Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political Philosophy

Socialism, Anarchism, and Aristocracy

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 1815:

Pick up, the first 100 men you meet, and make a Republick. Every Man will have an equal Vote. But when deliberations and discussions are opened it will be found that 25, by their Talents, Virtues being equal, will be able to carry 50 Votes. Every one of these 25, is an Aristocrat, in my Sense of the Word.

And, Adams noted elsewhere, in the absence of formal institutions to hedge and check the few against the many, the few will steamroll over the many.  Adams, of course, defined a "talent" as something that gives a man an edge, whether it be looks, a famous name, intelligence, connections, ruthlessness, or something else. The doings in Zuccotti Park confirm Adams' insight:

In the minutes of the teach-in on Saturday the 22nd, the leaders recognize that usurping power from the NYC-GA might make people uncomfortable. The Structure WG's eventual proposal was to keep the General Assembly alive and functioning while the Spokes Council "gets on its feet." . . .

When my turn came to speak, I brought up the plans of "the leaders of the allegedly leaderless movement" to commandeer the half-million dollars sent to the General Assembly for their new, exclusive, undemocratic, representational organization. Before I could finish, the facilitators and other members of the OWS inner circle started shouting over me. Amidst the confusion, the human mic stopped projecting what I, or anybody was saying. Because silence was what they were after, the leaders won.

Eventually one of the facilitators regained control of the crowd and explained that I was speaking "opinions, not facts," which is why I would not be allowed to continue. He also asserted untruthfully that I had gone over my allotted minute. Notably, the facilitators and members of the OWS inner circle regularly ignore time restrictions.

Discussions - 9 Comments

In thirty years some of those "facilitators" will be Democrats in Congress.

Richard Adams has chosen a great part of this famous correspondence that shows John Adams' depth compared to Jefferson's relative innocence. Adams denied the distinction among "aristocrats" that Jefferson famously pushed.

They simply defined the term differently... Of course Adams might have still been upset with Jefferson over the election of 1800.

Arguably I would think that Adams would be the "Platonist" or the one suspicious of the mob and democracy, or the rather "unfair" electionering tactics of the Republicans to include Burr and Jefferson. Jefferson having won certainly considered the american people vindicated... all is fair in love and war as they say, the truth will prevail in the market place of ideas.

Adams might say that in this market place of ideas, a lie gets half way around the world before the truth ever gets its pants on. ( albeit I know...Churchill said this.)

The election of 1800 basically put us on the Jeffersonian Free Speech track, upsetting Adams and the champions of the Alien and Sedition act.

I don't think their correspondence reflects grudges left over from 1800. It flies much higher.

Adams, moreover, regretted having signed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

As for definitions, I suppose you are right, but Adams gets at a real problem in self-government based on equal political rights. Jefferson sputters on about a "natural aristocracy" - thus flattering professors.

Sounds like a true-believing Trotskyite not understanding why the Stalinistas aren't sharing power. Some things never change, and evidently the Left is one of those things.

The OWS fellow, not Adams.

If memory serves, Jefferson's main objection to the Alien and Sedition Acts was that the federal government was exercising powers that belonged to the states. Madison, in his report of 1800, was for free and open speech more generally.

Not only did Jefferson not object to state prosecutions, he favored them in his Second Inaugural. However, he was himself protected by New York's draconian law that still punished true libels ("the greater the truth, the greater the libel"), a relic of the colonial era. In People v. Croswell, one Harry Croswell was sued in 1804 for what he said about Jefferson's character. Famously, and ironically, Alexander Hamilton, took up Croswell's defense on appeal, objecting to the law because it did not permit truth as a defense! The truth should be protected, he argued in the case, provided it was published from good motives and for justifiable ends. That was the standard of libel law until New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), which allowed falsehod as long as it wasn't malicious, meanng the writer did not know it was a lie, virtually impossible to disprove. That sheds much light on the continuing defamation of unwanted characters today.

That seems to be more accurate. Not that ironically since Croswell repeated the charge from the Evening Post which was the paper founded by Hamilton.

Hamilton actually lost, but New York changed its law (by statute) in 1805 to reflect everything that Hamilton had wanted.

It was howhever during this appeal that Hamilton made some remarks about Burr within the hearing of Cooper, who printed the remarks. Potentially as a result of these remarks/rumors Burr lost the governorship. Burr never forgave Hamilton, and challenged him to a duel which resulted in Hamilton's death on July 12th 1804.

Burr was vilified, and Hamilton exalted so as a result even though Croswell and Hamilton actually lost, and Croswell was set to be retried, he never was in fact. So it wasn't really a court decision based upon the reasonable arguments of Hamilton that won the day, and overturned the Brittish common law, but the popularity of Hamilton in New York as a result of his death.

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