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John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy$
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Luke Mayville

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691171531

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691171531.001.0001

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A Perennial Problem

A Perennial Problem

(p.23) Chapter One A Perennial Problem
John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy

Luke Mayville

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers John Adams' Defence of the Constitutions within a transatlantic debate about the desirability of English-style balanced government—a constitutional model that attempted to counterpose the monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic social elements together within the same government. The debate was most pronounced in Paris in the years preceding the French Revolution, when Anglomanes who sympathized with balanced government defended the model from the attacks of French reformers. It argues that Adams, though a defender of a certain idea of balanced government, departed from the prevalent theory. Whereas conventional Anglomanes had emphasized the danger to such balance posed by the popular, democratic element, Adams was preoccupied instead with the threat to that balance posed by an overweening aristocratic class.

Keywords:   John Adams, US Constitution, USn government, English-style government, constitutional model, Anglomanes, balanced government, French Revolution

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