Tuesday, March 12, 2013

John Adams Describing What Is Going On Today

From John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, ed. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States (1851):
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. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. 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. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.
When Solon's balance was destroyed by Aristides, and the preponderance given to the multitude, for which he was rewarded with the title of Just, when he ought to have been punished with the ostracism, the Athenians grew more and more democratic. I need not enumerate to you the foolish wars into which the people forced their wisest men and ablest generals against their own judgments, by which the state was finally ruined, and Philip and Alexander became their masters.

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