web analytics

Here’s Why John Adams Warned that America Could Become “the Most Miserable Habitation in the World”


In a letter dated 11 October 1798, John Adams wrote his famous statement, paraphrased as follows: the Constitution is “wholly inadequate” to govern a society of people who are not by choice and desire deciding to be law abiding citizens.


Adams specifically mentions “morality and religion” in his letter. Why not just refer to religion? As we know, there can be religious people who are immoral, and there can be atheists who are law abiding and behave in very moral ways. So, a strong religious presence in a country is not alone a guarantee of stability.

Some societies emphasize lawfulness, kindness, caring, generosity, forgiveness, cooperation, humility, diplomacy, compassion and other virtues through public education, family structure, religious institutions, and cultural reinforcements such as books, movies, music, television, video games, events, and other community frameworks all reinforcing these values and virtues.

Principles Leading to Desolation

In his letter, Adams speaks of “principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world.” Among these principles and manners are:

  • insidious and impious policy
  • practicing iniquity and extravagance
  • rioting in rapine and insolence
  • avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness

Understandably, unbridled ambition that leads to extravagance and licentiousness can create tension when millions of families and children are living in poverty, without enough food, and some without a roof over their head. When we read that 9 of the world’s riches men have more combined wealth than the poorest 4 billion people, such news portrays a world where millions suffer while a handful of people live the good life — in some cases, made possible by the exploitation of the many poor.

Outcomes of Inequality

Where such severe disparity exists, people could begin to feel there is institutional inequity. There can be a perception that a system has been created where wealth trickles up rather than trickles down.

People deprived of equal access to high quality education, who are unable to earn a living wage and can’t support themselves even when working two jobs, who disproportionately are arrested and end up with criminal records that make them second-class citizens, such people may turn to harmful activities such as using drugs, selling drugs, and committing crimes. In such circumstances it’s understandable that millions of people (2.2 million) would be in prisons which serve as forced labor camps. Those who get out of the prison system will likely work for lower wages for the rest of their lives. While profitable for the companies that hire them, such things lead to more marginalization. It’s a vicious cycle.

Such conditions could result in an atmosphere where the original Constitution of the United States is no longer effective because of riots and lawlessness that stem from oppression and also a lack of support structures.

John Adams Quote on the Constitution and Society

The following quote is an excerpt from the John Adams letter to Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798. Emphasis added. The original spelling has been retained.

“While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness 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.

This quote is often used a support and defense of making Christianity the official religion of the United States. People imagine, “If we only had a state religion there would be no more problems in society.” However, as was mentioned above, religion offers no guarantees that people will behave ethically and morally. There are many examples of religious people, and even religious leaders, demonstrating what seems to be immoral behaviors that are amplified despite their religious observance. The key then is that a society needs to have an internal ethical compass based on common values and virtues — without which a greater measure of surveillance and police state enforcement would be necessary. Adams seemed to foresee that freedom and liberty could be lost if people are irresponsible with freedom and liberty.


(Translation: China is a great country with wonderful leaders.)

Preface: I want to begin by saying we are thankful to the great leaders of China because they have not banned this website, and it is much appreciated. Thank you. 谢谢。

The Chinese government has come up with an innovative and thought provoking solution to the challenge of governance that may work in the United States if we prove to be incapable of being self-governed and self-regulated in our business and social interactions.

Now, please sit back and enjoy our feature presentation, “Life Inside China’s Total Surveillance State” a documentary from the Wall Street Journal, originally posted to  YouTube on 20 Dec 2017.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

Leave a Reply