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

John Adams Quote

“Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.”

John AdamsJohn Adams
~ John Adams

Thoughts on Government, 1776

Ratings and Comments

bk, not sure

very true

lil tyra banks, N.C

i love your quote it is so true!!!!xoxoxoxoxox

  • Reply
Dan    7/3/08

Well if you take a good look around, the political institution they did approve was not founded on fear but it has by stealth gained so much power and authority it controls with subliminal fear and sometimes in certain cases where it feels it is warranted (and can get away with it) undisguised terror.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

"Govern: to rule or control by right or authority." Let us not fool ourselves that Americans are innately different than any other people. Authority requires fear or maybe a better word might be respect in order to be effective. Government has been found to be a necessary evil in most of the world.The suppose difference is whether it is "of, by and for the governed."

Ron, NC
  • Reply
Ron, NC    7/3/08

I FEAR that the American population has no clue what the @#$% Adams is talking about! My kids were sure not taught what those angry white men were about or trying to leave us, however they sure understand what Freddy Douglas and Nelson Mandella were all about. It is disgusting..Im only 50 and when I came thru school we studied the founders and the constitution intensely, I had to teach my kids. When they had time from their global warming indoctrination.

Mike, Norwalk

What may have been true once is know more. What predominates today is fear of government and a fear of being free. The majority fear to individually stand up against compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, governmentally inflicted larceny, torture for information, the police, a super corrupt judiciary - with their criminal cohorts the executive and legislative, etc., etc., etc. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe Americans are just too stupid and miserable to know any better.

jim k, austin

All governments use fear to control their populace, ours is certainly no exception.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Mike maybe you are to stupid to think folks can individually stop themselves from killing too many deer without some type of licensing or governmental control. By the way I think you meant 'no more" above rather than "know more". Are you to stupid to know that the name of our conferacy is the "the United States of America" and not the States United? Your buudy.

Mike, Norwalk

Waffler I smile, your obvious grammar/spelling oppses were to demonstrate the short comings of our public education ;-) thanks for correcting me. Your 'maybe' thought is a mis-direction incorrect statement - again. To think that nature or natural resources can be managed only by license is really stupid. A Republic is a government of laws, capable of administering in the best interest of each and every, any and all without democracy's alien omnipotent oligarchy - (that which holds all rights exclusively - allowing by permission that which would otherwise be unlawful). A democracy is a lawless oligarchy of men. The American Republic, the United States of America, being several States united, is a confederacy of sorts. I've not met one hunter that does not honor the out doors and would not voluntarily submit to a limited hunt, being educated to the greater situation by a lawful government.

  • Reply
RobertSRQ    7/3/08

NO government should base their authority on fear and intimidation. What would John Adams say today to our politicians and their practice of government? I believe he would admonish them and imprison most. What great Liberal minds there were in those days - we must stop all this rhetoric of this and that and roll up our sleeves and actually achieve the dream we once had – in the words of Thomas Jefferson “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government”. We honor this mantra by action and not words. Let us also take our heads out of the sand before the sand engulfs us totally. The quote is excelent but alas wrong as we can tell by our present American inhabitants.

Jack, Green, OH

Fear and greed are the two driving forces that control all human activity, not just government..

E Archer, NYC

Jefferson said, "When the government fears the people there is liberty; when the people fear the government there is tyranny." We are well familiar with Waffler's celebration of authority -- it is just another example of a liberal bent on giving people 'freedom' only when they have been 'approved' for it. If Waffler is such a fan of democracy and the Articles of Confederation, why doesn't he show us where in ANY founding document (Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, US Constitution, etc.) is the word 'democracy.' Secondly, in the Constitution, what is the only form of law permitted in these United States? Republican. How many 'states' are actually called Republics? Texas and California come to mind but I bet there are others. When Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson speak of the 'republic' then what are they talking about? And finally, since Waffler doesn't believe in the sovereignty of anyone except the federal government, why don't you read the article right after the first that described the stile of this confederacy as "The United States of America" -- article II: "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled." Which means that no majority of other states can override another state's sovereignty.

  • Reply
    RobertSRQ    7/3/08

    Archer, how can we get the Government and the supreme court to abide by Article ll?

    E Archer, NYC

    Well, Robert, when you have a government who is subservient to a private power like the Fed, the point is moot. But other than that, some of the 'Reconstruction Amendments' that followed the Civil War which were voted into existence without the Southern states having true representation (all their representatives were appointed by the North -- the southern states obviously did not give assent to being included in the 'Union' so were forcibly attached) changing the context of the Constitution from a rule book for the government to a rule book for the people, the government voted themselves powers with which they were not endowed by the 'sovereign' states -- like creating federal citizens and then taxing them (after all, they 'created' the US citizen, thus they can declare what rights it has), changing the Senate, basically ignoring the sovereignty of the People themselves -- after all, if the entire Confederate Army could not protect the sovereignty of the southern states, what protection is there for the sovereign state citizen? None. In answer to your question, Robert, our government is out of control and operating in a de facto fashion -- to rule by force, just as Adams had warned us would happen. I hope for a Reformation rather than a Revolution because the People are not yet smart enough to know what they would be fighting for. But we could probably just fight to re-assert our inalienable rights and our republican Constitution repealing all federal amendments that have subverted the balance of power in our federal government. But we must start first as the colonists had done -- getting out from under the central bank! That will be revolutionary enough.

    • Reply
      RobertSRQ    7/3/08

      Archer, you are a Gentleman, thank you.

      Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

      Archer other than the description of "the style of this Confederacy" the Aricles of Confederation are kapute. If you check I think you will find that we now are a federal government and not a confederacy. The Constitution is clear on what type of government we have and it is one chosen by the people. Lincoln summed it up with his "of, by and for the people" phraseoloagy. The Artilces language however was carried over to the Constitution where a "republican" ie. democratic governent is guarranteed to the states. This is guarantee proves two things 1) the Feds-Nation has soverignity over the states. A state cannot choose a State King or dictator, thus all states have a "of, by and for" the people government aka democracy. No state is a Republic. That meaning of the word is that a geographic local has within its boundaries absolute authority to run its' own affairs however it sees fit. Thus we speak of the Republic of this and the Republic of that all over the world without any regard as to the type or manner of its syle of government. Thus the Repulic of Zimbabwe, Soviet Republics etcetera. A statute in Austin Texas says this, "Given by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to the State of Texas". This given in circa 1902. This inscripture amply demonstrates the history of Texas. It was a free and independent nation with absolute authority within its' boundaries. It gave this up however and joined the Union becoming a state within the soverign United States. Again the Aricles were thrown out in favor of the Constitution "in order to form a more perfect union. I beleive Archer that only one sovereign can exist within a geographic territory. So people (which is pluaral) cannot be sovereign but "the people" (which is singular) can be and in America is sovereign. Robert I apologize for carrying on like this. I think it is vitally important that we understand this. We are all American brothers right, can we not even agree on stuff like this. I do believe there is a sentiment undergirding those who argue Archer, Mikes, and Logans side. The sentiment is we don't like the Feds. That is a valid sentiment but I don't feel it gives anyone the right to twist or misinterpret language, history or law. Happy 4th y'all!

      E Archer, NYC

      Waffler, you aren't going to be able to twist 'republican' into "i.e. democratic" -- no way. The republican form of government guaranteed by the Constitution was not 'democratic' -- it was republican. The only democratical component of the government was the House of Representatives, that's it. The Senate, Executive and Judicial branches checked the power of the democratical. OK? So quit your harping on trying to squeeze 'democracy' into the Constitution -- it ain't there. A democracy cannot respect inalienable rights -- otherwise it is not a democracy. Don't miss the point -- the Constitution was a hard-bitten document that did not cancel the Articles of Confederation -- "All... engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution as under the Confederation," states Article VI of the Constitution. Read the 10th Amendment while you're at it. You might want to take a gander at your state Constitutions as well, for they make it pretty clear as to who the sovereign power is: The People, aggregated from the inalienable rights of the individuals that comprise it.

      Mike, Norwalk

      Waffler, so that you might understand a little of sovereignty: The individual is sovereign. His deputies or otherwise, represent his sovereignty with other representatives, making the state the sovereign representative of the individual. In like fashion, the States united gave sovereignty to the entity that is best suited to oversee interstate, postage, national, etc. issues between the States. Do I have to give you the Supreme Court cases again that show the County Sheriff is the most powerful law enforcement officer in the land? Nah, I withdraw the offer, there have been enough examples given that even Ray Charles could see it today. The State Patrols, FBI, etc. must get permission to operate in any County of the US if the County Sheriff so presses the issue. Of course we are no longer a country of laws so it won't matter anyway, we have become a demented democracy.

      Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

      Funk & Wagnalls: Republic = representative democracy, Let us move on and get over it. It is one and the same thing. My gosh and by golly we are a difficult bunch.

      E Archer, NYC

      If you think Funk & Wagnalls is going to get the last word on this issue, well, you must have gotten a grocery store education. Funk & Wagnalls is not recognized as an authority for anything -- particularly law. Now, Wafffler, you are either going to have to read something more than a quote or sound-bite to break through your government conditioning, or accept the fact that your feeble hard-headed brain just isn't capable of reasoned thought or dialogue.

      "Republic, A commonwealth; that form of government in which the administration of affairs is open to all the citizens. In another sense, it signifies the state, independent of its government." -- Black's Law Dictionary 3rd Ed. p 1536.

      Thus all American counties, states, and its nation are republics. John Adams identified dozens of republics throughout history -- monarchical republics, democratical republics, and aristocratical republics -- as well as various combinations of them, so you know what you can do with your Funk & Wagnalls...

      "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." -- Constitution for the United States of America, Article IV Section, 4.

      No where in our Constitution is it authorized for "one man, one vote." In fact, one man in twelve may declare a man not guilty if his conscience so permits.

      "Republic, Authority is derived through the election, by the people, of public officials best fitted to represent them. Attitude toward property is respect for laws and individual rights, and a sensible economic procedure. Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences. A greater number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass. Avoids the dangers of either tyranny or mobocracy. Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment and progress." -- U.S. Army training manual, 1928

      "Democracy, a government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meetings or any form of direct expression, which results in mobocracy. Attitude towards property is communistic, negating property rights. Attitude towards the law is that the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Results in demagoguism, license, agitation, discontent, and anarchy." -- U.S. Army training manual 1928

      The word Republic was used in the Constitution because the Founders and separatists of the time knew its origins. It is a shortened form of the Latin idiom "Libera res Publica" meaning "free from things public." The heads of the government were "titular" in authority, meaning they held authority "in name only." In an indirect democracy the mob (majority) elects those that govern the whole, while in a republic elected representatives wield limited authority and they may not make laws except by the will of the people. I'll be damned if on Independence Day we let a Waffler redefine what our founders and ancestors fought and died for with such frivolous rhetoric.

      Logan, Memphis, TN

      ..laughs.. Happy Independence Day everyone! Well said, Archer.

      Mike, Norwalk

      Thank you very much Archer ! ! !

      E Archer, NYC

      I don't doubt Waffler's sincerity (and the great many others' of his ilk) -- if he had a real interest in the history of the USA and had an honest hankering for the truth instead of an agenda for which he attempts to twist support in obviously contradicting statements from our founders, he might actually learn what America is really all about, who he is, how we all fit in, as sovereigns in our own land, and the rarity of such a republic in this world, he might come to appreciate what we have been trying to illuminate within him. My respects to you all.

      Kevin Shearer

      Hmmm... So, according to this quote, "Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on the foundation of FEAR". IF that is true, than there are many political and legislative acts that WERE founded either by NON-Americans OR Americans are no longer what they used to be as a people. Maybe both possibilities are correct. I, for one, as I know others in this forum, do not fit in either of these categories. God Bless US. It is up to us to hear the beckoning call of our Founders to restore the lost dignity and honor to these United States for the sake of our sleeping countryman and for the sake of our Founders Principles and Vision to form a nation of Sovereign Individuals, Sovereign States, Blessed by Our Creator to enjoy the fruits of our Spiritual Inheritance. That of Life, Liberty to live that life in the Pursuit of Personal Happiness as long as we Honor and Respect the same for each other without interference or harm.

      Mike, Norwalk

      Editor, thanks again for all your work and, some of the dialogue that has followed the quote.

      • Reply
      Robken    9/19/11

      How wrong he is......... If only he could have seen the average American today he would most definitely rewrite this quote.

      J Carlton, Calgary

      The government is obviously in fear of "We The People" as well. Why else would they be so adamant about destroying our 2nd Amendment rights? They have a very tenuous grasp of control over us and they know it.

      Anonymous, Reston, VA, US

      ... and yet fear is the major commodity which the GOP/Tea offer their followers...

      E Archer, NYC

      No, Reston, it is not fear that moves the unorganized Tea Party, it is ANGER -- and rightfully so.

      GunnyCee, Durham

      To a certain extent, Mike is correct. But we are a country of rules not men, so we have to wait for the election cycle. What would other countries have done? They would have demanded that this present regime be declared incompetent and dangerous. It stands for everything that our Constitution was designed to prevent -- a take-over of our Congress and ruling by fear. They have shoved spending bills down our throats under a weak and willing Congress until we voted most of the skunks out of the House of Representives. By following our own Constitution, we have allowed Obama plenty of rope. Actually, Obama's fear tactics are starting to look foolish and the American people via the Tea Party have gotten some spine and are beginning to stand up to this petty tyrant. We will act as a Union and will vote against tyranny next year...if we can last as a united America for that long.

      Gunny Cee, Durhamn

      To Jack Green, Ohio, so does Love, Duty, and Honor motivate people. Greed is what made this country great. But not the kind of greed that small minds think about. It is the kind of greed that a person has when it comes to self-preservation and the preservation of his family and loved ones. It's the kind of greed that motivates a man or woman to study, to learn, and to understand that a good job will create the life-style that will make them all comfortable. IT isn't the kind of greed that makes some people demand that others take care of them; that the government is supposed to look after their welfare. The kind of greed that demands ever more from the government and the taxpayers and threatens to burn down our cities if they don't get it. Also it's the greed of the Unions thugs who demand more and more and produce less and less that has ruined most of our once great institutions and has driven business overseas.

      Elizabeth, Astoria, NY

      ...a Founding Father making sure that his Children (Americans) would be as vigilant as to preserve the basic principles of the nation they built.

      Editor, Liberty Quotes

      The honour is mine, Mike. Thank you for your much appreciated take on things. My faith in the American people is much restored because of the rising numbers of informed citizens like yourself. Thanks for the work you do and the constant vigil you keep - it has made a difference and will continue to do so. Cheers!

      Editor, Liberty Quotes

      And thanks to you all who have taken an interest and contributed a full spectrum of views of Liberty and the Responsibility that comes with it. Good dialogue up above. An honest inquiry will eventually reveal the truth - we hope! Your friend, Eric Schaub


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