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

Famous John Adams Quote

“[You have Rights] antecedent to all earthly governments: Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; Rights, derived from the Great Legislator of the universe.”

John AdamsJohn Adams
~ John Adams

A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

Ratings and Comments

E Archer, NYC

We must be free -- we have no choice. ;-)

Elissa, Marlboro

John Adams is my favorite person because it was my great-great-great grandfather!!!

kristyn, stratford

this quote is true on every level except John Adams' level because he so boldly proposed and signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, interferring with the rights that he believed were above law and undisturbed.

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KURT PETERSON, Santa Rosa kristyn, stratford 4/25/22

the Alien and Sedition Act was to stop foreign agents from participating in acts to subvert the American government.  Stop getting your information from watching tv.  Enjoy! Kurt in Santa Rosa

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

Rights are not inherent in the universe (other than those like the right to fall down when your supports are kicked out from under you)... they are what society decides they are... the US's founding fathers were a part of a movement in society to expand those rights in new ways and formed a new government to help implement that (imperfect though it may be)... and today the ancestor of that newly formed government is busy adjusting to the society it lives within... busy redefining those rights yet again... to be much more limited rights... perhaps once again society will see the error of this government and again demand that these rights be reexpanded.

E Archer, NYC
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E Archer, NYC Anonymous, Reston, VA US 3/8/19

Rights ARE inherent, they cannot be granted or taken away, thus they cannot be expanded.  We ASSERT that we have the inherent right to defend ourselves against predators  we don't have a right to succeed, but we have the right to fight for survival.  SO we assert that we have the RIGHT to live and to defend our own lives and others.  We assert that we have the right to Liberty, to be self-determining, to be free of bondage and involuntary service to another.  The question is WHY have we declared our rights to be inherent  because throughout recorded history, humans have been enslaved by monarchs, emperors, popes, governors, magistrates, all manner of political officers, all claiming the power to command and the obligation to obey.  The people threw off their yokes and declared themselves independent from the commands of King and Pope and their armies.  The only caveat, renounce the patronage of Crowns and Priests, act in your own sovereign capacity with honor and mutual respect for your fellow sovereigns with no subjects.

A right does not require any effort from anyone else to fulfill  we have no right to aspirin, to books, to the fruits of another's labor.  Producers own their products  they may dispense them however they wish, but they have no obligation to provide to others any thing.  A florist sells flowers, and those that want them make an offer of exchange, if acceptable, the trade is made, each relinquishing their claim to their former property.  The florist does not have a right to the customer's money, nor does the customer have a right to the florist's flowers.  Neither acts out of compulsion, both are contributing to the other.  This is commerce, and the people have an inherent right to trade without permission from anyone else (see the right to Liberty).

Reston you've got it backwards and inside out.

Mike, Norwalk

Those socialist / fascists of a slave heart and mind find it impossible to understand the nobility of the individual as expressed through Adams' statement. When an American believes that his rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then he no longer carries the proud inheritance of his forefathers, but will grovel before his masters seeking favors and dispensations - a throwback to the feudal system of the Dark Ages.

Me Again
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Me Again    6/1/06

As it was in The Beginning,is Now and Ever Shall Be...We are Spiritual beings having a Human experience and when we pass from this earthly plane,we shall once again return to our natural state of Being.Hopefully as a purer spirit,enriched from the experiences of this lifetime.

Mike, Norwalk

In addition to my previous opining; There is a religious war going on in America today. There are those who believe that society is 'god' (maker/giver of laws and rights) with government being such god's priesthood; and, those that believe, as did the founders, that all law and right exists as a gift from 'God' (rights being a faculty of birth). The socialists/fascists believing that the whole (the maker/giver of laws and rights) is greater that the sum of its parts, while those adhering to Adams' sentiments believe that a United State (the sum) is a mere representation of its parts (each individual being noble, inherently and inalienably equal in rights). Adams' quote is as true and correct today as when he gave it.

Michael, Houston, TX

The central precept of American society... how odd that those who profess to be the "friend" of everyone, ie the liberals (Hi Anonymous in Reston) also assure us there are no rights inherent from our Creator, but from them. That explains it all. Thank you for making that as clear as it can be for all to see. You really put it well... your statements should inspire fear in the hearts of everyone that cherishes freedom and liberty... .(pst. It is precisely because of these kinds of people that our Founding Fathers said citizens have the right to Keep and Bear Arms....)

Ken, Allyn, WA

Voltare said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." Rights have to be kept sacrosanct. They must be beyond the reach of governments or societies, or they are no rights at all. They are merely indulgences from the powerful. Socialists delight in "living" constitutions, penumbra, and emanations and other léger de la main designed to cheat the gullible out of their God given rights.

David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood

First there was God, and afterward came man, who created government. So who screwed up? I say it was man.

Jim, Tacoma, WA

Actually, this "quotation" was never uttered or written by John Adams. It is completely fraudulent. It cannot be found in any of his collected works, any letter he wrote, or any speech he gave. Adams works were collected and preserved by his descendents, and are easily available. This "quotation" is a hoax. Just because you can find something all over the internet does not make it true.

Editor, Liberty Quotes

Thanks, Jim, for the heads-up. Of course one person saying something is false without real proof does not carry much weight. Please provide something to back up your claim. Thanks.

J. Biggs, San Francisco

Thanks, Editor. The burden of proof is on you to prove that this quote was spoken or written by Adams. Why is it that anyone who uses this quote can't seem to sight its context, its publication date or date spoken, what larger essay, writings or speech this may be a part of?

Editor, Liberty Quotes

It IS a famous John Adams quote -- whether attributed or not. Besides, it is a great quote no matter who wrote it. Enjoy. ;-)

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Josiah    1/15/07
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Ethan    12/12/07
marine mike, rockford

we have rights from God-but what did we lose in the garden-and how many rights did we give up- man's quest is to get back to the garden- unfortunately most are trying to do it without God and that creates a huge problem namely: suffering, experimentation, and all kinds of crazy ideas from evolution to the Trinity and every form of government and religion that doesn't appear in the Bible. With every product comes a product manual-too bad we don't read it-yes all our problems go back to the garden and the two trees-hopefully we will do better the second time.

Tom, Canton, Ohio

Here's the REAL QUOTE, from A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law: "The poor people, it is true, have been much less successful than the great. They have seldom found either leisure or opportunity to form a union and exert their strength; ignorant as they were of arts and letters, they have seldom been able to frame and support a regular opposition. This, however, has been known by the great to be the temper of mankind; and they have accordingly labored, in all ages, to wrest from the populace, as they are contemptuously called, the knowledge of their rights and wrongs, and the power to assert the former or redress the latter. I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws, Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe."

E Archer, NYC
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E Archer, NYC Tom, Canton, Ohio 3/8/19

The whole quote really puts it into context!

Mike, Norwalk

The occupying statist theocracy infesting this land has a god that does not recognize the nobility of man. The quote is absolute, the imprisoned helots, serfs and otherwise slaves (on house release) do not allow the exercise of unalienable rights. The rights exist, it is the exercise thereof that are constrained.

Editor, Liberty Quotes

Thanks, Tom! We have modified the quote accordingly. You can find the quote in its entirety here:

Macks, North Carolina

This quote is the best quote ever! It give those enslaved hope to a better day.

God created Man, Man created Government, Government created persons. That is the hierarchy that is in place.

We will never have rights as "persons"...only as Man/Wo-man.

The secret they are keeping from you is that we are not assuming our proper status a Man. If you are called into a courtroom for charges against your person, they will lose each and every time if you act like a man/wo-man.

Ronw13, OR
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Ronw13, OR    3/6/19

Such "rights" as stated by John Adams would be in reference to "Mishpat" judgement; rights, Isaiah 9:6,7 the government shall be upon his shoulder. Which brings one to "Shaphat, to judge, deliver, rule." In some cases "judgement" really means delivering from injustice or oppression. This sense in addition to the judicial sense), "to deliver" is to be understood when one speaks of the judges of Israel. "Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that [plundered] them". Judg 2:16

Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown

The sane's legislator is the natural reasonable objective principles of nature.


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