In Pursuit of Liberty (1765)


In Pursuit of Liberty (1765)

Without a reminder, the human mind simply forgets.  Thomas Paine wrote, “It is at all times necessary… that we frequently refresh our patriotism by reference to first principles.”[1]  Writing about America’s first settlers, John Adams reminded his readers of the Puritan’s courageous pursuit of liberty.

“It was this great struggle [between the people and tyranny] that peopled America. It was not religion alone, as is commonly supposed; but it was a love of universal liberty, and a hatred, a dread, a horror, of [tyranny]…  [The Puritans] had been so vexed and tortured by the powers of those days, for no other crime than their knowledge and their freedom of inquiry… that they at last resolved to fly to the wilderness for refuge…

It may be thought polite and fashionable by many modern fine gentlemen, perhaps, to deride the characters of these persons… But such ridicule is… grossly injurious and false.  Religious to some degree of enthusiasm it may be admitted they were; but this can be no peculiar derogation [dishonor] from their character…  Whatever imperfections may be justly ascribed to them… their judgment in framing their policy was founded in wise, humane, and benevolent principles…  Tyranny in every form, shape, and appearance was their disdain and abhorrence; no fear of punishment, nor even of death itself in exquisite tortures, had been sufficient to conquer that steady, manly [courageous], pertinacious [unshakeable] spirit with which they had opposed the tyrants of those days in church and state.

… they saw clearly, that popular powers must be placed as a guard, a control, a balance… in every government, or else it would soon become… a great and detestable system of fraud, violence, and usurpation.”  John AdamsA Dissertation on The Canon and Feudal Law, 1765