Would John Adams Be Put to Death in Mass. Bay Colony?

This is a two-year old post by my friend and former co-blogger Jon Rowe, who has long done excellent work on religion and the founding fathers. I came across it doing a Google search for a related subject and caught my eye. He points out that John Adams, who wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, would have been put to death under the Massachusetts Bay Colony had he lived a century earlier. The 1641 Massachusetts Body of Liberties says:

(Lev. 24. 15,16.)

If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

And Jon quotes Adams blaspheming by denying the trinity:

“If I understand the Doctrine, it is, that if God the first second or third or all three together are united with or in a Man, the whole Animal becomes a God and his Mother is the Mother of God.

“It grieves me: it shocks me to write in this stile upon a subject the most adorable that any finite Intelligence can contemplate or embrace: but if ever Mankind are to be superior to the Brutes, sacerdotal Impostures must be exposed.”

He would hardly be alone, of course. Quakers and Baptists and many others were put to death.


  1. baal says

    One of the heuristics I use to judge a group is to ask the hypothetical – What if they were in charge and largely unfettered by the views of others. What would that place be like? With the early US christians, we have the non-theory answer.

  2. criticaldragon1177 says

    Ed Brayton,

    This is a good question and it sounds like he would have been. Yet another argument against theocracy and in support of our founding fathers.

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