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John Adams: Peace-Maker

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

John Adams (1)

Everyone wants  ‘Peace on Earth’. Is it really possible? President John Adams was a genuine peace-maker, even to his own detriment.

One of my most popular Deep Cove Crier articles, with almost 17,000 online readers, has been my article on John Adams’ good friend Benjamin Franklin. Both were founding fathers of our neighbour to the south.  My American relatives have told me that Adams is the greater man.

Adams’ greatest strength and weakness was that he was a passionate peace-maker, even at the cost of sabotaging his own re-election as the second American President.  Napoleon in 1797 captured 300 American ships, six percent of the American fleet. (1)  The ‘hawks’ in Adams’ own Federalist party desperately wanted to go to war with France, but Adams negotiated a peace treaty that allowed him to disband Alexander Hamilton’s unnecessary and costly army.  Hamilton, the commander of this army, took this as a personal insult, and dedicated himself to splitting Adams’ own Federalist Party.  John Adams wrote his wife Abigail saying that he knew “Hamilton to be a proud-spirited, conceited, aspiring mortal, always pretending to morality…as great a hypocrite as any in the US…” (2)

thomasjeffersonWith two Federalist presidential candidates, the Republican presidential candidate, Thomas Jefferson, won the election on the 36th ballot after a deadlocked Congressional tie vote. (3) Jefferson, who had foolishly endorsed the blood-thirsty French Revolution, was wisely mentored by Adams.  At his final State of Union address, President Adams stated: “Here and throughout our country, may simple measures, pure morals, and true religion, flourish forever!” (4)  His final prayer as he left the House was: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.” (5) Despite strong political differences, Adams and Jefferson ended as good pen pal friends, both dying in 1826 on the significant American July 4th holiday. (6)   Jefferson acknowledged Adams as ‘the colossus of independence.’ (7)

John Adams was both passionate about liberty and yet cautious about our human tendency to selfishness.  James Grant commended Adams for “his unqualified love of liberty, and his unsentimental perception of the human condition.” (8)  As such, Adams produced constitutional boundaries that guarded people’s essential freedoms of life and liberty of speech, assembly, and religion.  The US Congress praised Adams for his “patriotism, perseverance, integrity and diligence.” (9)   Adams insightfully commented: “our Constitution was made only for a moral & religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (10) The root of equality, said Adams, was the Golden Rule – Love your neighbour as yourself.  (11)

John Adams 2Adams has been described as one of North America’s greatest bibliophiles.  He loved to learn, reading voraciously in wide-ranging areas of interest, including the Bible.  Equality for Adams was grounded in equal access to education for all: “knowledge monopolized, or in the Possession of a few, is a Curse to Mankind. We should dispense it among all Ranks.  We should educate our children.  Equality should be preserved in knowledge.” (12)  His prayer for his children was: ““Let them revere nothing but religion, morality, and liberty.”  (13)

One of Adams’ strengths was that he was deeply honest, even to his own political detriment. Unlike the worldly-wise Benjamin Franklin, he would say exactly what was on his mind. Adams urged Franklin to get more exercise, saying that “the sixth Commandment forbids a man to kill himself as it does to kill his neighbour. A sedentary life is tantamount to suicide.” (14)  James Grant commented that “like the mythical George Washington, he seemed incapable of telling a lie; he was naturally and organically honest.” (15)  Adams once commented: “The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.”(16)  Adams was indeed an unusual politician. He found the endless political bickering to be painful and pointless, commenting that “a resolution that two plus two makes five would require fully two days of debate.” (17)  Adams was known as a foul-weather politician, only drawn to serve his country because of the intense crisis.  He would have much rather been anywhere else: “The longer I live and the more I see of public men, the more I wish to be a private one.” (18)  Adams was a latecomer to American Independence, preferring to work for reconciliation with the British.  While Benjamin Franklin had favour and therefore initial funding from France , John Adams eventually obtained key loans to the United States from the cautious Dutch.  Because of his endless negotiations in France, Holland and England, Adams only saw his dear wife Abigail for a grand total of three months over six years. (19)   He wrote to Josiah Quincy: “Happy is the man who has nothing to do with politics and strife.” (20)

 king-george-iiiOne of Adams’ first assignments in Congress was to draft a resolution  appointing a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer throughout the thirteen colonies: “that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins, and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise Omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbling beseeching him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments with which we are threatened, and to bless our rightful sovereign, King George the third.” (21)   Sadly King George dismissed Adams and his colleagues as ‘wicked and desperate persons.’ (22)

King George’s thirty-three thousand British troops resulted in thirty-five thousand American deaths by sword, sickness, or captivity. (23) Adams knew that without heart-forgiveness, American independence would quickly become as barbaric as the French Revolution:  “In a time of war, one may see the necessity and utility of the divine prohibitions of revenge and the Injunctions of forgiveness of Injuries and love of Enemies, which we find in Christian Religion. Unrestrained, in some degree by these benevolent Laws, Men would be Devils, at such a Time as such.”  (24)

John Adams3In 1815 he wrote his own gravestone epitaph: “Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in the year 1800.” (25)  My prayer is that we too may be passionate peace-makers like President John Adams.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

 -an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Footnotes

(1) James Grant, John Adams: Party of One , (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY, 2005), p. 392.

(2) Gore Vidal, Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2003), p. 133.

(3)  David McCullough, John Adams , (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 2001), p. 572.

(4)  John Adams, State Of The Union Address 11/11/1800,

  http://readbookonline.net/readOnLine/50063/

(5) McCullough, John Adams, p. 560, picture 57.

(6) McCullough, p. 646.

(7) http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Colossus+of+Independence.-a079789133

(8) Grant, p. 61.

(9)  Grant, p. 336.

(10) http://www.john-adams-heritage.com/quotes/

(11) McCullough, p. 543.

(12) Fragmentary Notes for ‘A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law’,  http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-01-02-0052-0002

(13) Grant, p. 165.

(14) Grant, p. 287.

(15) Grant, p. 100.

(16) Grant, p. 442.

(17) Grant, p. 142.

(18) Grant, p. 146; McCullough, p. 207.

(19) McCullough, p. 271 “At last, on June 11th 1782, Adams negotiated with a syndicate of three Amsterdam banking houses — Willink, Van Staphorst, and De la Lande & Fynje — a loan of five million guilders, or two million dollars at five percent interest.  It was not the ten million dollars Congress had expected…”;  Grant, p. 196.

(20) Grant, p. 157.

(21) Grant, p. 153.

(22) Grant, p. 152.

(23) Grant, p. 256.

(24) Grant, p. 184.

(25) Grant, p. 383.


6 Comments

Alfred Nobel: Lord of Dynamite, Servant of Peace

By the Rev. Dr.  Ed HirdAlfred Nobel

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, approximately 60 to 100 million mines are still scattered throughout 69 countries. These weapons kill or maim more than 25,000 people a year –equivalent to a victim every 22 minutes.  Thanks to the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, the evil effects of land mines finally received centre stage.

It is quite ironic that the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize went to campaigners against landmines. A Nobel Peace Prize is worth over a million dollars, and is one of the world’s top awards. Yet the founder of the Peace Prize, Alfred Nobel, earned his multi-millions by selling armaments and explosives throughout the world.

Alfred Nobel has been described as the Lord of Dynamite, because he both invented and alfred-nobel-medallionnamed Dynamite, taking it from the Greek word ‘dynamos’, meaning ‘power’. World War One and Two devoured millions of lives, indirectly due to the technological advances in Alfred Nobel’s laboratories. In the past, the gunsmoke from cannons used to stop battles, because the massive clouds of smoke blocked the view of the generals.

Alfred Nobel, however, invented smokeless gunpowder, enabling the slaughter at Flanders Fields to go on hour after hour without ceasing. In many ways, Alfred was just following in his father Immanuel’s footsteps. Immanuel Nobel, a loyal Swede, invented land and sea mines as a cost-effective means of protecting Sweden’s roads and beaches. The Swedish government, however, showed no interest; so he moved to Russia, where he helped the Russians beat back the English and French fleets with the use of mines. English Admiral Napier recorded in his famous diary: ‘The Gulf of Finland is full of infernal machines.’

How ironic that the Nobel fortune is now being used this year to combat the spread of these very mines! The Nobel family made millions by manufacturing nitroglycerin, a useful but unstable explosive. After Alfred’s 20 year-old brother Emil was tragically killed in a nitroglycerin explosion, their father Immanuel had a crippling stroke.

In response, Alfred devoted himself to discovering a new safe explosive. By alfred noble labcombining nitroglycerin with kieselguhr clay, Alfred created a stable, transportable explosive, which he called dynamite. England, being cultural conservative, would have nothing to do with dynamite. So instead the Scots cornered the dynamite market.

North America, which always loves a new fad, went crazy over dynamite. At one point, North Americans were even using dynamite as a new ‘humane way’ of killing cattle for the meat industry! In the 1880’s, the great railway engineer William Cornelius Van Horne built three Nobel Dynamite factories in Canada. That very dynamite made it possible for the Canadian Pacific Railway to be blasted through the mighty Rockies all the way to the West Coast. It would not be far off to say that without Nobel’s dynamite, B.C. would probably be part of the United States today.

Alfred Nobel never wanted dynamite to be used for other than peaceful purposes. He was thrilled when his dynamite blasted a path Alfred Nobel Stampfor the Panama Canal in 1914. Sadly enough, his dynamite also blasted countless lives from 1914- to 1918, including the lives of my great-uncles William and Harry.

All his life, Alfred Nobel loathed war. He considered war to be ‘the horror of horrors and the greatest of all crimes’. “For my part,” Nobel said, “I wish all guns with their belongings and everything could be sent to hell, which is the proper place for their exhibition and use.”

In many ways, Alfred Nobel is a symbol of the alfred_nobel youngfact that it is never too late to change, never too late to start again. When Alfred’s older brother Ludwig died, one newspaper accidentally printed Alfred’s obituary instead. The obituary described Alfred as a man who became rich by enabling people to kill each other in unprecedented numbers.

Deeply shaken by this assessment, Alfred Nobel resolved, from then on, to use his fortune in awarding accomplishments that benefited humanity. In his will, Alfred designated five annual awards to benefit leaders in physics, chemistry,medicine, literature, and peace. The Nobel Peace award was for ‘the person who shall have done the most or the best work to promote fraternity between nations, for the abolition of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses…’

Twelve out of his twenty relatives were so incensed that they launched lawsuits to try to reverse the terms of his philanthropic will. In contrast, Emanuel Nobel, the spokesman for the Russian branch of the family, supported the generous intentions of the will. King Oscar II of Sweden, in a personal audience with Emanuel, said: “Your Uncle Alfred has been influenced by peace fanatics, and particularly by women.” Emanuel replied that he would not care to expose his sisters and brothers to the risk of being reproached in the future by distinguished scientists for having appropriated funds that properly belonged to them. After his bold comments to the king, Emanuel followed his lawyer’s advice and immediately fled from Sweden back to Russia, to avoid arrest by the disgruntled king.

It’s remarkable when you think of all the Nobel_Peace_Prize2intriguing people who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, and whose lives have been radically changed by that very act. The names have become part and parcel of our recent history, names like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, F.W. De Klerk, Albert Schweitzer, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Andrei Sakharov, Yitzhak Rabin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Elie Wiesel, Lech Walesa, Mother Teresa, Anwar Sadat, and Menachim Begin. The first Canadian to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize was the much-loved Prime Minister Lester Pearson, for his role in helping to end the Suez Canal crisis. The first person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize was Jean Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross Society, back in 1901.

My prayer is that Jesus the Prince of Peace may raise up many such Champions of Peace in the 21st Century. Blessed indeed are the Nobel Peace-makers (Matthew 5:9).

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca