John AdamsJohn Adams, (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President

John Adams Quote

“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.”

John AdamsJohn Adams
~ John Adams

in a letter to Abigail Adams, 1780

Ratings and Comments

  • Reply
Anonymous    5/6/05

Excellent. If we don't keep our first principles, we won't be able to keep any of the rest. If we don't protect our most basic rights of life, liberty, and property, nothing else matters.

J. Crittenden, Tahlequah

Government assures each day a sector of the populations' quality just as oxygen is to life. The rules that govern the rights of one effect all others. If we do not have persons of integrity who realize the importance of studying and developing well designed laws that promote and protect quality then quality diminishes because of another idiot in the political arena. Today we have more self serving fascists within our government than ever before and it is but a few that hold together the intent of what our forefathers so diligently designed. Today Native Americans are still fighting for the liberties and freedoms Americans take for granted. The governmental design within many tribes are prior to where America was two hundred years ago. The relationship tribal governments have to America has had little change in two hundred years.The appeasment by more money is all that is different.

Gölök Zoltán Leenderdt Franco, Vancouver, GVRD(Paine Cnty), BC(SU), USoEh!(USoA)

I have always said that without freedom there is no art, entertainment, humanity, et al unless I guess if being a unic (castrated) sounds good to you.
Without the knowlledge of freedom and the understanding of it you can't have it; or wouldn't know it if you had it or didn't have it.

-- Gölök Zoltán Leenderdt Franco [Mes(-)Van Dongen] Buday

john-douglas, nassau

This harkens back to the old saying that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat mankind's mistakes. To bad we never learn these lessons.

Mike, Houston

This is even more true in our Paine said "If trouble must come, let it come in my day, that my child may have peace." Amen to the father's willingness to sacrifice his hopes and dreams for that of his children.

J. Granville Baker, Rochester NY

Excellent 18th century philosophy and prose which other references have condensed and updated to a 21st century bumper sticker philosophy (which I prefer to the original) Other web sites report the quote as when John Adams was away at the war front doing business, his wife Abigail wrote him and asked: "What should we tell our neighbors? Why are we doing this?" And John wrote her back that famous letter: "You tell them that we study war, so that our children can study business, law, commerce and invention, so that their children can study art, and poetry and music." I am not sure what war front they were referring to in 1780. Also, I recall hearing it attributed to someone else. (I wish I had said that -- don't worry, you will)

Nathaniel, Atascadero, CA

This is why I am a musician

Eve, Groton, CT

This is exactly what happened to my family. My grandfather went to war; my parents went into divinity and business, and here I am with my refined sensibilities, preparing to become an entertainer.

Robert, St. Emilion, France

A beautiful statement but, without some of the rest the science of government becomes tyrannical. First and foremost must be the study of ethics, for without ethics it's continues the cycle of war....

  • Reply
anonymous    8/8/14

Painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain are not on the agenda due to budget cuts. If you can't use it on Wall St., it isn't valued. Talk to your representatives.

Mike, Norwalk

In no language that I am aware of, no word or concept has ever developed that would describe the body politic of a representative republic. Government means An organic system, superior in perceived authority, power, presence and right, used for controlling a country, state, people (individually and in concert), etc. A representative republic has servants that can only represent the rights of the individual sovereign(s). Science is a study of law (natural, physics, etc.) The art of tyranny is now what infests this planet with its many governments. Thus with the weakness of language, Adams stated a truism, as accurate as possible.

E Archer, NYC

Very clear!! I love this quote. Contrast this with socialist, fascist, and communist ideologies where the purpose of education is to train the children to be good, subservient, subjects for the collective good while glorifying the State.

Ron w13, Or

Upward chain of a wholesome life. And he built his house upon a rock. The rock upon which the republic rest. My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and my arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on my arm shall they trust. That hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over ? I, even I am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass. And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I might plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people. This we have in confidence for the knowing of the watch in the night. To guide children of light. Who would cling to the liberty and freedom, which come forth from God our Creator. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings. that publisheth peace. The Lord hath made bear his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. For that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

Craig, Gettysburg

I've never agreed with this quote.  A nation of poets and artists cannot protect itself from a nation of warriors and politicians. I think this aspiration is a recipe for eventual national collapse.  

  • Reply
Anonymous    6/27/21

I find this quote from Adams quite fascinating. Here's why,

Adams read the satires of Juvenal. His tenth satire of the phrase "Bread and Circuses"

In a letter to his son Charles Adams on December 31, 1795. He wrote, "The People, are as I believe always grateful, when they are not deceived. But they are ignorant and credulous and easily imposed on. In times of Wealth and Prosperity they are easily altered and corrupted. Juvenal in his tenth Satire describes the Roman People, who in the days of the Republic granted the Consulships, and the Command of Armies, as reduced to such Indolence Effemincy and folly as to think only of Bread and the Games of the Circus."

Thus his quote says that,
1st gen = study of government
2nd gen = study of mathematics, philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture
3rd gen = study of painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, porcelain

But what happens after the 3rd gen?
The answer is Bread and Circuses.

Government welfare and endless distractions (entertainment)
Thus, the 4th generation will be fixated on Bread and Circuses.

They will study subjects that deviate from freedom.

Considering that the time difference between these two quotes is 15 years. I think of two possible scenarios (though there can be more to explain this discrepancy), and I think those are:

1) He is stating an observation, how the study of important matters wanes as time pass < somewhat unlikely as his quote is "I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy."


2) That he didn't read Juvenal until after 1780. < I think this is more likely 


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