Attention readers: Erick Erickson is off this week. Please enjoy the following column by Terence P. Jeffrey.

John Adams, who would soon surrender the presidency to Thomas Jefferson, ventured up to Capitol Hill on Nov. 22, 1800, to deliver the first-ever in-person presidential address in the not-yet-finished home of the United States Congress.

It was noon on a Saturday. What message did he deliver?

First, Adams congratulated the American people for building the Capitol itself.

“I congratulate the people of the United States on the assembling of Congress at the permanent seat of their government, and I congratulate you, gentlemen, on the prospect of a residence not to be changed,” he said. “Although there is cause to apprehend that accommodations are not now so complete as might be wished, yet there is great reason to believe that this inconvenience will cease with the present session.”

Then Adams pointed to morality, religion and God.

“It would be unbecoming the representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and imploring His blessing,” he said.

“May this territory be the residence of virtue and happiness!” said Adams. “In this city may that piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government, which adorned the great character whose name it bears be forever held in veneration! Here and throughout our country may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion flourish forever!”

This was not a new theme for the nation’s second president or for his contemporaries.

In 1778, while serving the newly independent United States as a commissioner to France, Adams passed by a mansion called Bellevue that King Louis XV had built as a residence for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour.

Adams came to view this estate as a symbol of the depravity of the French monarchy.

“I asked some questions about this place,” Adams wrote in his diary on June 2, 1778, “and was informed that it was called Bellevue and was the residence of the Kings Aunts Adelaide and (Victoire), two of the surviving daughters of Louis the fifteenth. That this palace had been built and this establishment made by that monarch for Madame Pompadour, whom he visited here, almost every night for twenty years, leaving a worthy woman his virtuous Queen alone at Versailles…”

“The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families,” Adams went on to say in this same diary entry.

“In vain are schools, accademies, and universities instituted, if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years,” he said. “The mothers are the earliest and most important instructors of youth … The vices and examples of the parents cannot be concealed from the children. How is it possible that children can have any just sense of the sacred obligations of morality and religion if, from their earliest infancy, they learn that their mothers live in habitual infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant infidelity to their mothers.”

On June 21, 1776, while serving in the Second Continental Congress, which would soon pass the Declaration of Independence, Adams responded to a letter from his cousin Zabdiel Adams, who, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society, was a Christian clergyman.
“Statesmen my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand,” wrote Adams.

“The only foundation of a free constitution, is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people, in a greater measure, than they have it now, they may change their rulers, and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies,” he said.

“You cannot therefore be more pleasantly, or usefully employed than in the way of your profession, pulling down the strong holds of Satan,” Adams told his cousin. “This is not cant, but the real sentiment of my heart.”

Twenty-two years later, when he was president of the United States, Adams delivered the same message to the Massachusetts militia.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by … morality and religion,” said President Adams. “Avarice, ambition (and) revenge or galantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” he said. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
What would John Adams think if he were told about the recent mass murders in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas? Would he think they were manifestations of a gun problem in America or a moral problem?

To pass the American tradition of freedom down to future generations we must also pass down the moral and religious foundations needed to sustain it.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of To find out more about him, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of


  1. OK, define being “virtuous “. You do not have to be a Christian or believe in a god to be virtuous, and by no means all Christians are virtuous people even though they claim to be virtuous . John Adams was actually not very religious at all, like virtually all of the founders .
    Thomas Jefferson was not even a Christian and while he admired Jesus as a teacher of morals, he considered Christianity to be stupid and foolish as a religion . He was a deist like many of the founders .
    The founders created America as the world’s first SECULAR nation with a secular government in order to guarantee religious freedom for followers of all faiths, as well as for atheists and agnostics . They were well aware of all of the bloody religious wars which had stained the history of Europe and were determined to avoid such bloody conflicts at all costs .
    If only more Christians in America would realize this fact .

  2. [Will America Remain Virtuous Enough to Be Free?]
    No, sadly, the United States will not survive the nuclear attack by China, Russia and possible one other nation.
    God must judge the sins of nations just as He must judge the sins of mankind, and the sin of shedding the innocent blood of approx. 70 million by abortion has desecrated this nation, and this innocent blood must be cleansed from off this land. There is coming a cleansing fire in a nuclear attack which will fall from the East to the West in one night, in one hour, and the world protector of Israel will be no more, never to rise to power again.
    God has been sending His warnings of the destruction of the United States, but very few are listening, they believe themselves to be more righteous than all others or they believe our loving heavenly Father will never allow something like this to happen to the United States. They fail to consider how God even allowed the destruction of His chosen people to be destroyed a total of seven times as we are told in the Old Testament.
    it is because God is truly Righteous and Holy that God is also Just in all of His ways, He cannot allow sinners into Heaven, unless they have repented of their sins and accepted His gift of Salvation through Christ Jesus.

    1. Your comment is perfect for the end time we are now living in. Thank you for your insight and I pray that God blesses you for alerting people as they act the same now as in the time of Noah.

  3. excellent post … Psalm 127: 127 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
    Isaiah 5:  20Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! 22Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: 23Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

  4. We better look hard at ourselves. Have WE elected the people who believe in, and uphold, the U.S. and State Constitutions? Have WE done our research into EACH candidate running for school, local, county, state, or national office? Have WE been the best example as people, parents, partners, etc. to TEACH our children? GOD GIVE US THE STRENGTH of face ourselves and to enable US to stand up to wrong!

  5. The US is currently not virtuous enough to remain free. We must turn from the normalization of immoral and unnatural behavior and return to our founding values.

  6. NO!
    We are heading full steam toward a One World Government controlled by the immoral and corrupt Establishment Elites.
    Tribulation has already started. All that is left is the installment of the AntiChrist.

  7. We need leaders in Washington D.C. who, love and respect our laws and rights in the Constitution, virtuous men of morale values, men of principles and values, men of integrity, honest men, but most important, men who love the Lord!
    We are far from that. They are supposed to set the example from D.C. and they have failed tremendously. Will we ever get that type of leadership? I doubt it.

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