David Barton: Was John Adams really an enemy of Christians? (Part 7)

3 Of 5 / The Bible’s Influence In America / American

Heritage Series / David Barton

Evangelical leader Ken Ham rightly has noted, “Most of the founding fathers of this nation … built the worldview of this nation on the authority of the Word of God.” I strongly agree with this statement by Ham.

Dr. Michael Davis of California has asserted that he has no doubts that our President is a professing Christian, but his policies are those of a secular humanist. I share these same views. However, our founding fathers were anything but secular humanists in their views. John Adams actually wrote in a letter, “There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government – but that which is administered by this Holy Ghost.”

In June of 2011 David Barton of Wallbuilders wrote the article, “John Adams: Was He Really an Enemy of Christians?Addressing Modern Academic Shallowness,” and I wanted to share portions of that article with you.


 At WallBuilders, we are truly blessed by God, owning tens of thousands of original documents from the American Founding – documents clearly demonstrating the Christian and Biblical foundations both of America and of so many of her Founding Fathers and early statesmen. We frequently postoriginal documents on our website so that others may enjoy them and learn more about many important aspects of America’s rich moral, religious, and constitutional heritage that are widely unknown or misportrayed today.

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This is a very respectful reference to the dream Rush believed that God had given him. There is nothing derogatory or scornful in Adams’ reference to “prophecy” – a direct and positive product of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

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Chris Pinto, in his analysis of Adams letter, has managed to ignore more than a millennia of church and world history in his unreasonable attempt to brand John Adams a heretic and blasphemer of the Holy Spirit. And adding insult to his malpractice injury, he also ignored more than thirty volumes of Adams’ published writings, containing hundreds of positive letters and repeated favorable references to religion and Christianity. Thus, Pinto’s claim about Adams’ irreligion is directly refuted not only by the context of the letter itself but also by the powerful evidence of the lifelong proven faith and character of John Adams.

In fact, in the very next letter Adams wrote Rush following letter that Pinto attacks, Adams vigorously defended Christianity against the attack made upon it by Thomas Paine, telling Rush:

He [Thomas Paine] understood neither government nor religion. . . . His billingsgate [vile and vulgar attack] . . . will never discredit Christianity, which will hold its ground in some degree as long as human nature shall have anything moral or intellectual left in it. The Christian religion. . . . will last as long as the world. Neither savage nor civilized man without a revelation could ever have discovered or invented it. Ask me not, then, whether I am a Catholic or Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian. As far as they are Christians, I wish to be a fellow-disciple with them all. 34

This letter certainly does not reflect either the tone or the attitude of an heretic who would attack and blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Consider some of the scores of other quotes by John Adams, and contrast them with the anti-religious image that Pinto wrongly attempts to draw of Adams:

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be! 35 1756

I sat next to John Adams in Congress, and upon my whispering to him and asking him if he thought we should succeed in our struggle with Great Britain, he answered me, “Yes – if we fear God and repent of our sins.” This anecdote will, I hope, teach my boys that it is not necessary to disbelieve Christianity or to renounce morality in order to arrive at the highest political usefulness or fame. 36 1777, Benjamin Rush, Reporting His Conversation with Adams

The idea of infidelity [a disbelief in the inspiration of the Scriptures or the Divine origin of Christianity 37 ] cannot be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor in his heart and ought to be execrated [denounced] as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason. 38 1778

[All persons elected must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. “I do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have firm persuasion of its truth.” 39 1780, Constitution of Massachusetts (Adams wan an Author of this Clause)

On motion of the Hon. Mr. [John] Adams, Voted, That the Convention will attend morning prayers daily, and that the gentlemen of the clergy of every denomination be requested to officiate in turn. 40 1788, Massachusetts Convention to Ratify the U. S. Constitution

The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the blackguard [scoundrel, rogue] Paine say what he will. 41 1796

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him. . . . I have therefore thought fit to recommend . . . a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer that the citizens of these States . . . offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies. 421798

[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. 43 1798

The Bible contains the most profound philosophy, the most perfect morality, and the most refined policy that ever was conceived upon earth. . . .The curses against fornication and adultery, and the prohibition of every wanton glance or libidinous ogle at a woman, I believe to be the only system that ever did or ever will preserve a republic in the world. . . . I say then that national morality never was and never can be preserved without the utmost purity and chastity in women; and without national morality a republican government cannot be maintained. 44 1807

I think there is nothing upon this earth more sublime and affecting than the idea of a great nation all on their knees at once before their God, acknowledging their faults and imploring His blessing and protection. 45 1809

[I]t is notorious enough that I have been a church-going animal for seventy-six years from the cradle. 46 1811

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were . . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . I will avow that I then believed (and now believe) that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God. 47 1813

I have examined all [religions], . . . and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world. 48 1813

Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell. 49 1817

There are numerous similar quotes by Adams. This certainly is not the profile of an individual who would blaspheme the Holy Spirit, Christianity, or religion.

One other point that illustrates the absurd results which occur under Modernism is John Adams’ request that Rush burn the letter after he reads it:

This letter is so much in the tone of my friend the Abbe Raynal [a French writer] and the grumblers of the last age, that I pray you to burn it. 50

Critics also point to this phrase as yet another proof that Adams was blaspheming Christians – that he did not want his true sacrilegious opinions to be known, so he asked Rush to burn the letter. But just as Pinto apparently had no idea what Adams meant when he referenced the oil at Reims or in the Tower of London, apparently critics did not know that a request to burn letters was a common practice in that era (especially for former presidents), regardless of the topic covered in the letter.

For example, after the death of George Washington in 1799, Martha burned all of the letters that had passed between them (only three remain today).51 George also asked friends to burn letters he sent them. 52

It was the same with Thomas Jefferson. Even with individuals whom he completely trusted, he would often ask his friends to return the letter after they read it, 53 or else burn, destroy, or keep its contents private. 54

James Madison also destroyed much of his correspondence, and Dolly Madison did the same with hers. In fact, in much of her correspondence that did survive, she often asked her recipients to burn her letter after reading it.55 Even individuals who wrote to Madison asked that he burn their letter. 56

John Adams had the same practice. 57

Pinto’s preposterous analysis of Adams’ letter is based on the flawed practices of Modernism and Minimalism. Unfortunately, he repeats these same practices throughout his other videos, frequently taking deep multi-faceted issues, failing to recognize or acknowledge crucial references to historical events or practices, and presenting an especially negative view of history. It is for this reason that Pinto is also a Deconstructionist.

34. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Volume IX, pp. 626- 267, to Benjamin Rush, January 21,1810. (Return)

35. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756. (Return)

36. Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (NJ: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 534, to John Adams on February 24, 1790. (Return)

37. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), s.v. “infidelity.” (Return)

38. John Adams, Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, editor (Cambridge: The Belknap Press, 1983),Vol. 6, p. 348, to James Warren on August 4, 1778.(Return)

39. A Constitution or Frame of Government Agreed Upon by the Delegates of the People of the State of Massachusetts-Bay (Boston: Benjamin Edes & Sons, 1780), p. 44, Chapter VI, Article I. (Return)

40. The Debates in the Several Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Jonathan Elliot, editor (Washington: Printed for the Editor, 1836), Vol. II, p. 2, Massachusetts Convention, January 9, 1788. (Return)

41. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. III, p. 421, diary entry for July 26, 1796. (Return)

42. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 169, “Proclamation for a National Fast on March 23, 1798.”(Return)

43. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts on October 11, 1798. (Return)

44. John Adams, Old Family Letters, Alexander Biddle, editor (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1892), pp. 127-128, to Benjamin Rush on February 2, 1807. (Return)

45. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 291, correspondence originally published in the Boston Patriot, 1809, Letter XIII. (Return)

46. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 637, to Benjamin Rush on August 28, 1811.(Return)

47. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor (Washington, D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 293, from John Adams on June 28, 1813.(Return)

48. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. X, p. 85, to Thomas Jefferson on December 25, 1813.(Return)

49. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. X, p. 254, to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1817.(Return)

50. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at:http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)

51. “Slide Four—A Family Man: A Letter to Martha,” The University of Virginia, (at: http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/education/life/life4.html) (accessed on June 6, 2011). (Return)

52. See, for example, George Washington, Letters from His Excellency General Washington to Arthur Young (London: B. McMillan, 1801), p. 159, to Arthur Young on December 12, 1793; George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Worthington Chauncey Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891), Vol. XI, p. 490, to Clement Biddle on July 20, 1790; George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf, and Hilliard, Gray, and Co., 1835), Vol. IX, p. 175, to George William Fairfax on June 25, 1786. (Return)

53. Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Charlottesville: F. Carr, and Co., 1829), Vol. IV, p. 206, to John Adams on August 22, 1813; Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor (Washington, D. C., Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903), Vol. XV, p. 1, to F. A. Van Der Kemp on April 25, 1816. (Return)

54. See, for example, Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), Vol. IX, p. 459, note. See also Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), Vol. IV, p. 320, to William Short on April 13, 1820; Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. II, pp. 863-864, to Thomas Jefferson on May 5, 1803; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. 4, p. 413, to James Madison on May 11, 1785;Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), Vol. IX, to Elbridge Gerry on January 26, 1799; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), Vol. XI, to Horatio Gates Spafford on January 10, 1816; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905). Vol. IX, to James Cheetham on January 17, 1802. (Return)

55. “James Madison’s Nieces and Nephews,” University of Virginia Press (at: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/dmde/editorialnote.xqy?note=all) (accessed on June 8, 2011). (Return)

56. See, for example, James Madison, The Writings of James Madison, Comprising His Public Papers and His Private Correspondence, Including His Numerous Letters and Documents now for the First Time Printed, Gaillard Hunt, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900), Vol. IX, to Joseph C. Cabell on September 7, 1829. (Return)

57. See, for example, John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856), Vol. IX, to John Tudor on July 23, 1774. (Return)

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