Adams, John°

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ADAMS, JOHN ° (1735–1826), first vice president (1789–97) and second president (1797–1801) of the United States. Adams, a champion of religious freedom and separation of church and state, was also a fervent admirer of the Old Testament in the tradition of his New England ancestors, and a Judeophile. In a letter written to Mordecai Manuel *Noah in 1818 he remarked: "I wish your nation may be admitted to all the privileges of citizens in every country of the world. This country has done much. I wish it may do more, and annul every narrow idea in religion, government and commerce." In the course of his lengthy correspondence with Thomas Jefferson during the last two decades of his life, Adams exhibited a steady interest in the religious philosophy of the Jews. He advocated that Hebraic studies become part of a classical education, and in a codicil to his will four years before his death he bequeathed land for the erection of a school in which he expressed the hope that Hebrew would be taught together with Latin and Greek. In a characteristic attack on Voltaire's derogatory attitude toward the Bible and the Jewish people, he wrote to his friend Judge Francis Adrian van der Kemp in 1808: "How is it possible this old fellow should represent the Hebrews in such a contemptible light? They are the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a Bauble in comparison of the Jews. They have given Religion to three quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily than any other Nation, ancient or modern."


I.S. Meyer, in: ajhsp, 37 (1947), 185–201; 45 (1955), 58–60.

[Isidore S. Meyer]