Monday, August 8, 2016
Why was Adams so excited on a subject most of his peers dismissed as a species of zealotry? First, he believed, more fervently than did many other men, that all politics, and all policy, rested on the foundation of "public morals." Almost half a century earlier, Adams had delivered a graduation address at Harvard that contrasted the "austere republican principles" of the revolutionary generation with the "selfish and contracted principles" of his own time. There was nothing in Adams of the rational utilitarianism of his one-time friend Jeremy Bentham. The former president was not just a deeply committed Christian but a Puritan who believed that both men and societies were continually called to defend virtue in a fallen world. Masonry was both a moral crime and a public menace. This view set him apart from the other great statesmen of his day. Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, who worried more about the political influence of Anti-Masonry, the threat it posed to their own National Republican Party, then about the alleged dangers of Masonry itself. Adams was fully prepared to pay the political price.
-James Traub. John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit