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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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The Goods of Fortune

The Goods of Fortune

(p.58) Chapter Two The Goods of Fortune
John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy

Luke Mayville

Princeton University Press

This chapter reconstructs John Adams' understanding of aristocratic power. Adams' preoccupation with aristocrats alienated him from all but a few of his contemporaries. Few would insist as Adams did that social and economic elites would continue to endanger republican institutions long after the prohibition of aristocratic titles. Adams warned of a powerful aristocracy that if left unchecked would undermine the functions of republican government. The chapter revisits Adams' debates with Thomas Jefferson and John Taylor of Caroline in order to recover the reasoning behind his bleak prediction that wealth and birth—and not talent and virtue—would enjoy the preponderance of power in republican America.

Keywords:   John Adams, aristocracy, aristocratic power, Thomas Jefferson, John Taylor of Caroline, wealth, republican America

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