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This Day in History: John Adams on the Constitution

On this day in 1798, John Adams writes a letter to officers in the Massachusetts militia.

Adams thought America then free of certain problems that plagued much of the world. But he could also see a different future if Americans were to become deceptive “towards one another and towards foreign nations” by assuming “the Language of Justice and moderation while it is practicing [immorality] and Extravagance . . . [and] rioting in rapine and Insolence.” If such corruption were to come about, he thought “this Country will be the most miserable Habitation in the World.”


His closing sentence is one that you might have heard before.


“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People,” Adams concluded. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”


Wow. What would he say of us today?


Adams's letter is reprinted here.


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