Words of Wisdom—Abigail Adams

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Abigail Adams (November 22, 1744 – October 28, 1818) was the spouse and close advisor of John Adams. She was the first second lady of the United States, second first lady of the United States, and the mother of the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams.

She was a prominent advocate for women’s rights and a strong believer in the importance of education for women.

Adams believed that slavery was evil. She wrote a letter on March 31, 1776, where she doubted most Virginians had the “passion for Liberty” they claimed, since they “deprive their fellow Creatures” of freedom. When a free black youth came to her house in Philadelphia in 1791 asking to be taught how to write, she placed him in a local school. When a neighbor objected, Adams responded that he was “a Freeman as much as any of the young men and merely because his face is black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? … I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write.”

After the capital was relocated in 1800 to Washington, D.C., Abigail became the first First Lady to live at the White House. The city was wilderness and the “President’s House” (as it was called then) was far from finished. Despite the wooded yards, she had trouble finding someone to chop and haul firewood for the First Family. They used the East Room of the White House to hang laundry.

Below are words of wisdom from Abigail Adams.

“I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.”

“It’s never too late to get back on your feet though we won’t live forever make sure you accomplish what you were put here for”

“We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.”

“Many of our disappointments and much of our unhappiness arise from our forming false notions of things and persons.”

“To be good, and do good, is the whole duty of man comprised in a few words.”

“My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.”

“But let no person say what they would or would not do, since we are not judges for ourselves until circumstances call us to act.”

“How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking!”

“Let your observations and comparisons produce in your mind an abhorrence of domination and power, the parent of slavery, ignorance, and barbarism, which places man upon a level with his fellow tenants of the woods.”

“Great necessities call out great virtues.”

“My Dear Son… remember that you are accountable to your Maker for all your words and actions.”

“Great learning and superior abilities…will be of little value and small estimation unless virtue, honor, truth, and integrity are added to them.”

“No one is without their difficulties, whether in High, or low Life, & every person knows best where their own shoe pinches.”

“A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest Man without the fear of God. Is it possible that he whom no moral obligations bind, can have any real Good Will towards Men?”

“History is not a web woven with innocent hands. Among all the causes which degrade and demoralize men, power is the most constant and most active.”

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

“Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.”

“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.”

“Deliver me from your cold phlegmatic preachers, politicians, friends, lovers and husbands.”

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