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Would readers like to see the context? Here it is:
TO THE OFFICERS OF THE FIRST BRIGADE OF THE THIRD DIVISION OF THE MILITIA OF MASSACHUSETTS. 11 October, 1798. GENTLEMEN,
I have received from Major-General Hull and Brigadier. General Walker your unanimous address from Lexington, animated with a martial spirit, and expressed with a military dignity becoming your character and the memorable plains on which it was adopted.
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
An address from the officers commanding two thousand eight hundred men, consisting of such substantial citizens as are able and willing at their own expense completely to arm and clothe themselves in handsome uniforms, does honor to that division of the militia which has done so much honor to its country.
Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken and so solemnly repeated on that venerable spot, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government. JOHN ADAMS. (SOURCE OF INFORMATION: The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States; With A Life of the Author Notes and Illustrations of his Grandson Charles Francis Adams. Vol. IX, Books For Libraries Press, Freeport, New York, (First Published 1850-1856, Reprinted 1969) pp 228-29)
NOW FOR THE CONTEXT: John Adams was being president, being all things to all people. While in office he received correspondence (called addresses) from a number of persons, groups, organizations, etc. He in turn answered many of those. In the CONTENTS of the above publication you will find the following:
ANSWERS TO ADDRESSES.
28. TO THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCE 180
TO THE MAYOR, ALDERMEN, AND CITIZENS OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA. 182
26. TO THE CITIZENS OF PHILADELPHIA, THE DISTRICT OF SOUTHWARK, AND THE NORTHERN LIBERTIES . 183
30. TO THE INHABITANTS OF PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND 184
1. TO THE INHABITANTS OF BRIDGETON, IN THE COUNTY OF CUMBERLAND, IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY . 185
2. TO THE CITIZENS OF BALTIMORE, AND BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND . 186
7. TO THE YOUNG MEN OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, THE DISTRICT OF SOUTHWARK, AND THE NORTHERN LIBERTIES, PENNSYLVANIA . 187
7. TO THE INHABITANTS AND CITIZENS OF BOSTON, MAS- SACHUSETTS . 189
8. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY OF LANCASTER? PENNSYLVANIA .190
8. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY OF BURLINGTON, NEW JERSEY . 191
10. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT .192
12. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE BOROUGH OF HARRIS- BURGH, PENNSYLVANIA . 193
22. TO THE YOUNG MEN OF BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS .194
28. TO THE GRAND JURY FOR THE COUNTY OF PLYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS . 195
81. TO THE SOLDIER CITIZENS OF NEW JERSEY . 196
2. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF BRAINTREE, MASSACHUSETTS . 197
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK . 197
TO THE INHABITANTS OF QUINCY, MASSACHUSETTS . 199
2. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS . 200
15. TO THE LEGISLATURE OF MASSACHUSETTS . 200
25. TO THE INHABITANTS OF ARLINGTON AND SANDGATE, VERMONT . 202
29. TO THE LEGISLATURE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE . 203 TO THE STUDENTS OF DICKINSON COLLEGE, PENNSYL- VANIA . 204
TO THE STUDENTS OF NEW JERSEY COLLEGE . 205
TO THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE OF CON NECTICUT . 207
TO THE CINCINNATI OF RHODE ISLAND . . 208
14. TO THE INHABITANTS OF DEDHAM AND OTHER TOWNS IN THE COUNTY OF NORFOLK, MASSACHUSETTS . 209
TO THE INHABITANTS OF CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS . 210
TO THE STUDENTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY, IN MAS- SACHUSETTS . 211
TO THE FREEMASONS OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND . 212
TO THE INHABITANTS OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, MARY- LAND . 219
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX, VIRGINIA . 214
TO THE COMMITTEE OF THE MILITIA OF BOTETOURT, VIRGINIA . 215
11. TO THE INHABITANTS OF CINCINNATI AND ITS VICINITY 215
13. TO THE INHABITANTS OF HARRISON COUNTY, VIRGINIA 216
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA . .217
TO THE INHABITANTS OF ACCOMAC COUNTY, VIRGINIA 218
31. TO THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY OF THE STATIC OF NEW YORK . 219
7. TO THE BOSTON MARINE SOCIETY, MASSACHUSETTS . 220
15. TO THE CINCINNATI OF SOUTH CAROLINA . 222
22. TO THE GRAND JURY OF DUTCHESS COUNTY, NEW YORK . 223
26. TO THE GRAND JURY OF ULSTER COUNTY, NEW YORK 224
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF NEWBERN, NORTH CAROLINA . 225
26. TO THE SIXTH BRIGADE OF THE THIRD DIVISION OF NORTH CAROLINA MILITIA . 226
3. TO THE GRAND JURORS OF HAMPSHIRE COUNTY, MAS- SACHUSETTS . 227
5. TO THE INHABITANTS OF MACHIAS, DISTRICT OF MAINE 227
11. TO THE OFFICERS OF THE FIRST BRIGADE, THIRD DIVI- SION OF MASSACHUSETTS MILITIA . 228
19. TO THE MILITIA AND INHABITANTS OF GUILFORD COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA . 229
31. TO THE OFFICERS OF THE THIRD DIVISION OF GEORGIA MILITIA . , 230
3. TO THE GRAND JURY OF MORRIS COUNTY IN NEW JERSEY . 231
8. TO THE CITIZENS, INHABITANTS OF THE MISSISSIPPI TERRITORY . 232
5. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE CITY OF WASHINGTON . 233
11. TO THE CITIZENS OF ALEXANDRIA . 233
1. TO THE CORPORATION OF NEW LONDON, CONNECTICUT 23-1
15. TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY OF EDGECOMBE, NORTH CAROLINA .235
26. TO THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF MASSACHUSETTS . 236
In March 1798 he had issued a Proclamation for a National Fast to be observed on May 9, 1798. (He would issue another such proclamation in 1799 and would later rue the day he did either. He spent the rest of his life feeling that at least in part those proclamations cost him re-election ) A person could speculate that maybe they had asked or made mention of that fact in what they wrote him. Obviously he was replying to something they had said or had asked him. As can be seen above, Adams answered a number of these addresses while in office. This particular set of books does not contain the actual address from each group that he answered. So, we have no way of knowing exactly what Adams was responding to. What they had written to him that brought him to write what he wrote in that one particular answer of October 11, 1798. We just don't know and won't know until or unless someone can produce that particular address he was replying to. That type of language does not occur in any of the other answers.
Since it was for public consumption it does not necessarily serve as a accurate barometer of what John Adams personally believed with regards to religion or church/state.
What follows is the letter in which he states what he believed was at least one of the reasons he wasn't reelected for a second term.
OLD FAMILY LETTERS
Quincy June 12. 1812.
DEAR Sir, – Ask the great Lady you quoted in your last, whether when I pray for the health of Philadelphia, and that, no wasting sickness may prevail there, I make a Girlish or a coying compliment to Doctor Rush?
The next paragraph requires a graver answer. But a Volume would not suffice. Take a hint. I have lived among Infidel Philosophers more than half a Century, and been engaged in continued disputes with them. This has compelled me to spend more time in reading Universal History but especially Ecclesiastical History, than has been for my Interest or Comfort. While the Result has been an increasing Love for Christianity, as I understand it, a growing Jealousy of the Priesthood has accompanied it all the way. Levites, Magi, Faquirs, Mandarines, Mufti, Druids, Popes; Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Bernardines , Jacobins, Dominicans, Westleys, the Prophet of Wabash, or Tippecanoe, Nimrod Hughs, Christopher McPherson, and even Priestly and Price, even Dr. Ewing, Dr. Rogers and Dr. Dwight have conspired together to rivet to my soul the Duty and Necessity of Tolleration.
These general assemblies of Presbyterian Divines are general Councils in embrio. We shall have Creeds and Confessions, Church discipline and Excommunication. . We shall have, the civil Government overawed and become a Tool. We shall have Armies and their Commanders under the orders of Monks. We shall have Hermits, commanding Napoleons, I agree with you, there is a Germ of Religion in human nature so strong that whenever; an order of Men can persuade the People by, flattery or Terror, that they can have salvation at their disposal, there can be no end to fraud Violence or Usurpation. Ecumenical Councils produce Ecumenical Bishops and both subservient Armies, Emperors and Kings.
The National Fast recommended by me turned me out of office. It was connected with the general assembly of the Presbyterian church, which I had no concern in. That assembly has alarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Catholicks, protestant Episcopalians, Arians, Socinians, Armenians, &c,&c,&c, Atheists and Deists might be added. A general Suspicion prevailed that the Presbyterian Church was ambitious and aimed at an Establishment as a National Church. I was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical Project. The secret whispers ran through them [all the sects] "Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, any body, whether they be Philosophers, Deists, or even Atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President" This principle is at the bottom of the unpopularity of national Fasts and Thanksgiving. Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion. This wild Letter, I very much fear, contains seeds of an Ecclesiastical History of the U.S. for a Century to come.
I recollect a little sparring between Jefferson and me on some religious subject, not ill natured however, but have forgotten the time, and the particular subject. I wish you would give me the circumstances of the whole Anecdote.
The similitude between 1773 and 1774, and 1811 and 1812 is obvious. It is now said by the Tories that we were unanimous in 1774. Nothing can be farther from the Truth. We were more divided in 74 than we are now. The Majorities in Congress in 74 on all the essential points and Principles of the Declaration of Rights, were only one, two or three. Indeed all the great critical questions about Men and Measures from 1774 to 1778 were decided by the vote of a single state, and that vote was often decided by a single Individual. Jumble and Chaos as this Nation appears at this moment, I never knew it better united. It is always so. The History of the World is nothing but a narrative of such divisions. The Stuarts abdicated or were turned out and William came in by one or two votes. I was turned out by the votes of S. Carolina not fairly obtained. Jefferson came in by one vote, after 37 Tryals between him and Burr. Our expedition against Cape Breton and consequent Conquest of Louisburg in 1745 which gave peace to the World was carried in our House of Representatives of Massachusetts by one single vote. The abolition of old Tenor in 1750 was decided by one vote. What is more awful than all. The Trinity was carried in a general Council by one vote against a Quaternity: the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son and Spirit only by a single suffrage. All the great affairs of the world temporal and spiritual, as far as Men are concerned in the discussion and decision of them are determined by small Majorities. The Repulsion in human nature is stronger than the Attraction. Division, Separation are inevitable. My Boudoir, which you sometimes honour with your recollection is but an exemplification in all ages and Nations of this repulsive Power. I know not whether you have ever seen a Boudoir. I never heard of one in G. Britain or America. I had two of them in my House at Auteuil, which was nothing less than the magnificent Hotel de Rohan. A boudoir is a pouting Room. The Idea is, when the Lady has the vapours, and is a little out of health or humour she may retire to a Bath in the Centre of this apartment and contemplate her own Face and figure in every possible direction and position, till the sight of her own irresistible Charms shall restore her good opinion of herself, and her usual gaiety and good humour. The Room is an Octagon. Eight entire and imaculate French Mirrors extending from the floor to the Ceiling compose the eight sides. The Ceiling too is one entire Mirror. So that the Lady cannot turn to any point of the compass without seeing herself multiplied an hundred times, indeed ad infinitum. My Boudoir is such a room; in which our dear United States may contemplate themselves and see their own defects as well as Beauties. I hope it will never be used to teach wanton Experiments, as it is easy to see the Ladies bathing room may be. As old Men are apt to repeat, I may have told you this story before more than once. By my Boudoir, I mean the three volumes of "Defence," and a fourth volume as an Appendix call "Discourses on Devils."
When I hear a Man boast of his indifference to public Censure, I think of Henry the 4th. A Braggadocio in his Army solicited advancement and command and to enforce his Pretensions, he extolled and exalted his own Courage. "Sire, I know not what fear is; I never felt fear in my Life." "I presume then, Sir," said the good natured Monarch, "you never attempted to snuff a Candle with your thumb and finger."
Let Mrs. Rush laugh at my Girlish Folly as she will [which I cannot in honor or conscience deny] I will confess and insist upon it, that your gentle emolients feel more comfortable to my skin, than the Blisters of Paine, Hamilton and Callender.
I have heard much of Washington's impatience under the lash of scribblers, some of it from his own mouth. Mr. Lear related to me on Morning the Generals ripping and rascalling Phillip Freneau for sending him his Papers full of abuse.
Many causes concurred to induce the General's Resignation.
1. His ministers plagued him as they did me, afterwards.
2. He could not get Ministers such as he wanted, to serve with Hamilton. Several refused, and he was compelled to take such as he did not like, particularly Pickering and McHenry. This I know from his own Mouth.
3. He knew there was to be an opposition to him at the next Election and he feared he should not come in unanimously.
4. The Times were critical, the labour fatiguing, many Circumstances disgusting and he felt weary and longed for retirement; though he soon found solitude more fatiguing, more disgusting, and longed to return to public Bustle again. Besides my Popularity was growing too splendid and the Millions of Addresses to me from all quarters piqued his Jealousy. The great Eulogium "First in War, first in Peace, and first in the affections of his Country" was suspected by him and all his Friends to be in some danger.
5. I believe he expected to be called in again after a four years respite, as he certainly would have been had he lived. I heartily wished he might life or had lived for that very purpose, and I expressed as much in my answer to the Senates address upon his death. I was then convinced we must have him or Jefferson and I though him then the least visionary of the two. Considering his Connection with Hamilton, I an now not so clear I was then right.
I must come to an end of my Letter though I shall never find an end of my Regards to Mrs. Rush or her Husband notwithstanding her just admonition to the incurable, incorrigible scribber, John Adams Dr. Rush
SOURCE: John Adams to Ben Rush June 12, 1812, pp. 391-96 OLD FAMILY LETTERS copied from the originals for Alexander Biddle Series A Press of J.B. Lippincott Company Philadelphia 1892 Library of American Civilization LAC 22890 Series A&B Series A Contains letter of John Adams, all but the first two addressed to Dr. Benjamin Rush
John Adams could not be considered a Orthodox Christian as that term was understood in this time.
And to his son a few months later, Adams expressed amazement that, after all that had been written by Samuel Clarke, Daniel Waterland, and Joseph Priestly, John Quincy persisted in holding to the Athanasian creed.(18) FOOTNOTE: (18) JA to John Quincy Adams, November 3, 1815; Adams Papers, reel 122 On January 3, 1817, John Quincy Adams wrote his father that all his "hopes of a future life" were "founded upon the Gospel of Christ." Nor, he added, would he "cavil or quibble away" was seemed to him clear assertions by Jesus that he was God."You see my orthodoxy grows upon me." Adrienne Koch and William Peden, eds., The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams (New York, 1946), 291-92 SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Faith of Our Fathers, Religion and the New Nation, Edwin S. Gaustad, Harper and Row, (1987) pp 90.
In his youth John Adams (1735-1826) thought to become a minister, but soon realized that his independent opinions would create much difficulty. At the age of twenty-one, therefore, he resolved to become a lawyer, noting that in following law rather than divinity, "I shall have liberty to think for myself without molesting others or being molested myself." (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 88. The Adams quote is from his letter to Richard Cranch, August 29, 1756.).
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. -- John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (1787-88), from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society (1965) p. 258, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner, "Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church"
If I understand the Doctrine, it is, that if God the first second or third or all three together are united with or in a Man, the whole Animal becomes a God and his Mother is the Mother of God. It grieves me: it shocks me to write in this stile upon a subject the most adorable that any finite Intelligence can contemplate or embrace: but if ever Mankind are to be superior to the Brutes, sacerdotal Impostures must be exposed.-- John Adams to Francis van der Kemp, October 23, 1816. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 122, Library of Congress. Taken from Hutson, The Founders on Religion, p. 223.
I thank you for your favour of the 10th and the pamphlet enclosed, “American Unitarianism.” I have turned over its leaves and have found nothing that was not familiarly known to me. In the preface Unitarianism is represented as only thirty years old in New England. I can testify as a Witness to its old age. Sixty five years ago my own minister the Reverend Samuel Bryant, Dr. Johnathan Mayhew of the west Church in Boston, the Reverend Mr. Shute of Hingham, the Reverend John Brown of Cohasset & perhaps equal to all if not above all the Reverend Mr. Gay of Hingham were Unitarians. Among the Laity how many could I name, Lawyers, Physicians, Tradesman, farmers! --- John Adams to Jedidiah Morse, May 15, 1815. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 122, Library of Congress.
We Unitarians, one of whom I have had the Honour to be, for more than sixty Years, do not indulge our Malignity in profane Cursing and Swearing, against you Calvinists; one of whom I know not how long you have been. You and I, once saw Calvin and Arius, on the Plafond of the Cathedral of St. John the Second in Spain roasting in the Flames of Hell. We Unitarians do not delight in thinking that Plato and Cicero, Tacitus Quintilian Plyny and even Diderot, are sweltering under the scalding drops of divine Vengeance, for all Eternity. --- John Adams to John Quincy Adams, March 28, 1816, Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 430, Library of Congress.
Adams like Thomas Jefferson didn't have a lot of use for Priests and Ministers. He felt that had corrupted religion. However, he at least appeared to believe that religion, maybe even in its corrupted version was useful to keep the masses in line.