Celebrating the 252nd Anniversary of John and Abigail Adams’ Marriage

On October 25, 1764, John Adams married Abigail Smith. Because they spent much of their marriage apart, we have access to a wealth of letters shared between the two. The couple exchanged more than 1,100 letters – ranging from the time of their courtship through John’s political service (which ended in 1801). He then returned to Massachusetts and Abigail. And while those of us today may be saddened that the letters then stopped, I am sure Abigail, who sacrificed a great deal for the sake of her husband’s political ambitions and for America, was glad to have John in close proximity.

The letters of John and Abigail are freely available online through the incredible work of the Adams Family Papers and Massachusetts Historical Society. I encourage you to check them out – you can learn a lot about not only their marriage, but also the early American Republic.

Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from their correspondence –

(1) March 31, 1776 – Remember the Ladies!

I long to hear that you have declared an independency — and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in immitation of the Supreem Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

(2) August 11, 1763 – A threefold cord

And there is a tye more binding than Humanity, and stronger than Friendship, which makes us anxious for the happiness and welfare of those to whom it binds us. It makes their [Misfortunes], Sorrows and afflictions, our own. Unite these, and there is a threefold cord — by this cord I am not ashamed to own myself bound, nor do I [believe] that you are wholly free from it. [Judge you then] for your Diana has she not this day [had sufficient] cause for pain and anxiety of mind?

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

 

Facts are Stubborn Things: Take Time This Election Season to Educate Yourself About the Facts

In 1770, John Adams famously said: “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.”

In 1779, Thomas Jefferson wrote “Illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeats its purposes.”

John Jay also famously said “I consider knowledge to be the soul of a republic, and as the weak and wicked are generally in alliance, as much care should be taken to diminish the number of the former as of the latter. Education is the way to do this, and nothing should be left undone to afford all ranks of people the means of obtaining a proper degree of it at a cheap and easy rate.”

In a 1786 essay, Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote “Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge.”

James Madison in his 1810 address to Congress said “It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.”

The Founding generation understood that facts matter.  And it is our responsibility as citizens to educate ourselves about the facts and to not allow the passions of the moment to overrule reason. Take time this election season to thoughtfully consider the veracity of claims made by candidates. Don’t give in to the allure of a post-factual society. Facts are stubborn, and foundational. You need facts to fully understand the world, and the free world requires a well-instructed people. In the words of James Monroe, “[it] is only when the People become ignorant and corrupt . . . that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty.”