The English Group
OF this great age of American political thought, two important characteristics emerge: it was overwhelmingly English in its antecedents; and it was already differentiating its program from that of contemporary English liberalism. Nearly all the outstanding men-Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Wilson, Mason, Madison, Gouverneur Morris-were of the older liberal tradition, and with some notable exceptions, of the school of Pitt. Contemporary English liberals such as Priestley, Bentham, and Godwin numbered few adherents among the leaders of American thought. Economic conditions in America already were imposing conclusions that pointed in a direction other than that which English liberalism was traveling. The doctrine of the diminished state, which was making persistent headway among English liberals, could make no appeal to men who desired an augmented state; and liberalism as a policy was in ill repute at a time when men believed thay were suffering from too much liberalism. American political thought, therefore, followed an independent path, and in spite of its English origin came to conclusions that differentiated it broadly from the old-world theory.
The Leviathan State
Of the disciplined forces that put to rout the disorganized party of agrarianism, the intellectual leader was Alexander Hamilton, the brilliant Anglo-French West Indian, then just entered upon his thirties. A man of quite remarkable ability, a lucid thinker, a great lawyer, a skillful executive, a masterly organizer, a statesman of broad comprehension and inflexible purpose, he originated and directed the main policies of the Federalist group, and brought them to successful issue. For this work he was singularly well equipped, for in addition to great qualities of mind and persuasive ways he was free to work unhampered by the narrow localism:, and sectional prejudices that hampered native Americans. He was rather English than American, with a certain detachment that refused to permit his large plans to be thwarted by minor, vexatious details, or the perversity of stupid men. He was like the elder Pitt in the magnificence of his imperial outlook.
Such a man would think in terms of the nation rather than of the state. He would agree with Paine that the continental belt must be more securely buckled. The jealousies and rivalries that obstructed the creation of a centralized Federal government found no sympathy with him. He was annoyed beyond all patience with the dissensions of local home rule. In his political philosophy there was no place for "the political monster of an imperium in irnperio"; he would destroy all lesser sovereignties and reduce the several commonwealths to a parish status. For town-meeting democracies and agrarian legislatures he had frank contempt. The American villager and farmer he never knew and never understood; his America was the America of landed gentlemen and wealthy merchants and prosperous professional men, the classes that were most bitterly anti-agrarian. And it was in association with this group of conservative representatives of business and society that he took his place as directing head in the work of reorganizing the loose confederation into a strong and cohesive union. When that work was accomplished his influence was commanding, and for a dozen years he directed the major policies of the Federalist party. His strategic position as Secretary of the Treasury enabled him to stamp his principles so deeply upon the national economy that in all the intervening years since he quitted his post they have not been permanently altered. That we still follow the broad principles of Hamilton in our financial policy is a remarkable testimony to the perspicacity of his mind and his understanding of the economic forces that control modern society. And hence, because the Hamiltonian principles lie at the core of the problem which has proved so difficult of solution by modern liberalism, the life and work of Hamilton are of particular significance in our democratic development.
Hamilton was our first great master of modern finance, of that finespun web of credit which holds together our industrial life; and because his policies opened opportunities of profit to some and entailed loss upon others, they have been debated with an acrimony such as few programs have endured. About the figure of the brilliant Federalist the mythmakers have industriously woven their tales, distorting the man into either a demigod or a monster. The individual has been merged in the system which he created, and later interpretation has been shot through with partisan feeling; political and economic prejudice has proved too strong for disinterested estimate. Any rational judgment of Hamilton is dependent upon an interpretation of the historical background that determined his career, and in particular of the state of postRevolutionary economics; and over such vexing questions partisans have wrangled interminably. Thus Summer, in his life of Hamilton, asserts dogmatically that Federalism was no other than the forces of law and order at war with the turbulent, anarchistic forces unloosed by the Revolution, and that the putting down of the scheme of repudiation was the necessary preliminary to the establishment of a great nation. In the light of such an interpretation, Hamilton the far-seeing, courageous and honest master of finance, was the savior of nationality, the one supreme figure rising above an envious group of lesser men. But, as has been sufficiently pointed out in preceding chapters, the historical facts are susceptible of quite other interpretation; and as our knowledge of the economic struggle then going on becomes more adequate, the falsity of such an explanation becomes patent. If, on the other hand, we concede that the crux of the political problem in 1787 was economic-the struggle waging between farmer and business groups for control of government-then the position of Hamilton becomes clear; he was the spokesman of the business economy. He thought in terms of nationality and espoused the economics of capitalism, because he discovered in them potentialities congenial to his imperialistic mind.
The career of Hamilton followed logically from the determining facts of temperament and experience. He came to New York an alien, without position or influence, ambitious to make a name and stir in the world; and in the America of his day there could be little doubt what doors opened widest to preferment. He made friends easily, and with his aristocratic tastes he preferred the rich and distinguished to plebeians. Endowed with charming manners and brilliant parts, he fascinated all whom he met; before he was of age he was intimate with all the Whig leaders, civil and military, on Washington's staff and elsewhere, lending his brains to the solution of knotty problems, prodding stupider minds with illuminating suggestions, proving himself the clearest thinker in whatever group he found himself. It was by sheer force of intellect that he gained distinction. Singularly precocious, he matured early; before his twenty-fifth year he seems to have developed every main principle of his political and economic philosophy, and thereafter he never hesitated or swerved from his path. He was tireless in propaganda, urging on the proposed Constitutional convention, discussing with Robert Morris his favorite project of a national bank, outlining various systems of funding, advocating tariffs as an aid to domestic manufacture, and sketching the plan of a political and economic system under which native commercialism could go forward. His reputation as an acute and trustworthy financial adviser was well established with influential men north and south, when the new government was set up, and Washington turned to him naturally for the Treasury post, to guide financial policies during the difficult days immediately ahead. But so able a man could not be restricted within a single portfolio, and during the larger part of Washington's two administrations Hamilton's ryas the directing mind and chief influence. He regarded himself as Prime Minister and rode roughshod over his colleagues. Major policies such as that of no entangling alliances must receive his careful scrutiny and approval before they were announced; and in consequence more credit belongs to Hamilton for the success of those first administrations than is commonly recognized.
But when we turn from the administrator and statesman to the creative thinker, there is another story to tell. The quickness of his perceptions, the largeness of his plans and efficacy of his methods-his clear brilliancy of understanding and execution-are enormously impressive; but they cannot conceal certain intellectual shortcomings. There was a lack of subtlety in the swift working of his mind, of shades and nuances in the background of his thought, that implied a lack of depth and richness in his intellectual accumulation. Something hard, almost brutal lurks in his thought-a note of intellectual arrogance, of cynical contempt. He was utterly devoid of sentiment, and without a shred of idealism, unless a certain grandiose quality in his conceptions be accounted idealism. His absorbing interest in the rising system of credit and finance, his cool unconcern for the social consequences of his policies, reveal his weakness. In spite of his brilliancy Hamilton was circumscribed by the limitations of the practical man.
In consequence of such limitations Hamilton was not a political philosopher in the large meaning of the term. In knowledge of history he does not compare with John Adams; and as an openminded student of politics he is immensely inferior to Jefferson. Outside the domain of the law, his knowledge does not always keep pace with his argument. He reasons adroitly from given premises, but he rarely pauses to examine the validity of those premises. The fundamentals of political theory he seems never to have questioned, and he lays down a major principle with the easy finality of a dogmatist. Compare his views on any important political principle with those of the greater thinkers of his time, and they are likely to prove factional if not reactionary. The two tests of eighteenth-century liberalism were the doctrine of individualism, and the doctrine of the minimized state; and Hamilton rejected both: the former in its larger social bearing, and the latter wholly. He was not even abreast of seventeenth-century liberalism, for that was strongly republican, and Hamilton detested republicanism only a little less than democracy. Harrington and Locke were no masters of his; much less were Bentham or Priestley or Godwin. He called the French revolutionary writers "fanatics in political science"; to what extent he read them does not appear. The thinkers to whom he owed most seem to have been Hume, from whom he may have derived his cynical psychology, and Hobbes whose absolute state was so congenial to his temperament. But political theory he subordinated to economic theory. He was much interested in economics. With the Physiocratic school and its agrarian and sociological bias he could have no sympathy, but with the rising English school that resulted from the development of the industrial revolution, he found himself in hearty accord. Capitalism with its credit system, its banks and debt-funding and money manipulation, was wholly congenial to his masterful temperament. He read Adam Smith with eagerness and The Wealth of Nations was a source book for many of his state papers. To create in America an English system of finance, and an English system of industrialism, seemed to him the surest means to the great end he had in view; a centralizing capitalism would be more than a match for a decentralizing agrarianism, and the power of the state would augment with the increase of liquid wealth.
But granted that he lacked the intellectual qualities of the philosopher, it does not follow that his significance diminishes. On the contrary his very independence of contemporary European theory enlarged his serviceableness to party. He was free to employ his intelligence on the practical difficulties of a new and unprecedented situation. English liberalism did not answer the needs of Federalism, if indeed it could answer the needs of the country at large. The time had come to decide whether the long movement of decentralization should go further, and confirm the future government as a loose confederacy of powerful states, or whether an attempt should be made to check that movement and establish a counter tendency towards centralized, organized control. If the former, it meant surrendering the country to a democratic laissez faire, and there was nothing in the history of political laissez faire as it had developed in America, that justified the principle to Hamilton. It had culminated in agrarianism with legislative majorities riding down all obstacles, denying the validity of any check upon its will, constitutional, legal or ethical. The property interests of the minority had been rendered insecure. There had been altogether too much laissez faire; what was needed was sharp control of legislative majorities; the will of the majority must be held within due metes and bounds. Even in the economic world the principle of laissez faire no longer satisfied the needs of the situation. Parliamentary enactments had aided British interests in their exploitation of America before the war; it was only common sense for an American government to assist American business. The new capitalism that was rising stood in need of governmental subsidies. Business was languishing; infant industries could not compete on even terms with the powerful British manufacturing interests, long established and with ample capital. From a realistic contemplation of these facts Hamilton deduced the guiding principle that has since been followed, namely, that governmental interference with economic laws is desirable when it aids business, but intolerable and unsound when it aims at business regulation or control, or when it assists agriculture or labor.
Throughout his career Hamilton was surprisingly consistent. His mind hardened early as it matured early, and he never saw cause to challenge the principles which he first espoused. He was what a friendly critic would call a political realist, and an enemy would pronounce a cynic. With the practical man's contempt for theorists and idealists, he took his stand on current fact. He looked to the past for guidance, trusting to the wisdom of experience; those principles which have worked satisfactorily heretofore may be expected to work satisfactorily in the future. Whoever aspires to become a sane political leader must remember that his business is not to construct Utopias, but to govern men; and if he would succeed in that difficult undertaking he must be wise in the knowledge of human nature. At the basis of Hamilton's political philosophy was the traditional Tory psychology. Failure to understand human nature, he believed, was the fatal weakness of all democratic theorists; they put into men's breeches altruistic beings fitted only for a Utopian existence. But when we consider men as they are, we discover that they are little other than beasts, who if unrestrained will turn every garden into a pigsty. Everywhere men are impelled by the primitive lust of aggression, and the political philosopher must adjust his system to this unhappy fact. He must not suffer the charge of cynicism to emasculate his philosophy; "the goodness of government consists in a vigorous execution," rather than in amiable intentions; it is the business of the practical man and not of the theorist.
It needs no very extensive reading in Hamilton to discover ample justification for such an interpretation of his political philosophy; the evidence lies scattered broadly through his pages. At the precocious age of seventeen he laid down the thesis, "A vast majority of mankind is entirely biassed by motives of selfinterest"; and as political systems are determined by the raw material of the mass of the people, they must be conditioned by such egoism. A Year later he, discovered, in Hume the central principle of his philosophy
Political writers, says a celebrated author, have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave; and to have no other end, in all his actions, but private interest. By this interest we must govern him; and, by means of it, make him co-operate to public good, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition. Without this, we shall in vain boast of the advantages of any constitution.1At the age of twenty-seven he reiterated the doctrine, "The safest reliance of every government, is on men's interests. This is a principle of human nature, on which all political speculation, to be just, must be founded."2 Obviously this was not a pose of youthful cynicism, but a sober judgment confirmed by observation and experience.
Accepting-self-interest as the, mainspring of human ambition, Hamilton accepted equally the principle of class domination. From his reading of history he discovered that the strong overcome I the weak, and as they grasp power they coalesce into a master group. This master group will dominate, he believed, not only to further its interests, but to prevent the spread of anarchy which threatens every society split into factions and at the mercy of rival ambitions. In early days the master group was a military order, later it became a landed aristocracy, in modern times it is commercial; but always its power rests on property. "That power which holds the purse-strings absolutely, must rule," he stated unequivocally. The economic masters of society of necessity become the political masters. It is unthinkable that government should not reflect the wishes of property, that it should be permanently hostile to the greater economic interests; such hostility must destroy it, for no man or group of men will be ruled by those whom they can buy and sell. And in destroying itself it will give place to another government, more wisely responsive to the master group; for even a democratic people soon learns that any government is better than a condition of anarchy, and a commercial people understands that a government which serves the ' interests of men of property, serves the interests of all, for if capital will not invest how shall labor find employment? And if the economic masters do not organize society efficiently, how shall the common people escape ruin?
Such are the fundamental principles which lie at the base of Hamilton's philosophy. He was in accord with John Adams and James Madison and Noah Webster, in asserting the economic basis of government, with its corollary of the class struggle. He not only accepted the rule of property as inevitable, but as desirable. As an aristocrat he deliberately allied himself with the wealthy. That men divide into the rich and the poor, the wise and the foolish, he regarded as a commonplace too evident to require argument. The explanation is to be sought in human nature and human capacities. For the common people, about whom Jefferson concerned himself with what seemed to Hamilton sheer demagoguery he felt only contempt. Their virtues and capacities he had no faith in. "I am not much attached to the majesty of roll; multitude," he said during the debate over the Constitution, "and waive all pretensions (founded on such conduct) to their countenance." His notorious comment--which the American democrat has never forgiven him, "The people!-the people is a great beast!"-was characteristically frank. Hamilton was no demagogue and nothing was plainer to his logic than the proposition that if the people possessed the capacity to rule, their weight of numbers would give them easy mastery; whereas their yielding to the domination of the gifted few proves their incapacity. A wise statesman, therefore, will consider the people no further than to determine how government may be least disturbed by their factional discontent, and kept free to pursue a logical program. Under a republican form good government is difficult to maintain, but not impossible. The people are easily deceived and turned aside from their purpose; like children they are diverted by toys; but if they become unruly they must be punished. Too much is at stake in government for them to be permitted to muddle policies.
It is sufficiently clear that in tastes and convictions Hamilton was a high Tory. The past to which he appealed was a Tory past, the psychology which he accepted was a Tory psychology, the law and order which he desired was a Tory law and order. His philosophy was not liked by republican America, and he knew that it was not liked. Practical business men accepted both his premises and conclusions, but republicans under the spell of revolutionary idealism, and agrarians suffering in their pocketbooks, would oppose them vigorously. He was at pains, therefore, as a practical statesman, to dress his views in a garb more seemly to plebeian prejudices, and like earlier Tories he paraded an ethical justification for his Toryism. The current Federalist dogma of the divine right of justice-vox justiciae vox dei-was at hand to serve his purpose and he made free use of it. But no ethical gilding could quite conceal a certain ruthlessness of purpose; in practice justice became synonymous with expediency, and expediency was curiousIy like sheer Tory will to power.
In certain of his principles Hamilton was a follower of Hobbes. His philosophy conducted logically to the leviathan state, highly centralized, coercive, efficient. But he was no idealist to exalt the state as the divine repository of authority, an enduring entity apart from the individual citizen and above him. He regarded the State as a highly useful instrument, which in the name of law and order would serve the interests of the powerful, and restrain the turbulence of the disinherited. For in every government founded on coercion rather than good will, the perennial unrest of those who are coerced is a grave menace; in the end the exploited will turn fiercely upon the exploiters. In such governments, therefore, self-nterest requires that social unrest shall be covered with opprobium and put down by the police power; and the sufficient test of a strong state lies in its ability to protect the privileges of the minority against the anarchy of the majority. In his eloquent declamation against anarchy Hamilton was a conspicuous disciple of the law and order school. From the grave difficulties of post-Revolutionary times with their agrarian programs, he created a partisan argument for a leviathan state, which fell upon willing ears; and in the Constitutional convention, which, more than any other man, he was instrumental in assembling, he was the outstanding advocate of the coercive state.
In his plan of government presented to the Convention, the principle of centralized power was carried further than most would go, and his supporting speeches expressed doctrines that startled certain of his hearers. He was frankly a monarchist, and he urged the monarchical principle with Hobbesian logic. "The principle chiefly intended to be established is this-that there must be a permanent will." "There ought to be a principle in government capable of resisting the popular current."
Gentlemen say we need to be rescued from the democracy. But what [are] the means proposed? A democratic assembly is to be checked by a democratic senate, and both these by a democratic chief magistrate. The end will not be answered, the means will not be equal to the object. It will, therefore, be feeble and inefficient.3The only effective way of keeping democratic factionalism within bounds, Hamilton was convinced, lay in the erection of a powerful chief magistrate, who "ought to be hereditary, and to have so much power, that it will not be his interest to risk much to acquire more," and who would therefore stand "above corruption." Failing, to secure the acceptance of the monarchical principle, he devoted himself to the business of providing all possible checks upon the power of the democracy. He "acknowledged himself not to think favorably of republican government; but he addressed his remarks to those who did think favorably of it, in order to prevail on them to tone their government as high as possible." 4 His argument was characteristic:
All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well born, the other the mass of the people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and, however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true to fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give, therefore, to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second; and as they cannot receive any advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government. Can a democratic assembly, who annually revolve in the mass of the people, be supposed steadily to pursue the public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy. Their turbulent and uncontrollable disposition requires checks.5The argument scarcely needs refuting today, although curiously enough, it was rarely questioned by eighteenth-century gentlemen. It was the stock in trade of the Federalists, nevertheless Hamilton was too acute a thinker not to see its fallacy. It denied the fundamental premise of his-political philosophy. If men are actuated by self-interest, how does it come about that this sovereign motive abdicates its rule among the rich and well born? Is there a magic in property that regenerates human nature? Do the wealthy betray no desire for greater power? Do the strong and powerful care more for good government than for class interests? Hamilton was fond of appealing to the teaching of experience; but he had read history to little purpose if he believed such notions. How mercilessly he would have exposed the fallacy in the mouth of Jefferson! It was a class appeal, and he knew that it was a class appeal, just as he knew that success knows no ethics. He was confronted by a situation in practical politics, and in playing ignobly upon selfish fears he was seeking to force the convention towards the English model. He had no confidence in the Constitution as finally adopted, and spoke in contemptuous terms of its weakness; whereas for the British constitution he had only praise, going so far, according to Jefferson, as to defend the notorious corruption of parliament on the ground of expediency: "purge it of its corruption"--Jefferson reports him as saying-"and give to its popular branch equality of representation, and it would become an impracticable government; as it stands at present, with all its supposed defects, it is the most perfect government which ever existed."6 The argument savors of cynicism, but it is in keeping with his philosophy; the British constitution owed its excellence to the fact that in the name of the people it yielded control of the state to the landed aristocracy.
It was as a statesman that the brilliant qualities of Hamilton showed to fullest advantage. In developing his policies as Secretary of the Treasury he applied his favorite principle, that government and property must join in a close working alliance. The new government would remain weak and ineffective so long as it was hostile to capital; but let it show itself friendly to capital, and capital would make haste to uphold the hands of government. Confidence was necessary to both, and it was a plant of slow growth, sensitive to cold winds. The key to the problem lay in the public finance, and the key to a strong system of finance lay in a great national bank. This, Hamilton's dearest project, was inspired by the example of the Bank of England. No other institution would so surely link the great merchants to government, he pointed out, for by being made partners in the undertaking they would share both the responsibility and the profits. It was notorious that during the Revolution men of wealth had forced down the continental currency for speculative purposes; was it not as certain that they would support an issue in which they were interested? The private resources of wealthy citizens would thus become an asset of government, for the bank would link "the interest of the State in an intimate connection with those of the rich individuals belonging to it." "The men of property in America are enlightened about their own interest, and would easily be brought to see the advantage of a good plan." Hence would arise stability and vigor of government.
Moreover, the bank would be of immense service in the pressing business of the public debt. In regard to this difficult matter Hamilton was early convinced that only one solution was possible: all outstanding obligations, state and national, must be assumed by the Federal government at face value, and funded. Anything short of that would amount to repudiation of a lawful contract, entered into in good faith by the purchaser; and such repudiation would destroy in the minds of the wealthy the confidence in the integrity of the new government that was vital to its success. It was true that speculators would reap great and unearned profits; but the speculators for the most part were the principal men of property whose support was so essential that any terms were justifiable, and nothing would bind them so closely to the government as the knowledge that it would deal generously with them. It was true also that thousands of small men would lose by such a transaction; but under any existing social economy the small man was at a disadvantage, and the present state of affairs was not such as to justify Utopian measures. To alienate the rich and powerful in order to conciliate the poor and inconsequential seemed to him sheer folly. The argument of expediency must prevail over abstract justice; the government must make terms with those in whose hands lay the success or failure of the venture.
His report on the public credit, of January 14, 1790, is one of the significant documents in the history of American finance. It is the first elaboration by an American statesman of the new system of capitalization and credit developed in eighteenth-centurv England, and it laid a broad foundation for later capitalistic development. To less daring financiers of the time the public debt was no more than a heavy obligation to be met; but to Hamilton it offered an opportunity for revivifying the whole financial life of the nation. Let the debts be consolidated and capitalized by a proper system of funding, and the augmented credit would multiply capital, lower the rate of interest, increase land values, and extend its benefits through all lines of industry and commerce. It was a bold plan and it encountered bitter opposition, which was not lessened by the heavy taxation that it called for. In his tax proposals Hamilton revealed his political philosophy so nakedly as almost to prove his undoing. His doctrine of the blessing of a national debt smacked rather too strongly of English Toryism for the American stomach.
A national debt, if it be not excessive, will be to us a national blessing. It will be a powerful cement to our Union. It will also create a necessity for keeping up taxation to a degree which, without being oppressive, will be :: spur to industry . . . . It were otherwise to be feared our popular maxim; would incline us to too great parsimony and indulgence. We labor less now than any civilized nation of Europe; and a habit of labor in the people, is as essential to the health and vigor of their ;hinds and bodies, as it is conducive to the welfare of the State.7A further struggle was encountered over the proposals of an internal revenue and a tariff. In his advocacy of the former Hamilton encountered the vigorous opposition of the backcountry. The total lack of adequate means of transportation rendered the problem of a grain market a chronic difficulty to the frontier farmers. The most convenient solution lay in distilling, and so whisky had become the chief commodity of the farmer that was transportable and brought a cash price. In placing a tax upon distilled liquors, therefore, Hamilton struck so directly at the economic interests of thousands of backwoodsmen, as to bring a rebellion upon the new administration. He knew what he was doing, but he calculated that it was safer to incur the enmity of farmers than of financiers; nevertheless the fierceness of the opposition surprised him, and aroused all the ruthlessness that lay in the background of his nature. He called for the strong arm of the military and when the rising was put down, he was angered at Washington's leniency in refusing to hang the convicted leaders. In his advocacy of a tariff he was on safer ground, for he was proposing a solution of the difficult situation confronting the manufacturers. Something must be done to revive industry so long stagnant. The old colonial machinery had been destroyed and new machinery must be provided. Industrial independence must follow political independence; and the easiest way lay in providing a tariff barrier behind which the infant industries of America might grow and become sufficient for domestic needs.
In his notable report on manufactures, submitted on December 5, 1791, Hamilton showed his characteristic intelligence in his grasp of the principles of the industrial revolution. Certainly no other man in America saw so clearly the significance of the change that was taking place in English industrialism, and what tremendous reservoirs of wealth the new order laid open to the country that tapped them. The productive possibilities that lay in the division of labor, factory organization, the substitution of the machine for the tool, appealed to his materialistic imagination, and he threw himself heart and soul into the cause of industrial development in America. He accepted frankly the principle of exploitation. He was convinced that the interests of the manufacturers were one with the national interests, and he proposed to put the paternal power of the government behind them. With the larger social effects--the consequences to the working classes, congestion of population, the certainty of a labor problem-he concerned himself no more than did contemporary English statesmen. He was contemptuous of Jefferson's concern over such things. He had no Physiocratic leanings towards agriculture; material greatness alone appealed to him; and he contemplated with satisfaction the increase in national wealth that would accrue from levying toll upon the weak and helpless.
Besides this advantage of occasional employment to classes having different occupations, there is another, of a nature allied to it, and of a similar tendency. This is the employment of persons who would otherwise be idle, and in many cases, a burthen on the community, either from bias of temper, habit, infirmity of body, or some other cause, indisposing or disqualifying them for the toils of the country. It is worthy of particular remark, that, in general, women and children are rendered more useful, and the latter more early useful, by manufacturing establishments, than they would otherwise be. Of the number of persons employed in tile cotton manufactories of Great Britain, it is computed that four-sevenths, nearly, are women and children; of whom the greatest proportion are children, and many of them of a tender age.8If the material power and splendor of the state be the great end of statesmanship-as Hamilton believed-no just complaint can be lodged against such a policy; but if the well-being of the individual citizen be the chief end-as Jefferson maintained-a very different judgment must be returned.
Although the fame of Hamilton has been most closely associated with the principle of constitutional centralization, his truer significance is to be found in his relation to the early developments of our modern capitalistic order. In his understanding of credit finance and the factory economy, he grasped the meaning of the economic revolution which was to transform America from an agrarian to an industrial country; and in urging the government to further such development, he blazed the path that America has since followed. "A very great man," Woodrow Wilson has called him, "but not a great American." In the larger historical meaning of the term, in its democratic implications, that judgment is true; but in the light of our industrial history, with its corporate development and governmental subsidies, it does not seem so true. As the creative organizer of a political state answering the needs of a capitalistic order--a state destined to grow stronger as imperialistic ambitions mount--he seems the most modern and the most . leaders, one to whom our industrialism owes a very great debt, but from whom our democratic liberalism has received nothing.
Midway between Hamilton and Jefferson stands John. Adams, the most painstaking student of government and the most widely read in political history, of his generation of Americans. The noble art of government was a lifelong passion with him-the sublimest subject, in his opinion, which a free citizen could study. Solid, pragmatic, unimaginative, he was an admirable representative of the later eighteenth century with its vigorous understanding, its distrust of idealisms, its contempt for social theory. He was the political counterpart of Dr. Johnson. To a generation sniveling over the sorrows of life and seeking panaceas in Rousseau sentimentalisms, the English Tory proffered the consolation of the realist. Things are bad enough, heaven knows; poverty, injustice, disease, death, are evils which no optimism can shut its eyes to. But what can be done? The malady of human nature is a disease beyond the reach of romantic plasters. No quack remedies will cure ills that lie too deep for laws or kings--they only aggravate the trouble. Be sensible therefore. Endure like men what cannot be cured. Stop sniveling and make the best of things as they are.
The analogy between these two vigorous exponents of common sense is too obvious to miss. For years the chief business of John Adams was to bring home to Americans the lesson in realism which Samuel Johnson was urging upon his countrymen. The mischief of romantic idealisms was spreading widely in America, disseminated by propagandists like Tom Paine and theorists like Jefferson; there was high need that the people be brought back to sober reality. This duty he took upon himself. He was an uncompromising realist who refused to be duped by fine dreams or humanitarian panaceas; he was much given to throwing cold water on the hope of social regeneration through political agencies. And the reward which he gained for his voluntary labors was a personal unpopularity beyond that of any other statesman of the time. He was charged with apostacy from his earlier democratic faith, and the charge had sufficient foundation, unfortunately, to make it credible if one wished to believe it.
During the revolutionary struggle he had been a member of the left wing; during the early struggles under the Constitution he was a member of the right wing. The young man had been a stalwart defender of human rights, the old man was a stalwart defender of property rights; and this shift of position was fatal to his reputation with the rising democratic party. The French Revolution marked the critical turning point in his intellectual development. As a politician he was well-nigh ruined by it; but as a political thinker he owed it much. Before that vast upheaval came to challenge his somewhat conventional mind, he was a hardworking lawyer-politician, with a liking for legalistic constitutional theory; but as the Revolution went forward, he was forced into uncompromising reaction. While ardent young Americans were becoming pro-French, he became pro-British; while they were accepting the new leveling principles, he searched history to prove how inevitable are social distinctions and economic classes; while they looked hopefully forward to a democratic future, he gathered his materials for an interpretation of political forces that revealed aristocracy as the dominant factor in every society. Both Adams and his critics were products of the French upheaval, but facing in different directions; naturally, the antagonism between them became sharp and bitter.
The severest critic cannot deny to John Adams excellent qualities of mind and heart. A sound lawyer, a capable statesman, a vigorous thinker and courageous debater, he fought his way from obscurity to high position and many honors, and in every responsibility he acquitted himself in a fashion altogether worthy of the notable Adams posterity. A stubborn intellectual independence and a vigorous assertiveness were his distinguishing characteristics. He revealed to the full the Adams trait of going its own way and coming to its own conclusions. He was never the victim of mob psychology, and he was never careful of occasion or circumstance in speaking out his convictions. America has had too few independent minds, and much of Adams's unpopularity was the result of his refusal to hunt with the pack. Unfortunately his admirable qualities were offset by a blundering tactlessness and a colossal vanity that brought many troubles upon his head. He loved to he in the public eye and he studied the little arts of self-advertising. In his youthful diary he set down these characteristic words: "Reputation ought to be a perpetual subject of my thoughts, and aim of my behavior. How shall I spread an opinion of myself as a lawyer of distinguished genius, learning, and virtue?" Self-confident, domineering, and jealously suspicious-always on the lookout lest some honor due him should fall to another-he struggled through a career strewn with animosities and heartburnings that a nicer tact and a more generous nature would have avoided. He was his own worst enemy. He did not spare himself in public service, but he demanded strict payment and was inclined to haggle over the terms; in consequence his later days were embittered and his fame was less than he deserved.
Our present concern, however, is with the political scientist and not with the politician; with the theories of government that occupied so much of his thought, rather than with the policies of the statesman. He wrote voluminously, heavily, with no grace of style or savor of wit, and the long row of his collected writings may well appall the reader who proposes to make his acquaintance. Ponderous treatises are supplemented by lesser works and flanked by innumerable letters; his industry was prodigious and no one will wonder at his exclamation, "My hand is impatient of the pen and longs to throw it down." His important work divides broadly into two main divisions: his contribution to the colonial debate with England, and his elaborate system of government formulated during the years of French revolutionary debate. A brief consideration will suffice for the first, but the second requires more careful examination.
In his contributions to the colonial debate Adams concerned himself mainly with questions of constitutional law. He placed little reliance on the appeal to natural rights, and showed scant respect for "popular talk and those democraticaI principles which have done so much mischief in this country."9 The American cause, he believed, should be based on constitutional principles, but those principles required restatement in the light of existing fact. They must be rescued from the narrow interpretation of little Englanders and adapted to meet the pressing needs of imperial federation. The English people were not all residents of the British Isles, and a constitutional practice suited to compact groups in a common environment, was ill adapted to the needs of widely sundered bodies of British subjects. Into this difficult and momentous business of imperial federation, Adams plunged earnestly in an endeavor to chart the unexplored field. That the problem was the gravest then confronting Englishmen is abundantly evident today; that it received grossly inadequate consideration on both sides of the Atlantic is equally clear. In this field John Adams was a pioneer and his work possesses still some historical interest. This fact, too frequently overlooked, has been emphasized by a recent student, who has summarized the final results of Adams's thinking in the following theses: that the empire was an association of equals, each with independent legislative powers; that the British constitution was the fundamental law of the empire, defining the relationship of the constituent parts; and that it was the function of the judiciary to disallow a legislative act of any of the several legislatures which did not comport with the fundemental law, or which attempted to impose the will of one of the partners in violation of the fundamental understanding and its guarantee."10
Such, in compressed form, was Adams's elaboration and justification of the dogma of Otis, that an act against the constitution was void. In its relation to current English constitutional practice it was at once revolutionary and reactionary. It implied a double attack upon parliamentary sovereignty, first in limiting its powers by a super-parliamentary constitution, and then in subjecting its acts to judicial review. The final result would be the transfer of sovereignty, from the legislature to the judiciary. The idea had been toyed with by English lawyers, but never seriously considered; it was alien to the whole theory and history of parliamentary development. English landed gentlemen have never been minded to grant the veto power to the judiciary, but have persistently retained sovereignty in the legislature. Nevertheless in such early speculation is found the germ of our later practice, as it finally developed through the decisions of Chief Justice Marshall.
In the works of his later period, such as A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America and Discourses on Davila, Adams emerged from the narrow field of constitutional law and elaborated a theory of government based on wide reading and long observation. It was by way of reply to the French thinkers, and it contributed in large measure to the partisan passions of the time. Unfortunate circumstances attended the publication of the works. The Defence of the Constitution appeared at the moment when newspaper accounts of the absurd dress in which he appeared at the Court of St. James's were provoking republican jests; and the Discourses on Davila came our in the Gazette of the United States, when the country was buzzing about his childish fondness for titles and ceremonies. It was impolitic for Adams to publish in the Gazette, a virulently Federalistic sheet and anathema to all liberals. His unpopular theories could not fail to arouse republican antagonism when set over against such seeming commentary as this:
Take away thrones and crowns from among men and there will soon be an end of all dominion and justice. There must be some adventitious properties infused into the government to give it energy and spirit, or the selfish, turbulent passions of men can never be controlled. This has occasioned that artificial splendor and dignity that are to be found in the courts of many nations. The people of the United States may probably be induced to regard and obey the laws without requiring the experiment of courts and titled monarchs. In proportion as we become populous and wealthy must the tone of the government be strengthened."11The unfortunate effect of Davila upon a highly wrought public opinion Adams himself records: "the rage and fury of the Jacobinical journals against these discourses, increased as they proceeded, intimidated the printer, John Fenno, and convinced me, that to proceed would do more hurt than good. I therefore broke off abruptly."12 But the mischief to his reputation had been done; henceforth Adams was popularly regarded as anti-republican. Debating the nature of aristocracy in the New York Constitutional Convention, one of the speakers said, "I would refer the gentleman for a definition of it to the Hon. John Adams, one of our natural aristocrats." Madison went so far as to charge that he was secretly a monarchist. The charge was absurd, as any examination of his political theory will convince. "It is a fixed principle with me" he wrote to Samuel Adams in 1790, "that all good government is and must be republican." But that he advocated a system of government hostile to agrarianism, that he was bitterly antagonistic to French Jacobinism and all its works, is apparent to the most casual reader. He was a realist of the seventeenth-century school of English republicanism, attacking what he regarded as the delirium of democracy, appealing to experience in answer to abstract theory.
Adams erected his political system upon what he called "self-evident truths." He went to the root of the matter and directed his inquiry into the validity of the humanitarian psychology asserted that men are good by nature, and may be trusted to deal justly with their fellows. He appealed to the whole unhappy record of past misrule to disprove the thesis. Instead of discovering the average man a kind, rational being--as Jefferson professed to discover--Adams, found quite the contrary; and he summoned a host of historians and philosophers to witness that Machiavelli was right in his contention that "those who have written on civil government lay it down as a first principle . . .that whoever would found a state, and make proper laws for the government of it, must presume that all men are bad by nature; that they will not fail to show that natural depravity of heart whenever they have a fair opportunity."13 In further substantiation of this fact he examined the history of governments past and present, and he found everywhere testimony to the truth that the mass of men are naturally indolent, selfish, given to luxury, shortsighted, jealous, tending to faction and all mischievous intrigue. Never does he find them given to virtue, choosing wisdom, seeking justice. They cannot endure that others should be superior in virtue, or rank, or power; but driven by ambition they strive to pull down their superiors in order themselves to rise. The men in any society who possess sufficient virtue to set justice above self-interest, are few and count for little in the scale against the selfish many.14
This Calvinistic doctrine that "human nature is not fit to be trusted" and that "men are never good but through necessity," being accepted--and John Adams was as clearly satisfied of its truth as "of any demonstration of Euclid"--he proceeded to translate it into political terms, and examine the bearing of it upon systems of government. At once a second fallacy of the humanitarian school emerged-men are. impelled not by ideals but by needs, not by reason, as Godwin argued, but by the desire for goods. In a social state the natural selfishness of human nature impels to economic aggression. Underneath the turbulent unrest which threatens every government is economic ambition. This is the rock on which all schemes of social justice founder--a rock which every sound political thinker will chart and recognize as a danger reef. Economics and biology provide the major social drives. "That the first want of every man is his dinner and the second want his girl were truths well known . . . long before the great philosopher Malthus arose to think he enlightened the world by his discovery."15 The supposed liberty of a democratic state proves in practice to be no other than anarchy, running swiftly into license and ending in tyranny. All human societies are rooted in exploitation, the bitter fruit of which is domestic warfare.
The universal social state is one of ruthless class struggle, wherein the strong conquer the weak-this is the third deduction from the remises which Adams laid down. It cannot be otherwise, he argued, from the natural inequality of men. The rude mass being shiftless, ignorant, spendthrift, they are at the mercy of the strong, ambitious, and capable, who exploit them freely. Hence in every society emerges the division between patricians and plebeians, developing into caste as the social order grows complex. The self-interest of the patricians teaches them the need of class solidarity, and with intelligent solidarity the few easily seize control of the state and use it to their ends. Hence arises an aristocracy or oligarchy, which maintains its power through control of the economic resources of society. Control of property means control of men; for sovereignty inheres in economics. In presence of this historical fact it is foolish to declaim about natural rights; there are no rights except such as are won either by property or the sword.
That there should long exist a society without a property aristocracy Adams regarded as inconceivable. The French democrats with their talk of equality and fraternity were mischievous visionaries. "Every democracy. . .has an aristocracy in it as distinct as that of Rome, France, England." In older societies the aristocracy maintained supremacy through possession of the land. In America the vast extent of territory and the wide diffusion of landholding presented the most favorable opportunity in history for democratic development if such were possible; nevertheless the evidences of an aristocracy developing here were too patent to miss. The abundance of economic resources, Adams pointed out, was an invitation to gigantic exploitation, the logical outcome of which must be the emergence of a master group, richer and more powerful than the world has ever known. The power of economic appeal was nullified in America by no special providence.
Paper wealth has been a source of aristocracy in this country, as well as landed wealth, with a vengeance. Witness the immense fortunes made per saltum by aristocratical speculations, both in land and paper. ... But, sir, land and paper are not the only source of aristocracy. There are master shipwrights, housewrights, masons, &c. &c., who have each of them from twenty to a hundred families in their employment, and can carry a posse to the polls when they will. These are not only aristocrats, but a species of feudal barons . . . . Should a planter in Virginia sell his clarissimum et illustrissimum et celeberricum locum with his thousand negroes, to a merchant, would not the merchant gain the aristocratical influence which the planter lost by his transfer? Run down, sir, through all the ranks of society . . from the first planter and the first merchant to the hog driver; the whiskey dramseller, or the Scottish peddler, and consider, whether the alienation of lands, wharves, stores, pike stock, or even lottery tickets, does not transfer the aristocracy as well as the property."16Believe--as John Adams believed regarding the funding operations--that "paper wealth is the madness of the many for the profit of the few,"17 it is nevertheless a modern illustration of the old truth that the few do profit from the madness of the many, and by reason of such profit set themselves up as masters. If then the historian cannot escape the conclusion that political systems and social classes rest upon economic foundations, this fundamental fact must preside over the speculations of the political philosopher. Democracy is out of the question, even if it were desirable. The great and sole object of political science must be the preservation of liberty--the right of every individual to life, freedom, property, in an aristocratic society--and the frustration of the universal drive of self-interest which leads on the one hand to tyranny, and on the other to anarchy. Between these two poles of tyranny and anarchy of oligarchy and democracy, every society oscillates; to prevent such oscillation and discover some mean between the extremes must be the business of the political philosopher. The pregnant fallacy of the French school, Adams insisted, lay in its doctrines of equality and fraternity. The meanest underling does not desire equality; men kiss the feet above them and trample on the fingers beneath. That the people love a lord is a sign of their abundant folly. Should the democrats abolish the principle of hereditary rank by law, it would still remain in fact; for the property basis on which it rests is transmitted legally from father to son, and each successive generation gains an adventitious advantage from its substantial heritage as well as from the historical splendor of the family name. On this rock every attempt at a democracy has foundered.
If these words are true, no well ordered commonwealth ever existed; for we read of none without a nobility, no, not one, that I can recollect, without a hereditary nobility; . . . It would be an improvement in the affairs of society, probably, if the hereditary legal descent could be avoided; and this experiment the Americans have tried. But in this case a nobility must and will exist, though without the name, as really as in countries where it is hereditary.18The mortal weakness of democracy, Adams agreed with Madison and the Federalists generally, lay in faction, a disease which in the nature of the case he regarded as incurable. The use of party power other than justly was factional, and because the mass of men do not set justice above present interest, the unbridled rule of the majority drives straight towards mass tyranny. Despoiled by the superior ability of the aristocracy, the exploited plebeians fight back blindly; and where the constitution of government permits them to band together in a political party, they override the rights of the minority as ruthlessly as the latter before had denied the rights of the majority. Aristocratic exploitation leads to democratic leveling; and the resultant anarchy is but prelude to the rise of another aristocracy to repeat the unhappy process.
The passions and desires of the majority of the representatives being in their nature insatiable and unlimited by any thing within their own breasts, and having nothing to control them without, will crave more and more indulgence, and, as they have the power, they will have the gratification."19The end of every democratic experiment, Adams pointed out, has been the man on horseback. So inevitably does democracy culminate in despotism, that "in reality, the word democracy signifies nothing more nor less than a nation of people without any government at all, and before any constitution is instituted." 21 "Democracy never has been and never can be so desirable as aristocracy or monarchy, but while it lasts, is more bloody than either. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide." "The proposition that the people are the best keepers of their own liberties is not true. They are the worst conceivable, they are no keepers at all; they can neither judge, act, think, or will, as a political body. Individuals have conquered themselves; nations and large bodies never." 22
Having thus examined the major doctrines of the French democratic school, namely, that men are good by nature, that the social end is liberty, equality, fraternity, and that social well-being will result from an appeal to reason, Adams had cleared the problem of what he regarded as misconceptions, and was ready to lay out a system of government which should demonstrate his skill in political architecture. The determining factor in laying down the main lines was sufficiently clear. Since property lies at the root of the problem of government, the business of devising a just and stable system of government resolves itself into the question, What shall be done about property? As an orthodox Whig Adams found part of his answer ready to hand. With Locke he believed that property rights are sacred, and that it is a chief business of government to protect private property against unjust expropriation. The security of property may be taken as the measure of the stability of government. "The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and bublic justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."23 "The very name of a republic implies, that the property of the people should be represented in the legislature, and decide the rule of justice," he argued, quoting Cicero.24 Moreover, the futility of any other arrangement was axiomatic in his philosophy. If property is not granted representation, it will usurp it; if attacked, it will know how to defend itself; and the end will be the setting up of an oligarchy on the ruins of the republic. But if Adams agreed with Hamilton that the state should deal tenderly with the rights and interests of property, he refused to go with the latter in his sole concern for the wealthy. Greater property interests must be held in due balance with the smaller, for if unchecked the strong will drive on to ruthless exploitation of the weak, and society will be endangered from the top as in a democracy it is endangered from the bottom. It was this desire for a mean between oligarchy or monarchy on the one hand, and democracy, on the other, that determined his choice of a republican form of government.
The difficult problem of property-power in the state, Adams was convinced, could be solved justly and permanently only by a judicious system of balanced interests. Subjected, as every government must be, to a persistent stress of rival interests, it must be constructed with calculated nicety, or the structure would fall of its own weight; and the sole principle, he believed, is that of the Gothic arch-the principle of thrust and counter-thrust. Provide in such manner that the selfishness of one group in society shall be neutralized by the counter selfishness of other groups, let the buttress support the arch at its weakest point, and upon such an equilibrium of counterforces great vaults and noble towers may be erected. It is the apotheosis of the system of checks and balances.
It is agreed that "the end of all government is the good and ease of the people, in a secure enjoyment of their rights, without oppression"; but it must be remembered, that the rich are people as well as the poor; that they have rights as well as others; that they have as clear and as sacred a right to their large property as others have to theirs which is smaller; that oppression to them is as possible and as wicked as to others. The rich, therefore, ought to have an effectual barrier in the constitution against being robbed, plundered, and murdered, as well as the poor; and this can never be without an independent senate. The poor should have a bulwark against the same dangers and oppressions; and this can never be without a house of representatives of the people. But neither the rich nor the poor can be defended by their respective guardians in the constitution, without an executive power, vested with a negative, equal to either, to hold the balance even between them, and decide when they cannot agree.25Such in brief was the master principle of that system of mixed government which John Adams advocated so persistently in the teeth of the popular demand for a simpler, more responsive form. It based itself frankly upon the dogma of the class struggle; it provided each class--as he recognized them in his simple social analysis--with a legislative arm with which to defend itself; and it set as arbiter between them an executive, carefully selected, who was supposed to represent that abstract tertium quid, the public. The keynote is struck in a line from Pope set on the title-page of the Defence--"All Nature's difference keeps all Nature's peace." That Adams greatly admired his handiwork is beyond doubt; that lie was intellectually honest with himself is very likely true; but that there is a note of disingenuousness, a failure to take into account his pronounced bias towards property interest, is certain. There was ample ground for the popular dislike of his theory. This is not the place to enter upon an examination of the system of checks and balances, nor to insist that any such system becomes in practice an impossibility. It is more to the point to remark upon certain fallacies in his theory which Adams himself must have seen if his mind had been quite free from bias.
Adams's intelligent analysis of social forces should have saved him from the major fallacy of the doctrine of checks and balances. In imposing the doctrine of a separation of powers upon the doctrine of property power, he effectively denied the validity of the latter. Assuming for the sake of the argument that the Senate will represent property, what reason justified the assumption that the House would represent the small men, or that the President would speak for the whole? If property is sovereign, as Adams in aintained--"Harrington has shown that power always follows property. This I believe to be as infallible a maxim in politics, as that action and reaction are equal, is in mechanics"26--will it not rule the House equally, with the Senate? above all, will it not control so important an officer as the President? The theory that the President represents an abstract public is a disingenuous political fiction; in the light of Adams's theory of economic determinism it is a gross absurdity. Moreover, Adams invalidated his entire system by refusing to provide the necessary machinery by which the House could represent the small man. In denying manhood suffrage, he eliminated the proletarian and the renter from the political equation, and left them without political power; in his definition the small man was the freeholder, the representative of the middle class. The House, therefore, equally with the Senate, was the mouthpiece of property interests; the former more likely to be representative of land, the latter of capital.
Where did Adams get the major ideas of his political philosophy?27 An omnivorous reader, he gathered from many sources, and his memory was a wellstocked storehouse of fact and theory. As a young man he was disciple of Locke and the natural-rights school, but as he grew older he abandoned the natural-rights theory. His interpretation of human nature he took over from Machiavelli, Hobbes and Hume, discovering in their psychology of self-interest and emulation--often mean but many times admirable--a conception in harmony with the Calvinism of his early training. He owed much to Bolingbroke, whom he read five times, but to James Harrington, the Commonwealth intellectual, he turned with a zest of discovery so great that he may not unjustly be called one of Harrington's disciples. From the Oceana he drew so abundantly that the most casual student of political theory must remark his indebtedness. Many of the major doctrines of Adams, which by dint of iteration have become associated with his name, were taken straight out of Harrington: such as the doctrine of a natural aristocracy; the economic basis of sovereignty, discovered in the close relation of property to power; the necessity of effecting a balance between rival interests, with the ideal state rendered static by a nice balance of governmental machinery; the conception of government by laws and not by men; and finally, the historical method of approach, the cautious appeal to past experience. Since Harrington's time many of these ideas had been restated: the defense of property rights by Locke; the principle of the separation of powers and the historical method by Montesquieu; the psychology of emulation by Hume and Robert Wallace, the latter of whom is another Adams in his thesis, "Lust of power sets man against his neighbor to the profit of the rich." But in spite of these later reinterpretations and his own additions, John Adams remained essentially a seventeenth-century republican, preferring with Milton the rule of the aristocracy to that of plebeians, and hating all Jacobin radicalisms as the spawn of a dangerous romanticism that disregarded the plain teachings of history and the admonitions of common sense.
Though Adams was fiercely assailed as an advocate of class government, he was far less hostile to agrarianism than was Hamilton, He was no believer in unchecked government by wealth. His honest realism taught him the sophistry of Hamilton's assumption that gentlemen of property are equally gentlemen of principle, and that wealth voluntarily abdicates selfish interest. He feared the aggressions of the rich as much as the turbulence of the poor. The bulk of his property was in land, and his sympathies were enlisted on the side of a law-abiding agrarianism, rather than on the side of a speculative capitalism.28 He would put down vigorously all such leveling as was implied in Shays's program, and the repudiations of Rhode Island; but he would not permit the powerful to exploit the poor through the instrumentality of government. This may explain in part his hostility to Hamilton and his partial sympathy with Jefferson. He stood between the two rival economies, arguing for a system of government that should be neither agrarian nor capitalistic, but should maintain a static mean; and in consequence he pleased nobody. His four years in the presidency disrupted the Federalist party, and prepared the way for the triumph of Jefferson. Though tactless and blundering in dealing with trimming politicians, he was an honest and courageous man, and his many sterling qualities merit a larger recognition than has been accorded them by a grudging posterity. In spite of his dogmatisms and inconsistencies he remains the most notable political thinker--with the possible exception of John C. Calhoun--among American statesmen.
1 Works, Vol. II, p. 51.
2 Ibid., p. 298.
3 Brief of speech submitting his plan of Constitution, in Works, Vol. II, p. 4 15.
4 Eliot's Debater, Vol. V, p. 244.
5 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 422.
6 Works of Jefferson, Ford edition, Vol. I, p. t65.
7Works Vol. I, p. a; 7.
8 Works -rJ , Vol. III, pp. 200-208.
9 "Autobiography," in Works, Vol. II, p. 310.
10, R. G. Adams, Political Ideas of the American Revolution, Trinity College Press, 1922, pp. 92-93.
11 Gazette of the United States, March 1790; quoted in Forman, "The Political Activities of Philip Freneau," in Johns Hopkins Studies in History and Political Srience, XX, Nos. 9-10.
12 Works, Vol. VI, p. 272, note.
13 Works, Vol. IV, p. 408.
14 See "Defence of the Constitution, etc." in Works, Vol. VI, pp. 9, 57, 97.
15 Letter to John Taylor in Works Vol. VI, p. 51G.
16 Ibid., pp 508-509.
17 Ibid., p. 508.
18 "Defence of the Constitution, etc.," in Works, Vol. VI, pp. 124-125.
19Ibid., p. 64.
20 "Letter to John Taylor," in Works, Vol. VI, p. 516.
21 Works, Vol. VI, p. 2 1 1.
22 Sec "Defence of the Constitution etc," and in particular Vol. TV of Works.
23 "Defence of the Constitution, etc." in Works, Vol. VI, p. 9.
24 Works, Vol. IV, p. 295.
25 "A Defence of the Constitution etc.," in Works, Vol. VI, p. 65.
26 Works, Vol. IX, p. 376.
27 For a detailed examination of the sources of his philosophy, see the excellent discussion in C. M. Walsh, The Political Science of Joan Adams, Chapters XV, XVI.
28 See Beard, The Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy, p. 317.