“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. . . Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.”
– John Adams in a letter to John Taylor, 1814.
John Adams, second President of the United States, was an early political theorist regarding what he called “political architecture.” His interest is how to best structure government so as to lessen the temptation for fraud and corruption in public servants. The emphasis of his writings is on “checking” power; on recognizing competing interests that would naturally check each other; and appreciating that Tyranny in government can have the effect of inspiring more appreciation for Liberty in the public.
Rather than trying in vain to transform human nature, Adams thinks it necessary only to manage it, to construct governance with reality in mind. After all, pride, vanity, and corruption are “passions which move men in all times and places.” Adam’s political architecture, then, stressed a balanced checking system that is a signature feature of the United States Constitution. The House and Senate check each other; the President checks the House and Senate through the Veto; the Supreme Court checks them both; Federalism checks national overreach; and We the People consent to it all or change it as we wish.
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.”
Adams might have added “when their Liberty is threatened.” The political architecture he helped create in the Massachusetts state constitution and his influence in the construction of the US Constitution – his checks and balances – only matters if it successfully secures individual rights to Life, Liberty, Property, and Safety. He adds, “a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
Adams’ political architecture, however well-intentioned, has not stood the Test of Time:
Today, those national public servants we entrusted with our Protection – have purposely weakened the military to the point that its effectiveness can no longer be relied upon.
Today, those national public servants we entrusted with our Safety – have unlawfully promoted physical injury to our people and their property, the sexual abuse of children, and the distribution of lethal drugs into all areas of the nation.
Today, those national public servants we entrusted with our Prosperity – have deliberately created financial chaos and future impoverishment.
Today, those national public servants we entrusted with our Happiness – have destroyed our schools, harmed our children physically, mentally, and spiritually, and mocked and threatened their parents.
Today, those national public servants we entrusted with our Liberty – have eviscerated the 1st Amendment, the 4th Amendment, the 9th and 10th Amendments, not to mention violations of Article 4, section 4, plus their Oaths of Office to preserve, protect, and defend the US Constitution and to faithfully execute the laws.
This is what Tyranny looks like in the United States. In Canada, it is embodied in the recent decisions of the Prime Minister. His contempt for his own people he expressed in this way: “These people take up space.”
“Liberty once lost, is lost forever.”
The only action that will stand the Test of Time is not reliance on one document, however well crafted, it is the will of We the People, from the ground up, that checks the “passions of men” and their tendency to the corrupt. Whether a Convention of the States to strengthen the US Constitution by amendment, or peaceful assemblies of protest, these are necessary steps by the Sovereign of the nation to assure future generations the democracy that John Adams spent his adult life trying to protect.