Monday, July 4, 2016

For a Moral and Religious People: The Context

Twitter runs with quotes and if I have learned anything over the years, it is that the Internet isn't always the most reliable place for information. Being that it is Independence Day, the following quote attributed to John Adams is everywhere:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to govern any other.
I wholly agree with the Founding Father on this basic point. A people cannot government themselves if they are immoral or irreligious - a truth we are beginning to discover the hard way in America.

But did Adams actually write this? It turns out that he did. Here is the quote in full:
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness 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. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.
The quote is found in a letter written by Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia in Massachusetts on October 11, 1798. It can be found in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull which was written in 1848. It also appears, though with some differences, in the book The Works of John Adams published in 1854.

So there you go.

For more:
"A Habit Most Natural, Scriptural, Manly, and Beneficial": Spurgeon on Growing a Beard
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