Monday, May 12, 2014

According to John Adams


I am reading John Adams by David McCullough with my kids. I read it before, several years ago. I am really enjoying it again this round. Because he was such a wordy person, there is a lot of documentation of his life.

This time through, I have noticed great quoteables on several subjects. If you look at the book from the bottom, you will see many turned up corners. They each represent a memorable quote.

Here's what John Adams had to say...

On Debate:
The art of persuasion depends mainly on a marshaling of facts, clarity, conviction, and the ability to think on one's feet. True eloquence consists of truth and rapid reason.

On the French: 
The French are the happiest people in the world and have the best disposition to make others so.

To John Quincy on Study: 
The smell of the midnight lamp is very unwholesome. Never defraud yourself of your sleep nor your walk.

To Charles Adams on Study:
A scholar is always made alone. Studies can only be made to good purpose by yourself. Don't let your companions then, nor your amusements, take up too much of your time.

On reading:
I read my eyes out and can't read half enough...the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.

I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.

On Learning:
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.

Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.

On Facts:
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

On Liberty:
Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

Be not intimidated...nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.

On the Cost of Preserving Freedom:
Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it.

On Guilt and Innocence:
It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, "whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection," and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

On Poetry:
You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.

On Character:
To believe all men honest is folly. To believe none is something worse.

The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families.

On Conversation:
Make Things rather than Persons the subjects of conversations.

On the Presidency:
No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.

On his Wife:
Among all the disappointments and perplexities which have fallen my share in life, nothing has contributed so much to support my mind as the choice blessing of a wife.

There's a lot of food for thought in there. Which quote is your favorite?