John Adams was one of America’s founders and one of the most brilliant legal minds of his day. He was directly involved with the negotiations between America and England that led to England acknowledging America as a separate nation. Adams was America’s first vice president and second president.
The above names just a few of his historical accomplishments and what most people in America know who are even a little familiar with history.
What is not as widely known as it should be about Adams; he was a devout Christian who highly respected Judaism and Jewish history. He was a strong defender against anti-Jewish attacks in and out of America and one of the first Zionists in modern history.
Adams corresponded with a great number of people in his day, including a well-known Dutch Radical turned American, François Adriaan Van der Kemp. In 1808, Van der Kemp wrote to Adams to enquire about his health and wrote of the genius of Machiavelli. On December 31, 1808, Adams responded:
What a wonderful Genius was Machiavel”? you exclaim. Wonderful indeed. What a wonderful Genius was Hobbs? Priestley? Bonaparte? Voltaire? all very Strange Genius’s however. I have read this last fall half a dozen Volumes of this last wonderful Genius’s Ribaldry against the Bible. How is it possible this old Fellow Should represent the Hebrews in Such a contemptible Light? They are the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a Bauble in comparison of the Jews.”
Another of his regular correspondents was Mordechai Manuel Noah, one of the most influential Jewish Americans of his day. They were close enough for Noah to send Adams a copy of his speech consecrating Shearith Israel in 1818,
The following year, Noah sent Adams a copy of a recently published work about his travels, Travels in England, France, Spain and the Barbary States. By 1818, John Adams had poor vision, but excellent hearing. He would have an aid read to him.
On March 15, 1819, Adams responded:
“I have to thank you for another valuable publication your travels in “Europe & Africa” which though I cannot see well enough to read I can hear as well ever & accordingly have heard read two thirds of it & shall in course hear all the rest—It is a magazine of ancient & modern learning of judicious observations & ingenious reflections I have been so pleased with it that I wish you had continued your travels into Syria Judea & Jerusalem… I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites indeed as well disciplin’d as a French army—& marching with them into Judea & making a conquest of that country & restoring your nation to the dominion of it—For I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation For as I believe the most enlighten’d men of it have participated in the ameliorations of the philosophy of the age, once restored to an independent government & no longer persecuted they would soon wear away some of the asperities & peculiarities of their character possibly in time become liberal Unitarian Christians for your Jehovah is our Jehovah & your God of Abraham Isaac & Jacob is our God I am Sir with respect & esteem / your obliged humble servant.”
He may no longer have been president, but he was a former head of state. The first to call for rebirth of Israel in Judea. He predated Theodor Herzl by almost a century. Adams should be known not just as a supporter and defender of Judaism, but one of the first Zionists in the modern era.