John Adams “Liberty and Knowledge”

John Adams (1735-1826) was the second president of the United States and one of the leading figures in the American Revolution. This selection is excerpted from "A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law," which Adams published unsigned in the Boston Gazette in 1765, as opposition to the Stamp Act mounted in the American colonies. In the "Dissertation," Adams assessed the historical role of canon and feudal law as bulwarks of clerical and secular tyranny. This selection focuses on the importance of public education as a guarantor of freedom. Describing the remarkable level of education in New England, Adams declares, "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people," especially knowledge of "the character and conduct of their rulers." Adams also praises the role of the press in spreading knowledge, enabling free speech and exposing political corruption.

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