Second president of the United States; born at Braintree, Mass., Oct. 19 (old style), 1735; died at Quincy, Mass., July 4, 1826. In the later years of his life he devoted much time and thought to the consideration of the history of religions. Upon this subject he carried on an extensive correspondence with Jefferson, in which he exhibited an intimate knowledge of Jewish history and of the contributions of the Jews to the civilization of the world. In expressing his opinion in February, 1809, he wrote ("Works of John Adams," ix. 609, 610):
". . . In spite of Bolingbroke and Voltaire, I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe, or pretend to believe, that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty Sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization. I can not say that I love the Jews very much, nor the French, nor the English, nor the Romans, nor the Greeks. We must love all nations as well as we can, but it is very hard to love most of them."
In 1818 he expressed himself similarly in a letter to Mordecai M. Noah (see Noah, "Travels in England, France, Spain," etc., appendix, p. xxvi.).