"[You have Rights] antecedent to all earthly governments:
Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws;
Rights, derived from the Great Legislator of the universe."
John Adams
(1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President
A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765
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Reader comments about this quote:
We must be free -- we have no choice. ;-)
 -- E Archer, NYC     
    John Adams is my favorite person because it was my great-great-great grandfather!!!
     -- Elissa, Marlboro     
  • 1
    this quote is true on every level except John Adams' level because he so boldly proposed and signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, interferring with the rights that he believed were above law and undisturbed.
     -- kristyn, stratford     
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI      
    Rights are not inherent in the universe (other than those like the right to fall down when your supports are kicked out from under you)... they are what society decides they are... the US's founding fathers were a part of a movement in society to expand those rights in new ways and formed a new government to help implement that (imperfect though it may be)... and today the ancestor of that newly formed government is busy adjusting to the society it lives within... busy redefining those rights yet again... to be much more limited rights... perhaps once again society will see the error of this government and again demand that these rights be reexpanded.
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US     
  • 1
    Those socialist / fascists of a slave heart and mind find it impossible to understand the nobility of the individual as expressed through Adams' statement. When an American believes that his rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then he no longer carries the proud inheritance of his forefathers, but will grovel before his masters seeking favors and dispensations - a throwback to the feudal system of the Dark Ages.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 1
    As it was in The Beginning,is Now and Ever Shall Be...We are Spiritual beings having a Human experience and when we pass from this earthly plane,we shall once again return to our natural state of Being.Hopefully as a purer spirit,enriched from the experiences of this lifetime.
     -- Me Again     
    In addition to my previous opining; There is a religious war going on in America today. There are those who believe that society is 'god' (maker/giver of laws and rights) with government being such god's priesthood; and, those that believe, as did the founders, that all law and right exists as a gift from 'God' (rights being a faculty of birth). The socialists/fascists believing that the whole (the maker/giver of laws and rights) is greater that the sum of its parts, while those adhering to Adams' sentiments believe that a United State (the sum) is a mere representation of its parts (each individual being noble, inherently and inalienably equal in rights). Adams' quote is as true and correct today as when he gave it.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    The central precept of American society... how odd that those who profess to be the "friend" of everyone, ie the liberals (Hi Anonymous in Reston) also assure us there are no rights inherent from our Creator, but from them. That explains it all. Thank you for making that as clear as it can be for all to see. You really put it well... your statements should inspire fear in the hearts of everyone that cherishes freedom and liberty... .(pst. It is precisely because of these kinds of people that our Founding Fathers said citizens have the right to Keep and Bear Arms....)
     -- Michael , Houston, TX     
    Voltare said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." Rights have to be kept sacrosanct. They must be beyond the reach of governments or societies, or they are no rights at all. They are merely indulgences from the powerful. Socialists delight in "living" constitutions, penumbra, and emanations and other l├ęger de la main designed to cheat the gullible out of their God given rights.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
    First there was God, and afterward came man, who created government. So who screwed up? I say it was man.
     -- David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood     
    Actually, this "quotation" was never uttered or written by John Adams. It is completely fraudulent. It cannot be found in any of his collected works, any letter he wrote, or any speech he gave. Adams works were collected and preserved by his descendents, and are easily available. This "quotation" is a hoax. Just because you can find something all over the internet does not make it true.
     -- Jim, Tacoma, WA     
    Thanks, Jim, for the heads-up. Of course one person saying something is false without real proof does not carry much weight. Please provide something to back up your claim. Thanks.
     -- Editor, Liberty Quotes     
    Thanks, Editor. The burden of proof is on you to prove that this quote was spoken or written by Adams. Why is it that anyone who uses this quote can't seem to sight its context, its publication date or date spoken, what larger essay, writings or speech this may be a part of?
     -- J. Biggs, San Francisco     
    It IS a famous John Adams quote -- whether attributed or not. Besides, it is a great quote no matter who wrote it. Enjoy. ;-)
     -- Editor, Liberty Quotes     
     -- Josiah      
     -- Ethan      
    we have rights from God-but what did we lose in the garden-and how many rights did we give up- man's quest is to get back to the garden- unfortunately most are trying to do it without God and that creates a huge problem namely: suffering, experimentation, and all kinds of crazy ideas from evolution to the Trinity and every form of government and religion that doesn't appear in the Bible. With every product comes a product manual-too bad we don't read it-yes all our problems go back to the garden and the two trees-hopefully we will do better the second time.
     -- marine mike, rockford     
    Here's the REAL QUOTE, from A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law: "The poor people, it is true, have been much less successful than the great. They have seldom found either leisure or opportunity to form a union and exert their strength; ignorant as they were of arts and letters, they have seldom been able to frame and support a regular opposition. This, however, has been known by the great to be the temper of mankind; and they have accordingly labored, in all ages, to wrest from the populace, as they are contemptuously called, the knowledge of their rights and wrongs, and the power to assert the former or redress the latter. I say RIGHTS, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government, Rights, that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws, Rights, derived from the great Legislator of the universe."
     -- Tom, Canton, Ohio     
    The occupying statist theocracy infesting this land has a god that does not recognize the nobility of man. The quote is absolute, the imprisoned helots, serfs and otherwise slaves (on house release) do not allow the exercise of unalienable rights. The rights exist, it is the exercise thereof that are constrained.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Thanks, Tom! We have modified the quote accordingly. You can find the quote in its entirety here: http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/John.Adams.Quote.BE9E
     -- Editor, Liberty Quotes     
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