Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Department Name when Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Bradford J. Wood

Department Affiliation


Second Advisor

John P. Bowes

Department Affiliation


Third Advisor

Carolyn Renee Dupont

Department Affiliation



This thesis looks at the religious beliefs of John Adams and argues that the proper definition of Adams's belief system should only be "Unitarianism." It goes through the basic history of Unitarianism and the religious context of the Founding Fathers, and it analyzes relevant historiography on Adams's theological system, arguing against terms such as "Christian Deist" and "Theistic Rationalist." Then, the thesis suggests possible applications for Adams's religion, particularly when considering his emphasis on the ethical Jesus in relation to his desire for a moral society brought about by religion. Adams's theology can be applied to political actions he took during his life, including the drafting of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, the signing of the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797, and the issuing of national days of fasting and prayer during his presidency.