takes no sleuth to understand that John Adams – like many around him – read, thought, and wrote with an eye to the future. He knew he was speaking to us, you and me when he wrote.

It’s crazy to think about, but the Founding Fathers, while they could not predict jet flight, cell phones, social media, or advanced weapons, were under no illusions. They knew the past and present and had a strong instinct for the future.

Most of all, they knew human nature – because they lived fully, believed deeply, and fought for what they believed, understanding if they did not, it would not happen.

They were not just fighters. They read widely – from Herodotus, Seneca, and Thucydides to Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, and Ceasar; from Homer, Virgil, Voltaire, and Gibbon to near contemporaries like Locke and Montesquieu. They read, fought, and wrote.

We seldom think about it, but all that we have around us, not just abstract freedoms, the ability to dream, wonder, work, and achieve, but the actual inventions, the advancements in science, medicine, and even the technology on which you are reading this, owe their existence to first causes, the biggest one our Founders’ personal concern for us.

Let me put this differently. Founding a Republic was a radical idea, one that cost many their lives, their families, their homes, their property, and their peace of mind.

But if not for their concern to win the future, to set it all in motion – through the Constitution and their pointed writings – what they nobly envisioned would not exist.

No one else was doing it. Those who later put freedom on foreign soil took inspiration from them, our Founders. Without what they did, all we see around us would not be.

They were determined that the future of America could be good– if we understood. “Understood what?” you ask.  Well, for starters, the depth of their conviction, the pain endured to impart the gift, and the moral burden imposed by someone else’s sacrifice.

Some will say, “Oh no, they did it for themselves.” In part, they did, but they were far, far more focused on the future. That is what compelled the risk, urgency, and sacrifice. They actually believed that we – their unborn, unnaturalized future kinsmen – would get it.

They thought, and so they wrote. They wrote – so we would think.  One feather dip at a time, they reminded us we were kings and queens of our own lives. We were sovereign – but to stay that way, we would have to keep government limited and stand our ground.

What did they write? So much it would fill acres stacked high. But here is what one of them, John Adams – arguably the least celebrated – passed forward, nuggets.

On truth: “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.” How simple and true.

On education: “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…Let us tenderly and kindly cherish…knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” Beyond secular authors, he read the Bible – we know because all this comes from his diary.

On innocence: “It is…important that innocence be protected…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.” Indeed.

On the other innocence: “It should be your care to elevate the minds of children…to exalt their courage, to excite in them … 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.” True then, truer today.

Adams wrote letters to his wife, Abigail. In one: “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 is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

In another: “Liberty once lost is lost forever…” In another, he chided himself: “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly…This is enough.”

Finally, he wrote in one poignant letter addressed directly to us: “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. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

May we understand – and with work in our time, preserve the work of Adams and our countrymen, our benefactors, forestalling their repentance of labors for us. If we can just rise with this one objective, each day is sure to be good. Remembering unleashes strength. That is really what Adams was saying.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Rik
Rik
7 months ago

Being a History fan, I firmly believe that one should always remember Tradition and what is more traditional than History?
Today’s Communist wannabe Democratic Party Leadership DOESN’T REMEMBER AMERICAN HISTORY OR TRADITION! On this occasion of remembering that infamous 9/11 attack, instead of being in New York City on this remembering of that infamous attack, our illustrious PHONY imitation of a President is in Alaska!
Do We the People NEED MORE EXAMPLES of how our Communist wannabe President HATES AMERICAN FREEDOMS?

SusanW
SusanW
7 months ago

So well said! Thank you, Robert, for sharing your thoughts and wisdom on this very important day in our history. As John Adams also said, “ I must study politics and war that my sons may study mathematics and philosophy.” John Adams, and all of our Founders, knew the importance of education, reading books from the past, and the power of tolerance and knowledge. “Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.” Americans must devote more time during these difficult days to study and think about the habits and differences of one another and find a common path to solving our differences together. If we cannot come together as one, our democracy will most certainly be lost. Then, what will be the future of our children and grandchildren? How will they remember us? Will they have the freedom to ponder, think freely, and wonder as they travel through life? It is up to us to make sure the answer to that question is “yes”.
”Curiosity is a delicate little plant which aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.” Albert Einstein

linda
linda
7 months ago

Great article, Mr. Charles! I always look forward to reading your commentaries here.
What we have gained in medicine/healthcare, technology, manufacturing, etc. we have lost in forgetting our history. The sacrifices our founding fathers (and mothers!) made to birth this nation; starting with the declarations on the beach in 1607. Until we remember our God, and our beginnings, resume teaching our real history, civics, and stand up/push back against the encroaching evil, our country will continue to spiral out of control. 2 Chronicles 7:14

James Cox
James Cox
7 months ago

Outstanding article..!

CLIFFORD F GERACI
CLIFFORD F GERACI
7 months ago

The founding fathers gave their ancestors way too much faith. They would be appalled at what we have become…..and in such a short time…..appalling.

Carol Clendenin
Carol Clendenin
7 months ago

How I appreciate this journalist’s expressing this truth so well!!

Howard
Howard
7 months ago

My wife is a descendant of John Adams and she has both the strong will and intellect that characterized him. As a teacher of American History, I discussed his life and presidency with my students, but did not develop a greater respect for the person and patriot until I began to read and study in depth his writings and letters. He and his wife, Abigail, were prolific letter writers, and it was through reading many of those letters that I gained a greater understanding of his character and personality. He truly was one of the greatest patriots of the Revolutionary War era and of the young nation. Thank you, RBC, for another excellent commentary.

Louis
Louis
7 months ago

Thank you Mr. Charles for this excellent article. I always enjoy reading your articles and this one is especially appropriate for today’s problems.

Louis
Louis
7 months ago

You need a spelling lesson. It is spelled B-I-D-E-N. Get it dummy?

Jay
Jay
7 months ago

He quoted the Bible:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
‭‭Micah‬ ‭6‬:8‬ ‭

Jerry
Jerry
7 months ago

“do justly, love mercy, walk humbly…this is enough.” is from the bible Micah 6:8
“He has told you, mortal one, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? ” I wish all would use the scriptures from the bible as your life guide.

Randall L. Beatty
Randall L. Beatty
7 months ago

Great article so much truth we need to watch out for the Dems in Washington and in the blue states can people not see what is going on in this country very sad.until it is to late we can never give up the right to bear arms and free speech.

Jeanette
Jeanette
7 months ago

Great man who told it like it was and could be!

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