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"Ye Will Say I Am No Christian": The Thomas Jefferson/John Adams Correspondence on Religion, Morals, and Values [Kindle Edition]

Bruce Braden
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The "Culture Wars" have produced a lot of talk about religion, morals, and values, with both sides often hearkening back to our Founding Fathers. Here is your chance to learn firsthand what two of the most influential pillars of the American Republic thought about these perennial topics. From 1812 to July 4, 1826 — when ironically death claimed both men — Thomas Jefferson and John Adams exchanged letters touching on these still controversial issues.
These little-known letters contain many surprising revelations. In the 1800 presidential election, in which the Republican Jefferson opposed the Federalist Adams, religion was a topic of hot debate, as reflected in this correspondence written many years after. What was it about Jefferson’s religious beliefs that provoked such vitriol against him in the campaign? And what was there in Adams’s theology that prompted certain Calvinists and Trinitarians to label him "no Christian"? Though they expressed different opinions, Jefferson and Adams agreed on what they called the "corruptions of Christianity." Despite their criticisms and their critics, both men considered themselves Christians, in different senses of the term.
Hearing these champions of liberty and freedom of religion speak out frankly on church and state, the Bible, Jesus, Christianity, morality, and virtue, modern readers may well ask themselves whether either of these Founding Fathers could today be elected president. Editor Bruce Braden has done us all a service by collecting this revealing and intimate historical correspondence on topics that continue to stir emotions and debate in the 21st century.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

America's founding fathers have long been revered or reviled for their praise or rejection of religion. Along with Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams probed most deeply into their own religious psyches and the cultural role of religion. Braden, a postal carrier and independent scholar, collects a portion of the pair's letters dealing with matters of morality and religion. The letters range over the usual questions for which these men have already become known: the human/divine nature of Jesus, the afterlife, moral philosophy, the place of religion in the state. The collection lacks a critical apparatus, however, and Braden provides no rationale for his choices or method of selection. Although he does provide footnotes for the letters, the notes offer nothing more than brief identifications of writers or others mentioned in the correspondence. Braden arranges the letters chronologically from 1787 to 1826 (when both men famously died on July 4), but the correspondence lacks any direction or structure. Moreover, the collection contains twice as many of Adams's letters to Jefferson as those Jefferson wrote to Adams, although Adams's epistles lack the sparkling erudition of his cohort's writings. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"If you're interested in knowing at firsthand what John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, those two wonderful letter-writers, thought about philosophy, ethics, and religion (particularly Christianity), Bruce Braden's carefully edited collection of their correspondence during the early years of the American republic is indispensable. The two men stimulated each other by their exchanges, and this compilation will stimulate you too."
Paul F. Boller Jr.
Emeritus Professor of History
Texas Christian University
"Braden renders a significant service in making available the stimulating, provocative, elegant correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on the subjects of religion and morality. We are in his debt."
Edwin S. Gaustad
Author of Sworn on the Altar of God:
A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson
"What a pleasure and benefit it is to have these splendid letters again in print! Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are national treasures, especially in these elegant, interesting, and profound exchanges about religion, philosophy, and morals. The warmth and trust of their friendship as revealed in these letters makes them especially rich and rewarding to read. That the writers were signers of the Declaration of Independence and then the second and third presidents of the United States makes the exchanges especially significant for all Americans."
Ralph Ketchum, Professor Emeritus
The Maxwell School, Syracuse University

Product Details

  • File Size: 2185 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (November 7, 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,566 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early religous discussion among the founding fathers April 22, 2006
There's lots of talk about religion and politics and separations of church and state: here's what two of the leaders of the early American Republic thought about religion and politics and their affect on American life in "YE WILL SAY I AM NO CHRISTIAN": THE THOMAS JEFFERSON/JOHN ADAMS CORRESPONDENCE ON RELIGION, MORALS AND VALUES. Granted, it's a specialty item which will probably receive its best audience in advanced high school to college-level holdings; but the letters between the two greats offer frank assessments of church, liberty and freedom of religion and should not be missed by any serious reader of American history or political science.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jefferson; No Atheist July 8, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As far as anything I ever knew about Thomas Jefferson's religious beliefs, it was he believed in God and Jesus. So, at reading comments from Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and such, that he was an atheist, I simply concluded they were, once again, expressing their uninvestigated wishful thinking as usual. (I jest, now and then, how I wouldn't be surprised that one from the "New Atheist" schism would eventually write a thesis on Jesus being an atheist!) Well, "Ye Will Say I Am No Christian" by Bruce Braden is all you need to see how wrong such people and their conclusions are. Former US Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson corresponded regularly questioning and examining each other's religious beliefs in a most civil way, that anyone reading them gains a clear understanding of their beliefs. Serendipitously, much sage wisdom is gained by the reader taking the time to read those letters.

Sadly, there were religious fanatics in Jefferson's day (nothing new) expecting the laws of the land to enforce religious doctrine and practice, just as England and many European countries did. This is why the Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers and others fled to the New World. Jefferson's home state, Virginia, was likewise carrying out the British Episcopalian way of enforcing religious dogma on it's citizens. Jefferson noted a few like Pennsylvania, New York and (other colonies) religions weren't busying themselves with using the government to force everyone to comply to religion and thus he emulated those methods into Virginia's government and eventually the US Constitution.

Yes, Jefferson believed in God (but not as a trinity). His primary source of learning of Him was from nature and many philosophers throughout the ages. For Jefferson, the Bible was a mix of history and errors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Founding Fathers as Evangelical Christians? February 24, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent Book. Amazing how these two men, once bitter rivals, could wriye so many letters to each other. (This book records some of them) You can almost feel the admiration and respect emerge between them. My only feeling of regret is that they never met during this time.
A blow to those who teach that the Founders were Evangelical Christians. These men did not believe in the Diety of Jesus and explain to each other why they came to this conclussion. Great Reading
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Borrrring July 19, 2013
By Derrick
I was having a tough time at the moment with religion. I believe in God but my girlfriend and I were different religions. I wanted to marry her but our difference in religion in my mind would eventually tear us apart. I felt that God didn't intend for religion to stand in the way of love. I decided to get this book because I heard on some political talk show that our founding fathers, in particular Thomas Jefferson, were not religious. That seemed very interesting to me because Thomas Jefferson was pretty cool and success. I wanted to know what these great men knew about religion and why they said they were not Christians. This book is letters between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. I really got this book for Thomas Jefferson, but John Adams does most of the writing. I think maybe 2 times as much as Thomas Jefferson. I was on a deployment while reading this book. While deployed I always look forward to that time in my bunk where I can read a book. However, this book was so boring and it was hard to read. It was a month and I was still struggling so I did the unthinkable which was quit. I've only quit reading 3 books in my adult life and I have read at least a hundred. I may come back to read it one day because it is still on my Kindle (shot out), but I as of right now borrrring!!!!!
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3 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Adams September 23, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was a gift and the recipient was thrilled to have this to add to his library. It arrived almost immediately! So glad I ordered it.
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