Posted by: Democratic Thinker | April 8, 2010

Samuel & John Adams on Government—Preface

Four Letters on the Important Subject of Government

 
An exchange of letters between cousins Samuel Adams and John Adams—written in 1790 and published in a small pamphlet in 1802—illustrates the differing political philosophies of Samuel, for the Republicans (Democrats), and John, for the Federalists (Whigs).
 

We shall not presume to anticipate the judgment of our fellow-citizens throughout the Union on these important letters, by interposing any comments of our own.

Four Letters on the Important Subject of Government

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IN fulfilling our engagement, we have the pleasure of presenting to the public the following letters from persons who have been eminently distinguished in the course of the American revolution. At the time they were written, Mr. JOHN ADAMS was Vice-President of the United States, and Mr. SAMUEL ADAMS the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts. They will, then, naturally be considered as expressing the opinions of public men on a great and public question, deeply interesting to every citizen. Had they been earlier communicated, the uncommon agitation of the intervening time, at certain periods, might have given their contents a degree of importance, which the returning tranquillity of the country at this moment may in some measure prevent. We must still believe, notwithstanding, that but few publications can be more attractive of general notice; as well from the elevated station which the authors of them have long maintained in the world, as from the nature and importance of the PRINCIPLES now brought into view, on the merits of which they so widely differ.

We shall not presume to anticipate the judgment of our fellow-citizens throughout the Union on these important letters, by interposing any comments of our own. The names hitherto omitted are supplied; and we trust that no exception will be taken to their being now published, as the spirit of the correspondence would be evidently defective without them. We shall only remark, in justice to Mr. SAMUEL ADAMS, that, in the composition of his answers, he was obliged to use the hand of a friend, as he had been long incapable of using his own with facility; and that his replies must be viewed as the extemporaneous production of the moment in which they were written, without his having had an opportunity of giving them a second inspection. This circumstance will, no doubt, be duly appreciated.

The letters now appear in their proper order. What will be the public sense respecting them, we will not pretend to calculate. We must at least hope. for the honor of the community, that the sentiments they contain will not be received with a torpid insensibility or a disgraceful indifference.

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