Skip to comments.Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America
Posted on 06/30/2003 4:26:21 PM PDT by unspun
(Source, Charles F. Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams  Vol. 6, p. 3-4)
There have been three periods in the history of England, in which the principles of government have been anxiously studied, and very valuable productions published, which, at this day, if they are not wholly forgotten in their native country, are perhaps more frequently read abroad than at home.
The first of these periods was that of the Reformation, as early as the writings of Machiavel himself, who is called the great restorer of the true politics. The "Shorte Treatise of Politick Power, and of the True Obedience which Subjects owe to Kyngs and other Civile Governors, with an Exhortation to all True Natural Englishemen, compyled by John Poynet, D. D.," was printed in 1556, and contains all the essential principles of liberty, which were afterwards dilated on by Sidney and Locke. This writer is clearly for a mixed government, in three equiponderant branches, as appears by these words:
"In some countreyes they were content to be governed and have the laws executed by one king or judge; in some places by many of the best sorte; in some places by the people of the lowest sorte; and in some places also by the king, nobilitie, and the people, all together. And these diverse kyndes of states, or policies, had their distincte names; as where one ruled, a monarchie; where many of the best, aristocratie; and where the multitude, democratie ; and where all together, that is a king, the nobilitie, and commons, a mixte state; and which men by long continuance have judged to be the best sort of all. For where that mixte state was exercised, there did the commonwealths longest continue."The second period was the Interregnum, and indeed the whole interval between 1640 and 1660. In the course of those twenty years, not only Ponnet and others were reprinted, but Harrington, Milton, the Vindiciae contra Tyrannos, and a multitude of others, came upon the stage.
The third period was the Revolution in 1688, which produced Sidney, Locke, Hoadley, Trenchard, Gordon, Plato Redivivus, who is also clear for three equipollent branches in the mixture, and others without number. The discourses of Sidney were indeed written before, but the same causes produced his writings as did the Revolution.Americans should make collections of all these speculations, to be preserved as the most precious relics of antiquity, both for curiosity and use.
Going to sources is good for many purposes, not the least of which in this case is the dispelling of undue ideas of the influence of singular philosophers (Locke, or otherwise and certainly no one who came after the American Revolution).
(Going back further, one finds understanding from New Covenant, Former Covenant, and Platonic sources, and further still, the Source of the truths depticted therein, purely and otherwise, respectively.)
"Americans should make collections of all these speculations, to be preserved as the most precious relics of antiquity, both for curiosity and use."
BTW, don't quiz me on all its links just yet... unless it's "open book" of course.
So, It's just after 6:45PM CDST. Do you know where this is bookmarked, this evening? ;-)
"[I]f governments arise from the consent of men, and are instituted by men according to their own inclinations, they did therein seek their own good; for the will is ever drawn by some real good, or the appearance of it. This is that which man seeks by all the regular or irregular motions of his mind. Reason and passion, virtue and vice, do herein concur.... A people therefore that sets up [government does it so]...that it may be well with themselves and their posterity."Yes, the writings of this man, whom John Adams listed first among his peers whose influence of mind provided for our American Republic, and whom Jefferson also put on his "short list" of seminal thinkers, are writings to be read, I'd say. Josiah and the lost Book of the Covenant comes to mind.
"Nothing can be called stable, that is not so in principle and practice, in which respect human nature is not well capable of stability; but the utmost deviation from it that can be imagined, is, when such an error is laid for a foundation as can never be corrected. All will confess, that if there be any stability in man, it must be in wisdom and virtue, and in those actions that are thereby directed; for in weakness, folly, and madness, there can be none. The stability therefore that we seek, in relation to the exercise of civil and military powers, can never be found, unless care be taken, that such as shall exercise those powers, be endowed with the qualities that should make them stable."
"Virtue is the dictate of reason, or the remains of divine light, by which men are made beneficent and beneficial to each other. Religion proceeds from the same spring; and tends to the same end; and the good of mankind so entirely depends upon the two, that no people ever enjoyed anything worth desiring that was not the product of them; and whatsoever any have suffered that [which] deserves to be abhorred and feared, has proceeded either from the defect of these, or the wrath of God against them. If any [leader] therefore has been an enemy to virtue and religion, he must also have been an enemy to mankind, and most especially to the people under him."
"But if all depended upon the will of a man, the worst would be often the most safe, and the best in the greatest hazard; slaves would be often advanced, the good and the brave scorned and neglected. The most generous nations have above all things sought to avoid this evil: and the virtue, wisdom, and generosity of each, may be discerned by the right fixing of the rule, that must be the guide of every man's life, and so continue their magistracy, that it may be duly observed. Such as have attained to this perfection, have always flourished in virtue and happiness: they are, as Aristotle says, governed by God, rather than by men, whilst those who subjected themselves to the will of a man, were governed by a beast."
"The creature having nothing, and being nothing but what the creator makes him, must owe all to him, and nothing to any one from whom he has received nothing. Man therefore must be naturally free, unless he be created by another power than we have yet heard of. The obedience due to parents arises from hence, in that they are the instruments of our generation; and we are instructed by the light of reason, that we ought to make great returns to those from whom under God we have received all. When they die, we are their heirs, we enjoy the same rights, and devolve the same to our posterity. God only, who confers this right upon us, can deprive us of it: and we can no-way understand that he does so, unless he had so declared by express revelation, ore had set some distinguishing marks of dominion and subjection upon men; and as an ingenious person not long since said, caused some to be born with crowns upon their heads, and all others with saddles upon their backs. This liberty therefor must continue, till it be either forfeited, or willingly resigned. The forfeiture is hardly comprehensible in a multitude, that is not entered into any society; for as they are all equal, and 'equals can have no right over each other,' no man can forfeit any thing to one, who can justly demand nothing, unless it may be by a personal injury, which is nothing to this case; because where there is no society, one man is not bound by the actions of another. . . .
"[F]or men could not could not resign their liberty, unless they naturally had it in themselves. Resignation is a public declaration of their assent to be governed by the person to whom they resign; that is, they do by act constitute him to be their governor. This necessarily puts us upon the inquiry, why do they resign, how they will be governed, and proves the governor to be their creature; and the right of disposing the government must be in them, or they who receive it can have none."
"They who are enemies of virtue, and fear not God, are afraid of men, and dare not offer such things as the world will not bear, lest by that means they should overthrow their own designs. All poison must be disguised, and no man can be persuaded to eat arsenic, unless it be covered with something that appears to be harmless."
"The head must be of the same nature with the other members, or it cannot subsist. . . . [T]he head cannot have a subsistence without the body, nor any interest contrary to that of the body; and it is impossible for anything that is good for the head, that is hurtful to the body. A prince therefore or magistrate, who sets up an interest in himself distinct from, or repugnant to, that of the people, renounces the title or quality of their head. . . . The head cannot stand in need of an exterior help against the body, nor subsist when divided from it. . . . The head cannot desire to draw all the nourishment of the body to itself, nor more than a due proportion. If the rest of the parts are sick, weak, or cold, the head suffers equally with them; and if they perish, must perish also. . . . If any therefore . . . have merited the glorious name of head of nations, it must have been by their personal virtues, by a vigilant care of the good of their people, by an inseparable conjunction of interests with them, by an ardent love of every member of society, by a moderation of spirit affecting no undue superiority, or assuming any singular advantage, which they are not willing to communicate to every part of the political body."
Man does not seem to be able to govern himself in large numbers for any appreciable length of time. A seat of government is always a repository for wealth and power, and has to be to function.
Eventually, attracted by these two corrosive elements to the human soul, less than honest people will perculate to the top. Following will be lesser and greater sociopaths, who will be more successful because they will be willing to do things even a dishonest man will not do to achieve his goal.
Thus proceeds the rot. No, I don't have a solution. Each individual must govern himself for a human government to work, and then, any system will work, or none at all. Perhaps in some future level spiritual evolution.
Sorry to be negative, but history compels me so.
And so it goes. But then, as the words of our Declaration of Independence admonish us, it is our duty to "throw the bums out," one way or another....
Such as have reason, understanding, or common sense, will, and ought to make use of it in those things that concern themselves, and their prosperity, and suspect the words of such as are interested in deceiving or persuading them not to see with their own eyes, that they may be more easily deceived.
This rule obliges us so far to search into matters of state, as to examine the original principles of government in general, and of our own in particular.
We cannot distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or know what obedience we owe to the magistrate, or what we may justly expect from him, unless we know what he is, why he is, and by whom he is made to be what he is.
These perhaps may be called 'mysteries of state,' and some would persuade us they are to be esteemed 'arcana;' but whosoever confesses himself to be ignorant of them, must acknowledge that he is uncapable of giving any judgement upon things relating to the superstructure; and in so doing evidently shows to others, that they ought not at all hearken to what he says." I:3:9
Algernon Sidney was a prophet! This is dead on for today.
He also rivals Saint Paul for sentence length.
Thanks again unspun.
This is exactly why "character matters" and why scum like Clinton's so-called personal life was an extension of his public life. If someone is inclined to use and abuse and exploit the people around him for personal gratification, he (or she) will have the same exploitive and abusive mentality in the public sphere. The only reason someone wouldn't understand this is because of their own desires to do the same thing - at least in theory.