The Adamses revered learning and ideas. They believed that education is the cornerstone of a productive, meaningful and moral life, and necessary to sustain a robust democracy. In keeping with this belief, several generations of Adams sons received a classical education steeped in history, philosophy, and political thought. They attended Harvard, studied law, and gained exposure to politics and diplomacy by assisting their fathers during foreign postings.
Standing on the right side of history
From this background, they developed the intellectual foundation and the personal stature to influence the great issues of their era. Standing on the right side of history, they were forceful advocates for independence from Britain, the establishment of representative government, protection of individual rights, the growth of a young nation, and the abolition of slavery.
The education of a nation
Education, John and Abigail believed, was not just for the elites. For democracy to survive, ordinary citizens must understand its foundations and be prepared to protect its institutions. Framing his philosophy about government’s role in education, John Adams wrote, “Before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of education, and knowledge must become so general as to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher. The education of a nation, instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the formation of the many.”