…the Creed of my whole Life…
No simple Form of Government, can possibly secure Men against the Violences of Power. Simple Monarchy will soon mould itself into Despotism, Aristocracy will soon commence an Oligarchy, and Democracy, will soon degenerate into an Anarchy, such an Anarchy that every Man will do what is right in his own Eyes, and no Mans life or Property or Reputation or Liberty will be secure and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral Virtues, and Intellectual Abilities, all the Powers of Wealth, Beauty, Wit, and Science, to the wanton Pleasures, the capricious Will, and the execrable Cruelty of one or a very few.
This last Paragraph has been the Creed of my whole Life and is now March 27 1807 as much approved as it was when it was written by John Adams.
The simple forms of government are monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy; that is, where the authority of the state is vested in one, a few, or the many. Each of these species of government has advantages peculiar to itself, and would answer the ends of government, were the persons intrusted with the authority of the state, always guided, themselves, by unerring wisdom and public virtue; but rulers are not always exempt from the weakness and depravity which make government necessary to society. Thus monarchy is apt to rush headlong into tyranny, aristocracy to beget faction, and multiplied usurpation, and democracy, to degenerate into tumult, violence, and anarchy. A government formed upon these three principles, in due proportion, is the best calculated to answer the ends of government, and to endure.
thanks, very interesting. never considered before how the tripartite structure is like a tripod trying to keep balance in the cycle. curious to know more in depth how adams designed the system with respect to anacyclosis.
Earl D Watts
Do you have any documentation or references by any of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention to ‘A Defense of the Constitutions…’? I am researching the Constitutional Convention as part of a fellowship I was awarded and am focusing on James Madison. I have not seen any references to the Adams text yet and would love to find that.
I haven’t looked at Madison’s letters yet or any of the notes that he assembled which were released later, although I am aware that Adams and Madison were not close and on opposite sides of many issues.