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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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Sympathy for the Rich

Sympathy for the Rich

(p.95) Chapter Three Sympathy for the Rich
John Adams and the Fear of American Oligarchy

Luke Mayville

Princeton University Press

This chapter turns to the question of how, precisely, John Adams understood wealth to translate into political influence. It shows that Adams was a careful student of the Scottish Enlightenment. More than any other Founding Era American, he engaged with the long tradition of thought that emphasized the psychological bases of social and political power. The fruit of his efforts was the series of essays entitled Discourses on Davila, a work that Adams would describe as the fourth and final volume of his Defence. The chapter draws from Discourses on Davila and other writings an understanding of oligarchic power that traces the political power of wealth not to the capacity of the rich to buy influence but instead to public admiration and sympathy for the rich.

Keywords:   John Adams, wealth, political influence, political power, Scottish Enlightenment, Discourses on Davila

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