John Quincy Adams Quotes

Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity!

22nd December, 1802. ‘Oration at Plymouth’.

I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see in the papers attributed to one of our gallant navel heroes. I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia, pereat coelum. My toast would be, may our country be always successful,  but whether successful or otherwise, always right.

1st August, 1816. Letter to John Adams.

America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government.

4th July, 1821. Address.

America … well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extraction, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force … She might become dictatress of the world. She would be no longer ruler of her own spirit.

4th July, 1821. Address.

Individual liberty is individual power, and as the power of a community is a mass compounded of individual powers, the nation which enjoys the most freedom must necessarily be in proportion to its numbers the most powerful nation.

1st October, 1822. Letter to James Lloyd.

Who but shall learn that freedom is the prize
Man still is bound to rescue or maintain;
That nature’s God commands the slave to rise,
And on the oppressor’s head to break the chain.
Roll, years of promise, rapidly roll round,
Till not a slave shall on this earth be found.


This house will bear witness to his piety; this town, his birthplace, to his munificence; history to his patriotism; posterity to depth and compass of his mind.

1829. Epitaph for John Adams.

In charity to all mankind, bearing no malice or ill will to any human being, and even compassionating those who hold in bondage their fellow men, not knowing what they do.

30th July, 1838. Letter to A. Bronson.

The great problem of legislation is, so to organize the civil government of a community …. that in the operation of human institutions upon social action, self-love and social may be made the same.

July 1845. Society and Civilization; in the American Review.

To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is … the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence.

1846. Report on the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution.

This is the last of earth! I am content.

21st February, 1848. Last words.