The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams
Publication Year: 2012
Conservatives who are gratified at the success of David McCullough's wonderful new biography of John Adams will find even more of the real Adams—Adams unplugged, one might say in"The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams."
—Michael Potemra, National Review/July 23, 2001
The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams presents the principal shorter writings in which Adams addresses the prospect of revolution and the form of government proper to the new United States. Though one of the principal framers of the American republic and the successor to Washington as president, John Adams receives remarkably little attention among many students of the early national period. This is especially true in the case of the periods before and after the Revolution, in which the intellectual rationale for independence and republican government was given the fullest expression.
The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams illustrates that it was Adams, for example, who before the Revolution wrote some of the most important documents on the nature of the British Constitution and the meaning of rights, sovereignty, representation, and obligation. And it was Adams who, once the colonies had declared independence, wrote equally important works on possible forms of government in a quest to develop a science of politics for the construction of a constitution for the proposed republic.
C. Bradley Thompson is an Associate Professor of History and Political Science at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio, and the author of John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty.
Published by: Liberty Fund
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Modern scholars of the American Revolution have published countless books on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. Surprisingly, John Adams has not fared so well. On the whole, historians have neglected Adams's Revolutionary thought, and a one-volume collection of his political writings has not been...
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Joseph J. Ellis, Peter S. Onuf, Richard A. Ryerson, and Gordon S. Wood have, each in his own way, provided helpful advice on this project. I am particularly thankful to Joe Ellis for so graciously abdicating his own project to edit a volume of Adams's writings so that I might proceed with the present volume. My greatest...
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With a few minor exceptions, this volume includes all of John Adams 's Revolutionary and pre-Revolutionary political writings. All documents are reproduced in their entirety and, with one exception, have been taken from volumes 3 and 4 of Charles Francis Adams's ten-volume collection of The Works of John Adams (Boston, 1850-56). In turn, the Charles Francis Adams documents were reproduced from original newspaper publications. "Two Replies...
1. ESSAYS AND CONTROVERSIAL PAPERS OF THE REVOLUTION
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MAN IS DISTINGUISHED from other animals, his fellow inhabitants of this planet, by a capacity of acquiring knowledge and civility, more than by any excellency, corporeal, or mental, with which mere nature has furnished his species. His erect figure and sublime countenance would give him but little elevation above the bear or the tiger; nay, norwithstanding those advantages, he would hold an inferior rank in the scale of being, and would have a worse prospect of happiness than those creatures, were it not for the capacity of...
2. A DISSERTATION ON THE CANON AND FEUDAL LAW
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"IGNORANCE AND INCONSIDERATION are the two great causes of the ruin of mankind." This is an observation of Dr. Tillotson, with relation to the interest of his fellow men in a future and immortal state. Bur it is of equal truth and importance if applied to the happiness of men in society, on this side the grave. In the earliest ages of the world, absolute monarchy seems to have been the universal form of government. Kings, and a few of their great counsellors and captains, exercised a cruel tyranny over the people, who held...
3. INSTRUCTIONS OF THE TOWN OF BRAINTREE TO THEIR REPRESENTATIVE
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SIR,—In all the calamities which have ever befallen this country, we have never felt so great a concern, or such alarming apprehensions, as on this occasion. Such is our loyalty to the King, our veneration for both houses of Parliament, and our affection for all our fellow-subjects in Britain, that measures which discover any unkindness in that country towards us are the more sensibly and intimately felt. And we can no longer forbear complaining, that...
4. THE EARL OF CLARENDON TO WILLIAM PYM
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SIR,—The revolution which one century has produced in your opinions and principles is not quite so surprising to me as it seems to be to many others. You know very well, I had always a jealousy that your humanity was counterfeited, your ardor for liberty cankered with simulation, and your integrity problematical at least. I must confess, however, that such a sudden transition from licentiousness to despotism, so entire a transformation from a fiery, furious declaimer...
5. GOVERNOR WINTHROP TO GOVERNOR BRADFORD
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WE HAVE OFTEN CONGRATULATED EACH OTHER, with high satisfaction, on the glory we secured in both worlds by our favorite enterprise of planting America. We were Englishmen; we were citizens of the world; we were Christians. The history of nations and of mankind was familiar to us; and we considered the species chiefly in relation to the system of great nature and her all-perfect Author. In consequence of such contemplations as these, it was the unwearied endeavor of our lives to establish a society on English...
6. THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
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GENERAL BRATTLE, by his rank, station, and character, is entitled to politeness and respect even when he condescends to harangue in town meeting or to write in a newspaper; but the same causes require that his sentiments, when erroneous and of dangerous tendency, should be considered with entire freedom, and the examination be made as public as the error. He cannot, therefore, take offence at any gentleman for offering his thoughts to the public with decency and candor, though they may differ from his own. ...
7. TWO REPLIESOF THE MASSACHUSETTS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON
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YOUR EXCELLENCY's SPEECH to the General Assembly at the Opening of this Session, has been read with great Attention in this House. We fully agree with your Excellency, that our own Happiness as well as his Majesty's Service, very much depends upon Peace and Order; and we shall at all Times take such Measures as are consistent with our Constitution and the Rights of the People to promote and maintain them. That the Government at present is in a very disturbed State is apparent! But we cannot...
8. NOVANGLUS; OR, A HISTORY OF THE DISPUTE WITH AMERICA
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MY FRIENDS,—A writer, under the signature of Massachusettensis, has addressed you, in a series of papers, on the great national subject of the present quarrel between the British administration and the Colonies. As I have not in my possession more than one of his essays, and that is in the Gazette of December 26, I will take the liberty, in the spirit of candor and decency, to bespeak your attention upon the same subject. ...
9. THOUGHTS ON GOVERNMENT
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MY DEAR SIR,—If I was equal to the task of forming a plan for the government of a colony, I should be flattered with your request, and very happy to comply with it; because, as the divine science of politics is the science of social happiness, and the blessings of society depend entirely on the constitutions of government, which are generally institutions that last for many generations, there can be no employment more agreeable to a benevolent mind than a research after the best. ...
10. THE REPORT OF A CONSTITUTION, OR FORM OF GOVERNMENT, FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
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THE END OF THE INSTITUTION, maintenance, and administration of government is to secure the existence of the body politic; to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquillity, their natural rights and the blessings of life; and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, happiness, and...
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Page Count: 349
Publication Year: 2012