Sunday, September 11, 2011

John Quincy Adams, 1842, The Social Compact

“Were I permitted to select a name for the party to which I should wish to belong, it would be that of Constitutionalist ; meaning thereby faithful adhesion to the two Constitutions, of the United States and of the Commonwealth. They are the fruits of the wisdom and valour of our forefathers matured and modified by the experience of more than threescore years. They are both the work of the people ; one of the Union,—the other of the State—not of the whole people, by the phantom of universal suffrage, but of the whole people by that portion of them capable of contracting for the whole. The work, not of eternal justice ruling through the people, but of man,—frail, fallen, imperfect man, following the dictates of his nature and aspiring to perfection. It is not Democracy,—nor Aristocracy, nor Monarchy, but a compound of them all, of which Democracy is the oxygen or vital air, too pure in itself for human respiration, but which, in the union with other elements equally destructive in themselves and less pure, forms that moral and political atmospheric air, in which we live and move and have our being.”

Though Adams makes interesting points in the rest of this lecture concerning the ability of a portion of the people to contract for the whole, I do not post this (of course) in support of restricting the vote to those who had it at the time of Adams' statement.

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