John Quincy Adams: His Theory and Ideas

By George A. Lipsky | Go to book overview

12
The Constitution and the Union

"And all constitutional government is a compact." -- MEMOIRS, February 16, 1883

At this point we may logically begin a discussion of the Adams theory and concepts of American government. These ideas have been forecast in the preceding general theoretical analyses. There will of necessity exist some overlapping of generalization with previous discussions. It would be worth while to devote considerable space to direct exposition of and speculation concerning the origins and sources of his theories of American government, but, because we are mainly concerned with Adams's own writings and pronouncements, we are hampered by his failure to deal directly with the origins of his thought. We may reasonably assume that such questions are not customarily clear to the theorist himself, but may be more easily seen by those of a later day who can view a thinker in the whole perspective of his times. Wherever possible, therefore, these sources of his thought and this perspective will be indicated. Nevertheless the conditions of the subject matter require that a beginning be made with Adams's views of the American Revolution, the significance of the Declaration of Independence, the interim period of the Articles of Confederation, and the culmination of the struggle for political stability in the architectonic triumph, the Constitution. These views should be seen against the Colonial background, when it is relevant.


THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Adams, throughout his life, but particularly in his later years when the fires of the French Revolution had much subsided and his fears of

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