It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Great necessities call out great virtues.
1780 Letter to John Quincy Adams,19 Jan.
Deliver me from your cold phlegmatic preachers, politicians, friends, lovers and husbands.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (5 August 1776).
I regret the narrow contracted education of the females of my own country.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (30 June 1778).
We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (1774).
I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature; and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and, like the grave, cries, “Give, give!” The great fish swallow up the small; and he who is most strenuous for the rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the prerogatives of government. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which human nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (27 November 1775).
I feel anxious for the fate of our monarchy, or democracy, or whatever is to take place. I soon get lost in a labyrinth of perplexities; but, whatever occurs, may justice and righteousness be the stability of our times, and order arise out of confusion. Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (27 November 1775).
Shall we be despised by foreign powers for hesitating so long at a word?Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (7 May 1776).
Whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives. But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken — and notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims we have it in our power not only to free ourselves but to subdue our masters, and without violence throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (7 May 1776).
It is really mortifying, sir, when a woman possessed of a common share of understanding considers the difference of education between the male and female sex, even in those families where education is attended to... Nay why should your sex wish for such a disparity in those whom they one day intend for companions and associates. Pardon me, sir, if I cannot help sometimes suspecting that this neglect arises in some measure from an ungenerous jealousy of rivals near the throne.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Thaxter (15 February 1778).
If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?Abigail AdamsLetter to John Thaxter (29 September 1778).
Luxury, that baneful poison, has unstrung and enfeebled her sons.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (13 February 1779).
A little of what you call frippery is very necessary towards looking like the rest of the world.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams (1 May 1780).
Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Quincy Adams (8 May 1780).
I begin to think, that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life. Every object is beautiful in motion; a ship under sail, trees gently agitated with the wind, and a fine woman dancing, are three instances in point. Man was made for action and for bustle too, I believe.Abigail AdamsLetter to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch (1784).
Knowledge is a fine thing, and mother Eve thought so; but she smarted so severly for hers, that most of her daughters have been afraid of it since.Abigail AdamsLetter to Elizabeth Shaw (20 March 1791).
I acknowledge myself a unitarian — Believing that the Father alone, is the supreme God, and that Jesus Christ derived his Being, and all his powers and honors from the Father. ... There is not any reasoning which can convince me, contrary to my senses, that three is one, and one three.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Quincy Adams (5 May 1816).
Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long.Abigail AdamsLast words in a letter to John Adams, as quoted in Famous Last Words (1961) by Barnaby Conrad.
If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams, March 31, 1776. Published in Adams Family Correspondence.
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.Abigail AdamsLetter to John Adams, 31 March 1776.
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