John Adams and the King
“I must avow to your Majesty, I have no attachment but to my own country.”

John Adams was a man with many talents. He was a farmer, a lawyer, a beloved father and a polished public speaker. But with all his years of experience in fiery debate and oratory, no speech made him as anxious as the one he was about to give.

The year was 1785. The Revolutionary War had ended a mere two years earlier. Adams had served as an ambassador to many countries, including France and the Netherlands. But now, the fledgling nation had chosen him as their representative to England, the country they had just fought for independence.

On June 1, Adams had a meeting with the king of England, King George III. Nationalities aside, the two men were actually very similar. Like Adams, he liked reading, farming and talking, although he had a bit of a stutter that made it hard to understand him at times. But these two men had some very substantial differences. The American people viewed the king as a tyrant, while the British surely saw Adams as a traitor. But when Adams was preparing for his speech, he had to put their differences aside. In his book John Adams, author David McCullough wrote that “[Adams] began preparing himself for what he knew would be an occasion of historic importance for his country and one of the great events of his life.”

Adams almost didn’t get the job. Congress was worried that his vanity would get in the way of a good start with England. To do this, he had to conquer his vanity.

Adams spent a great deal of time preparing the perfect speech to deliver for the king. It was supposed to be short and complimentary, neither of which Adams was naturally talented at, so he polished the speech until he knew it in and out and could deliver it passionately by memory.

When the time came, the great man John Adams was very nervous. This meeting with the king would set the stage for American and British relations for years to come. He knew the importance of an American ambassador in England, saying “The appointment of a minister from the United States to Your Majesty’s Court will form an epoch in the history of England and of America.” He then went on to talk about how honored he was to be serving in this position. It was a short speech, but it was filled with emotion, more than he could express.

In response to Adams’s passionate speech, the king answered with his true thoughts on the separation of the American and British peoples. He said, “I will be very frank with you, I was the last to consent to separation; but the separation having been made, and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.” The king was not an unreasonable man. He didn’t want to relinquish the 13 colonies, but he knew that having them as allies could potentially be very beneficial.

Previous to this appointment, Adams had served as minister to France. Through all his serving abroad, there was one common vein: he always wanted to be home in America. King George III knew how he had felt about France (I’ll give you a hint—he wasn’t a fan), so he asked Adams about that. Adams’s response was legendary: “I must avow to your Majesty, I have no attachment but to my own country.”

And there you have it. The reason Adams was able to do all he did. Adams was dedicated to his country. He loved America. What kept him going through those years abroad was his love for America and his love for his family. But even better than Adams’s answer was the king’s response: “An honest man will never have any other.”

The king of England may not have been a fan of America at the start, but he was a fan of patriotism. John Adams displayed a lot of tenacity and dedication to America. He wasn’t going to fluff words just to impress the king of England. He was respectful to the king, but he didn’t compromise with his core values, and that included his love of his country.

From John Adams’s dedication to his country, we can learn another kind of dedication—a dedication to our core values. In our case, that is a dedication to God’s law and God’s commandments. If somebody asked us about our beliefs, about our citizenship, what would we say? Philippians 3:20 says that our citizenship is in heaven.

After this meeting, King George iii and John Adams had a deep, mutual respect for one another. They knew what had to happen for these two countries to succeed together, and they respected each other for sticking to their country and to what they believed.

John Adams knew what country he was a citizen of, and for him there was no other. It should be the same for us. Just as Adams was a citizen of young America, we are citizens of God’s family. We should know what our beliefs are and stick to them. An honest man will never do anything other than that.