Values: Faith, Integrity & Loyalty

Along with education, faith was a cornerstone of the Adams character. John and Abigail were raised as Congregationalists, and for decades, they were active members of the First Parish Church in Braintree (now Quincy), which was liberal in doctrine.

In their private lives and public roles, they held themselves and their children to high standards of honesty and integrity, and they expected as much from others. John Adams wrote, “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” In an 1821 publication, John Quincy exhorted readers: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

The family’s commitment to principle made them formidable advocates in times of crisis but also hampered their effectiveness in elected office. Unwilling to compromise on their core beliefs, and often brusque in manner, they were easy targets for political rivals. As a result, both John Adams and John Quincy Adams were one-term presidents whose greatest achievements occurred outside that office.

Religious tolerance

Like many of the Founding Fathers, John and Abigail believed the universe to be the work of a creator who is the source of all rights, freedoms, and blessings. As the descendants of those who had fled religious persecution, the family also believed that religious freedom and tolerance were necessary for democracy to flourish. In “Thoughts on Government,” John declared, “No subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship.”

Loyalty to family

The Adamses drew their strength and resolve from home, family, and friends. John Adams’s greatest joy was to be surrounded by his wife and children, his farm, and his books. When the demands of public service took him and later generations to Paris, London, St. Petersburg, or Washington, the Old House in Braintree was the longed-for point of return. It not only served as the childhood home for four generations but was also a refuge for adults: a place to retreat from the relentless pressures of governing and the nasty business of politics.

Friendship

Despite the overwhelming demands of their daily lives, many family members found time to nurture deep and lasting friendships. None was more celebrated than John Adams’s relationship with Thomas Jefferson, which flourished during the long fight for independence only to be torn apart by bitter political rivalry when Adams and then Jefferson served as president.

After a long silence, they renewed their friendship at the urging of their mutual friend, Benjamin Rush, who told Adams of having a dream (perhaps apocryphal) in which future history books reported the two former presidents had resumed their correspondence late in life. From 1812 until 1826, Adams and Jefferson exchanged dozens of letters, rich with insight and memory, on a vast range of topics. Delighted that the two old patriots had reconnected, Rush told Adams, “I consider you and him as the North and South Poles of the American Revolution. Some talked, some wrote, and some fought to promote and establish it, but you and Mr. Jefferson thought for us all….”