The first son of a president to become president, and the first son of a president to get there without winning the popular vote (as did the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, oddly enough), John Quincy Adams was known later in life as Old Man Eloquent. He began a career in service to his country that started in his teens, and was indeed a Christian. (Unitarian, like his father.) He’d read through the Bible each year, and there’s even a book on his faith: “Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teaching.”
With a résumé like this, JQA is a natural for the fake quotation business, and this made-up quote even appears in the Congressional Record on October 17, 2001, with the claim that Adams made the statement when celebrating Independence Day, 1821.
Although John Quincy Adams would draw on his faith throughout his career, especially in his fight against slavery and to free the Africans on the Amistad slave ship, we cannot attribute this quote to him. So where did it come from? The quote is author John Wingate Thornton opinion of what John Quincy Adams thought about Christianity and the founding. Thornton included the description in his 1860 book, “The Pulpit of the American Revolution,” but he did not put it in quotation marks, provide a footnote, or date it to July 4th.