When Vain & Aspiring Men Possess the Highest Seats in Government by Samuel Adams

Samuel-AdamsSamuel Adams Letter to James Warren Philadelphia Oct 24 1780

MY DEAR SIR

I have not yet laid aside your Letter of the 17th of Septr which is the last I have been favord with from you. It ill becomes you, my Friend, to think of retiring into private Life, who can lay your hand on your heart, and say that in your publick Conduct your have in no Instance deviated from virtuous Principles. If ever the Time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experiencd Patriots to prevent its Ruin. There may be more Danger of this, than some, even of our well disposd Citizens may imagine. If the People should grant their Suffrages to Men, only because they conceive them to have been Friends to the Country, without Regard to the necessary Qualifications for the Places they are to fill, the Administration of Government will become a mere Farce, and our pub-lick Affairs will never be put on the Footing of solid Security. We should inquire into the Tempers of Men, in order to form a Judgment in what Manner the publick Trusts to be reposed in them will be executed. You remember the Character of Pisistratus. He was a Citizen of Athens, supposd to have many excellent Qualities, but he had an insatiable Lust of Pre-eminence. Solon could discover his Vanity, but the People were blinded by a false Glare of Virtues and he was their Idol. Under Pretence of his having escaped imminent Danger from a violent Faction, and the further Insecurity of his Person he artfully obtaind a Guard of Soldiers, by which Means he possessd himself of the Citadel & usurpd the Government. But though he made himself Sovereign, & thus far overthrew the popular Election, the Historian tells us, “that he made no Change in the Magistracy or the Laws.—He was content that others should hold their Places according to the establishd Rules of the Constitution, so that he might continue Archon, independent of the Suffrages of the People. This he effected; for though several Attempts were made, to deprive him of the Sovereignty which he had so violently obtaind, he held it till his Death & left it to his Children.” Such was the Ambition of this Man, who indeed assumd the Government, and such were the Effects of it. Power is intoxicating; and Men legally vested with it, too often discover a Disposition to make an ill Use of it & an Unwillingness to part with it. HOW different was Pisistratus from that Roman Hero and Patriot Lucius Quinctius Cincinatus who, tho vested with the Authority of Dictator, was so moderate in his Desires of a Continuance of Power, that, having in six Weeks fulfilld the Purposes of his Appointment, he resignd the dangerous office, which he might have held till the Expiration of six Months.—When we formerly had weak and wicked Governors & Magistrates, it was our Misfortune; but for the future, while we enjoy and exercise the inestimable Right of chusing them ourselves, it will be our Disgrace. I hope our Countrymen will always keep a watchful Eye over the publick Conduct of those whom they exalt to Power, making at the same time every just Allowance for the Imperfections of human Nature; and I pray God we may never see Men filling the sacred Seats of Government, who are either wanting in adequate Abilities, or influencd by any Views Motives or Feelings seperate from the publick Welfare. [public Welfare = Public Good, i.e. Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness]

Adieu.

Warren’s September 17 letter to Adams is in Warren-Adams Letters, 2:138-39

Bi-Partisanship It’s becoming more and more obvious that it is the government (both parties) against We The People.

Excerpt from letter by Samuel Adams to Eldridge Gerry Nov 27, 1780
“More in my Opinion, is necessary to be done, than conquering our British Enemies in order to establish the Liberties of our Country on a solid Basis. Human Nature, I am affraid, is too much debas’d to relish those Republican Principles, in which the new Government of the Common Wealth of Massachusetts appears to be founded. And may it not be added, that the former Government, I mean the last Charter, being calculated rather to make servile Men than free Citizens, the Minds of many of our Countrymen have been inurd to a cringing Obsequiousness [Full of or exhibiting servile compliance; fawning], too deeply wrought into Habit to be easily eradicated? Mankind is prone enough to political Idolatry. Such a temper is widely different from that reverence which every virtuous Citizen will show to the upright Magistrate. If my Fears on this Head are ill grounded, I hope I shall be excusd. They proceed from a cordial Affection for that Country to the Service of which I have devoted the greatest Part of my Life—May Heaven inspire the present Rulers with Wisdom & sound Understanding. In all Probability they will stamp the Character of the People. It is natural for sensible Observers to form an Estimate of the People from the Opinion they have of those whom they set up for their Legislators & Magistrates. And besides, if we look into the History of Governors, we shall find that their Principles & Manners have always had a mighty Influence on the People. Should Levity & Foppery(fn1) ever be the ruling Taste of the Great, the Body of the People would be in Danger of catching the Distemper, and the ridiculous Maxims of the one would become fashionable among the other. I pray God we may never be addicted to Vanity & the Folly of Parade! Pomp & Show serve very well to promote the Purposes of European & Asiatick grandeur, in Countries where the Mystery of Iniquity is carried to the highest Pitch, & Millions are tame enough to believe that they are born for no other Purpose than to be subservient to the capricious Will of a single Great Man or a few! It requires Council & sound Judgment to render our Country secure in a flourishing Condition.—If Men of Wisdom & Knowledge, of Moderation & Temperance, of Patience Fortitude & Perseverance, of Sobriety & true Republican Simplicity of Manners, of Zeal for the Honor of the Supreme Being & the Welfare of the Common Wealth—If Men possessd of these & other excellent Qualities are chosen to fill the Seats of Government we may expect that our Affairs will rest on a solid & permanent Foundation.”

(fn1)
Levity: means humor or frivolity, esp. the treatment of a serious matter with humor or in a manner lacking due respect.
Foppery: is a pejorative term describing a foolish man overly concerned with his appearance and clothes in 17th century England. Some of the very many similar alternative terms are: “coxcomb”, fribble, “popinjay” (meaning “parrot”), fashion-monger, and “ninny”. “Macaroni” was another term, of the 18th century, more specifically concerned with fashion. A modern-day fop may also be a reference to a foolish person who is overly concerned about his clothing and incapable of engaging in intellectual conversations, activities or thoughts.

See also:
Patrick Henry may well be proved a Prophet as well as a Statesman
The Importance of Free Speech and The Free Press in America
RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Powers delegated to the State GovernmentsThe Doctrine of Fascism, Fascism Defined by Benito Mussolini

One thought on “When Vain & Aspiring Men Possess the Highest Seats in Government by Samuel Adams

  1. Pingback: Reality Check: Now More Than Ever! | Captain James Davis

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