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

John Adams Quote

“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.”

John AdamsJohn Adams
~ John Adams

Thoughts on Government, 1776

Ratings and Comments

J Carlton, Calgary

Is it time to exercise that right yet?

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Dan    7/3/08

By the time people realize it's time, time will have run out.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Here Adams overturns the idea of the dictatorship of natural or divined law. He says the people have an indefeasible (cannot be set aside or annulled) right to reform or alter their government to suit their own happiness. One man, one vote and each man in accordance with their own conscience. Natural law be damned is what Adams is saying. This takes some trust in ourselves and our fellows, a trust and faith that many are not prepared to extend thus they stauncly hold on to their right to claim natural or divine law anytime they wish.

Mike, Norwalk

It requires it now! Natural and Divined law is what the founders based their government on (not what man says is natural or divine, but rather that which is, in fact - as could be observed and reasoned). Now that this nation is no longer a nation of laws, it has returned to a despotism related to that which Adams and his contemporaries were fighting against. Adams was not saying natural law be damned, only idiot slaves and despots say that.

Mike, Norwalk

opps, forgot to rate it. One man, one vote is only half the concept (mostly for half wits promoting half truths) The rest of the story is, what are you voting for. Are you voting for someone to represent you personally or, are you voting for someone to represent democracy's oligarchy (or some other form of despotic tyranny). When the States united, they did so with the observation that no one person / entity (individually or in concert - organized or otherwise) was lawfully greater than the individual sovereign. All rights were endowed upon the individual by their Creator.

E Archer, NYC

Adams wrote this in response to a resolution of the Provincial Congress of North Carolina which requested Adams' suggestions on the establishment of a new government and the drafting of a constitution. It is in that context that Adams speaks of the indefeasible right for the people to form or reform their government. Keep in mind that this was an historical event -- not in a thousand years had such an opportunity presented itself -- to become true freemen with no duty to any king BUT a sincere calling to virtue. Again, I recommend actually reading "Thoughts on Government" to understand the basics behind the proposed American republican government.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Mike I am trying to be fair, democratic, and republican with you and you just want to be dictatorial, autocratic, and an %#@ with me. Question: who says what is natural law, Moses, Allah, Buddah. John Kennedy said it well I think when he said, "On earth Gods work must be done by men." Those are the cards we are dealt, we must reason it out together and yes even with prayer. But we all know of dictatorial prayer leaders also. One man one vote is the only way for persons who truly believe in the equality of each other to handle their affairs. If one is allowed to claim to have a shaft of light from divinity or natural law he is then allowed to be the dictator.

E Archer, NYC

Well then, Waffler, if the folks on this blog voted that you should be banned from this site then I guess you would leave gracefully, eh? After all, if majority rules, and they rule you to be a danger to their property and labors, then you would have to acquiesce -- you cannot claim any right to be here or even to live, I guess. Here's a simple question: what is the check against the neighbors voting you out of your house?

Mike, Norwalk

Waffler, you're not being fair and I'm probably being a little %#@. I'm saying, God is the one that says what natural law is, and it is up to man to discover what that law is. I don't care if God is talking to my next door neighbor face to face, giving him high fives, washing his feet, and giving him all the light that has ever been given to man, that won't change the law. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I don't care if you are an atheist, Christian, or what ever, the law is the same. If I jump off a cliff, I'm going to fall. If I spend more than I earn, I'm going bankrupt, etc. God said in the Judeo/Christian tradition "Thou shalt not murder". It is up to man to discover that law, its value, and how to implement it into society. In most jurisdictions in the US there is 1st degree murder, 2nd degree, manslaughter, etc. Another, too broad to enforce law is "thou shalt not steal" It is up to man to discover that law, its value, and how to implement it into society. So man discovers that law and defines it grand theft, petty theft, etc. There are God of Nature fiscal laws, it is up to man to discover those laws and implement them into society. When a rule of man is implemented, being contrary to law, freedom and liberty are lost. That's also why rules cannot be changed for light or transient reasons. Theft is theft, it doesn't matter what name you give it, larceny, tax, etc. There are lawful ways to tax and there are unlawful ways to tax, etc., etc., etc. If there is a rule antagonistic to, or denying the sovereignty of an individual, it is unlawful. Only a lying slave or dictator would say other than that. The Constitution is not law but an outline defining what government can do. If it wasn't specifically stated what could be done, it couldn't be done. Beyond that, the actions of the federal government are unlawful.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Go back to the previous Adams quote Mike. He said and I paraphrase that our American government was founded on reason just like men build ships and houses based on reason. He says it was not based on divining with God or gods. I do have rights Archer and I rely on my good faith in my neighbors as they do also rely on good faith in me. Do you remember the Move movement in Philadelphia? They were ordered out and eventually were bombed out of their home legally.

E Archer, NYC

If, as you claim, you have rights, Waffler, then the vote of the majority cannot infringe on them, correct? OK, so you think your neighbors can be trusted by good faith alone? Should our government be trusted with good faith alone, or should there be some very real limits placed on them -- specifically, they may not infringe upon your rights? If so, what you are describing is NOT a democracy but a republican form of government that does not confer power to the majority but strictly limits the 'democratical' powers to specific jurisdictions. That's why Texas cannot tell Rhode Island what to do even though there are more Texans than Rhode Islanders. And the federal government works the same way -- or at least it is supposed to. America is not a democracy -- ask Al Gore! This lie has been the tool of the socialists for whom democracy is a means to an end -- communism, in which property rights are subject to vote, liberties are licensed or refused, dissidents are imprisoned or worse, a handful of men control all industry and commerce, where the populace is reduced to a herd to be branded, corralled, and used as they see fit. That is why we do not trust our government to 'good faith' -- they cannot be trusted, thus our government was designed to distribute power into divisions that check the power of the other -- to protect us from mob rule (democracy), aristocratical rule (feudalism), and monarchy (dictatorship). SO our government as chartered in the Constitution divides these powers accordingly rather than trying to snuff either one out. I bet your socialist leanings would change if you became a target instead of a tool. But you are no lone wolf, so you are safe with the pack -- as long as you don't get any ideas about independence.

Me Again
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    Me Again    7/9/08

    Well, we surely have strayed far from John Adams definition of government. Can we have a 21st century America that will give us protection, safety, prosperity and happiness all at the same time while ensuring adherance to the founding principles and documents of the United States? That would be a great forum of debate.

    Mike Hawk
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    Mike Hawk    2/28/12

    I like turtles.

    Paul, Boston

    HHmmm. This is Article VII of the MA Constitution (penned by Adams) Very intriguing. Notice elsewhere in the constitution he uses the term, "by the people or their representatives in the legislature". Here, he does not. Seems he is referring to one of those mysterious rights reserved to the people alone.

    Durham, Birmingham,AL

    Our DC employees believe they are entitled to unequal rights under the law. They didn't like being employees and fully intend to solidify their status as masters.

    John Shuttleworth, NYC

    There is an old saying: If one person makes pee-pee in the river, there is no problem. If, however, a thousand people make pee-pee in the river, you have a problem. An amendment to that saying could be: It depends on whether you live upstream or down. By that we consider one voice, or many, in a society. When is a tower of babel inchoate ? This question of individual rights pales in the face of overwhelming numbers. When we quote people who lived at a time when population density and mechanisms of survival were much different than today, we must ask whether these quotes, which espouse principles we ostensibly cherish, have relevance. I do believe, however, within the fabric of Western thought the opposition of individual concerns as opposed to those of a group has been a defining aspect of this particular culture; and one which will continue to be a factious element if espoused without proper reflection. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and on, are all excellent bases upon which to reflect as long as we recognize them as projections, not reflections of our actuality. Difficult.

    Mike, Norwalk

    John, rights are individual and absolute. Abuse of an action, by example: harming another no longer abides the legal domain of a right but rather, exists in a criminal domain. A difference between socialism / collectivism and individual liberty and rights may be demonstrated by your river pee-pee. If the accomplishment of one relieving moment harms no one down stream, no law is broken and a right preserved. If numerous individuals participate in the same activity, causing harm down stream then, each individual has participated in the harm. A rule of order then must be identified and put into place. There is/was no group that caused the "in fact" harm but individuals united - there is no tangible group to change behavior, only individual(s). As to arms; if the colonials had, had automatic weapons, the individual right would have remained the same. It is the enforced socialist / collective mind set degradation by the occupying statist theocracy that has violated so many individuals and caused the mental illness of mass deaths. London, having more murders than NY (with so many knife and clubbing innocents) demonstrates it is a systemic problem of theocratic progressives / socialists / collectivists, etc., not the tools or inalienable rights themselves.

    Ronw13, OR
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    Ronw13, OR    4/3/18

    John Adams studied well the Ancient law of Liberty. Stressing the need for extreme Uprightness within all branches of governmental leadership. An armed citizenry still remains the Best check on tyrannical forces within a corrupted government.
    Thank you very much for the Link, Archer, an excellent read.
    God Bless and Semper Fi

    Mark W, Aurora, CO

    Thanks to E Archer and Mike for your eloquence!
    I would LOVE to see Waffler voted out, but PLEASE DO NOT DO IT!! Despicable though Wafflers may be, it's a steeling stench that wafts from the posts of decrepit socialists bent upon "little D-democracy for all". I posit that Waffler's toxic viewpoint serves here as wonderful fertilizer for Patriots, and I'll bet Waffler never knew what a BOOST toward that direction he could provide, lol.

    Ronw13, OR
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      Ronw13, OR    4/3/18

      Perhaps it is time to speak of the "mercy seat", upon which Peter never spoke. Let no tyrant rule our household. as he cut off the enemies ear. and sheathed his sword.

      Laura T, Austin

      I lean towards Waffler over Mike btw.

      My interpretation of this part "therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it." means we have the right to have universal healthcare for free, we have the right to an abortion because outlawing it will not eradicate it but make it be used only by the wealthiest who can have their private docs do them for their woman-folk. And also it means that the ridiculous love-fest with weapons is over in the US and we will not have any more 9 year olds shooting Uzi's for awhile, hopefully with laws changing.
      The NRA will no longer ban the truth of guns statistics because it works for the gun manufacturers and not for the gun owners as it has said forever. We need the truth and and the cold hard statistics. All these issues I bring up affect the "protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness " of people and we are damn tired of government not doing its job and yet charging us taxes. The Libertarian way of Natural rights does not work. The reason it does not work is it open the door to being fooled by folk who says they are for the rights of the people but are not. They want to make money and the Libertarians are gullible enuf to fall for the political bull and getting to say "ha ha I am neither party" smugly while all goes to hell around us. Read "The Myth of Natural Rights" by Rollins.


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