American Presidents

John Adams American Presidents Teacher Guide

John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty
March 26, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
College Level

C. Bradley Thompson, author of John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, discusses the political ideals and writings of the second president.

Before Viewing American Presidents
Instruct students to visit C-SPAN's American Presidents web site to learn about John Adams and his presidency.

As a class, discuss the following: What is a moralist? List professions in which morals are a requirement. Why are morals important to these professions? What would happen if people in these professions lacked morals? Should leaders have morals? Why? As a class, identify situations when lack of moral leadership was detrimental to a country, business, people or religious order. What were the effects? How was the leader treated?

Inform students that they are going to view a talk by college professor C. Bradley Thompson on John Adams and his study of political thought. Mr. Thompson asserts that John Adams was a moralist and therefore a great statesman - which he considers to be a rarity in presidential leadership today.

While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: During the talk, take notes on how John Adams' principles and leadership intersected with the following concepts of political philosophy:

    1. Architect of American Democracy

    2. Atlas of Independence

    3. American Enlightenment and the Independence Movement

    4. Rewards of Self-rule

    5. Principles of Liberty and Principles of Government

    6. Sensations of Freedom

    7. Danger of Equality

    8. Unchecked Democratization

    9. Conventional vs Natural inequality

After Viewing American Presidents
Divide students into groups of three and assign each group one of the terms discussed above. The student groups should define the term and summarize its meaning in the following time periods: Colonial, Revolutionary and Modern. Students should then discuss how the term was used to explain the political ideals of John Adams and how these ideals hold to today's standards and political climate.

Each group will share their work with the class. Students can present their findings as Professor Thompson did during the program as a lecture. If computers are available, the class can create their own John Adams web site using the contributions from each group for the site content.

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