FACT CHECK: Did John Adams Say This Quote About Service?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

A Facebook post claims that founding father John Adams said, “If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?”

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that Adams authored this saying. It was actually a penned by his wife Abigail Adams in a 1778 letter.

Fact Check:

Adams, a founding father, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later became the country’s second president. He also authored the Massachusetts state constitution.

Though he spoke and wrote widely on a variety of subjects, Adams did not author the quote attributed to him in the Facebook post. A search of his writings turned up no similar or matching phrases. (RELATED: Did John Adams Say, ‘One Useless Man Is A Shame, Two Is A Law Firm And Three Or More Is A Congress’?)

The expression actually comes from a 1778 letter written by Abigail Adams to John Thaxter, who was a relative of hers and served as the second president’s private secretary during a diplomatic mission to Europe, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

“It is true says one that Mankind in general are a worthless and ungratefull [sic] set of Beings for a Man to wear out himself in serving but if we do not lay out ourselves in the Service of mankind whom should we serve?” wrote Abigail Adams.

The Adams’ first son, John Quincy Adams, served as president from 1825 to 1829.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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