Sunday, August 12, 2007

John Adams: Thoughts on Government

It's a fantastic day here in southern PA: sunny and clear, hot but not oppresssive (the AC is not on), and the dogs are sprawled out and snoring. I was out this morning painting the fence with waterproofing stain, and now that my work is done, I'm having a few beers and watching Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. I enjoy excellence and watching the best play their best against the best in a championship competition. And I figured this would be a good time to browse through the archive of articles, websites, and blog-posts that I have saved over the past few months thinking that I would get back to them at some point. There will probably be some more posts of some of these today. This is a letter from John Adams about government.

Nothing is more certain from the history of nations, and the nature of man, than that some forms of government are better fitted for being well administered than others.
We ought to consider, what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all Divines and moral Philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government, which communicates ease, comfort, security, or in one word happiness to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.
...
A man must be indifferent to the sneers of modern Englishmen to mention in their company the names of Sidney, Harrington, Locke, Milton, Nedham, Neville, Burnet, and Hoadley. No small fortitude is necessary to confess that one has read them. The wretched condition of this country, however, for ten or fifteen years past, has frequently reminded me of their principles and reasonings. They will convince any candid mind, that there is no good government but what is Republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a Republic, is "an Empire of Laws, and not of men." That, as a Republic is the best of governments, so that particular arrangement of the powers of society, or in other words that form of government, which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the laws, is the best of Republics.

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