John Adams To The Grand Jury Of The County Of Dutchess, New York. 22 September, 1798.
I have received and read with great pleasure your address of the 1st of September, which, in this kind of writing, with a few explanations, may be considered as a model of sense and spirit, as well as of taste and eloquence.
Is there any mode imaginable in which contempt of the understanding and feelings of a nation can be expressed with so much aggravation, as by affecting to treat the government of their choice as an usurpation?
If in some instances marks of disaffection have appeared in your State, it is indeed exceedingly to be regretted. If this has been owing to the influx of foreigners, of discontented characters, it ought to be a warning. If we glory in making our country an asylum for virtue in distress and for innocent industry, it behooves us to beware, that under this pretext it is not made a receptacle of malevolence and turbulence, for the outcasts of the universe.
The conduct of France must not disgrace the cause of free governments. With the tears and the blood of millions, she has demonstrated that a free government must be organized and adjusted with a strict attention to the nature of man, and the interests and passions of the various classes of which society is composed; but she has not made any rational apology for the advocates of despotic government. Society cannot exist without laws, and those laws must be executed. In nations that are populous, opulent, and powerful, the concurrent interests of great bodies of men operate very forcibly on their passions, break down the barriers of modesty, decency, and morality, and can be restrained only by force; but there are methods of combining the public force in such a manner as to restrain the most formidable combinations of interests, passions, imagination, and prejudice, without recourse to despotic government. To these methods it is to be hoped the nations of Europe will have recourse, rather than to surrender all to military dictators or hereditary despots.